The Devon Marathon at Exeter yesterday proved a vintage renewal with long-time leader Major Malarkey digging deep to regain the advantage from Whistling Senator, having been headed up the run-in, to win by a length and a quarter.
Back in third was Jayandbee who, gaining ground with every stride, just failed to reel the front pair in.
The winner, who was wearing a visor for the first time, has raced against far better company in the past, and on ratings had to have a huge chance, having dropped to his lowest weight for three years. Sam Twiston-Davies rode his usual polished race on the 10-1 chance and turning in he was full of running, prompting his trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies to comment that he could run over two furlongs shorter.
His last win came three years ago and this latest victory was testament to the patience of the Baker, Dodd and Cooke partnership who have owned him throughout his racing career.
Nick Scholfield had a peach of a ride on Caid Du Berlais who looked anything but a chasing debutante in the Harry Dutfield Memorial Novices’ Chase, jumping from fence to fence like a seasoned pro and winning by 13 lengths. The four-year-old was a long odds-on favourite to win and he did it easily, making all the running and jumping exceptionally well.
The next outing for the Paul Nicholls-trained gelding could be Leopardstown where four-year-olds are treated leniently at the weights, although Newbury’s post Christmas meeting could also be a target.
Seamus Mullins was full of praise for 8lb claimer Kevin Jones who looked very stylish on Boss In Boots, pushing him out for a three-quarters of a length success from Tomibola in the conditional jockeys’ novices’ handicap hurdle.
“He only started riding when he was 18, and he’s 24 now. He works full-time for me and is a very good rider. We will probably send the horse chasing now,” said Mullins.
Portway Flyer, ridden by Gavin Sheehan, was odds-on to make it three in a row in the Foot Anstey Handicap Hurdle and he lived up to his name over the penultimate flight, drawing clear of Pass Muster and winning by five lengths.
It was a bit of genius plotting by his trainer Ian Williams who had saddled the five-year-old to win at Ludlow on Wednesday and a break could now be on the cards for the gelding.
Bally Legend, the 2-1 favourite, just held on from Domtaline in the Brewin Dolphin Trophy Handicap to win by a neck under Ian Popham for owner breeder Brian Derrick who had earlier seen his other runner, Sylvan Legend get beaten in the conditional jockeys’ novices’ handicap hurdle, despite starting favourite.
The David Pipe-trained Prideofthecastle made all to win the EBF Stallions National Hunt Novives’ Hurdle for owner Bryan Drew who recently purchased Un Temps Pour Tout with Professor Caroline Tisdall for £450,000 at the DBS Sales at Newbury.
A bumper concluded the card and that went the way of Adeupas D’ycy trained by Nicky Henderson and ridden by David Bass.