Mersey Novices' Hurdle 9th April 2011 

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Spirit Son Impressive for Geraghty

1 Spirit Son 3/1
2 Cue Card 5/2F
3 Rock On Ruby 9/2
NR: Rebel Rebellion (IRE), Recession Proof (FR)
9 ran Distances: 13l, 8l, ½l
TIME 4m 52.20s (slow by 6.20s)

Spirit Son, who was “mugged” close home by Al Ferof in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham, gained handsome compensation in the opener, and the 3/1 shot could not have been more impressive as he stretched 13 lengths clear of 5/2 favourite Cue Card on the run-in.

Spirit Son
© Grossick Racing Photography

Spirit Son

Winning trainer Nicky Henderson, celebrating an overdue first success at this year’s meeting, said: “We needed that. It has taken us two days to find our way into the winner’s enclosure and things did not go as planned earlier in the week, but this is a timely redemption and Spirit Son deserved to win after such a brave effort at Cheltenham.

“Barry (Geraghty) felt that Cheltenham came six months too soon and reckons that it is only just starting to happen for Spirit Son, who won’t run again this season.

“This horse has a lot of growing up to do and has massive scope for improvement. He gets this two and a half miles, but he also has the speed for two, so we will train him with the Champion Hurdle in mind next season and see where we end up.”

Winning rider Barry Geraghty added: “He’s a bit of a baby - he’s only five - and things just happened too quick for him at Cheltenham but he was able to find an nice rhythm today. He jumped and travelled nicely behind Ruby and picked up well.

“I said to Nicky even before I rode him at Cheltenham that things might just come a bit soon for him and that it might come six months too soon because he is a bit of a baby.

“I think he has learned a lot from Cheltenham and, with the step up in trip, he was travelling like the winner everywhere.

“The going is a bit on the slow side but it is going to dry out during the day.

“It’s tough on Tom (Scudamore) missing the ride on Or De Somoza in the John Smith’s Grand National and I got a winner that he would have ridden yesterday.

“It’s great to get a ride in the National but although it’s not the ideal way to get it through someone else’s misfortune - I’ll take it gladly.”


Starting Price
Beaten Distance
Spirit Son
N J Henderson
B J Geraghty
11st 4lbs
3 - 1
Cue Card
C L Tizzard
J Tizzard
11st 4lbs
5 - 2
13 lengths
Rock On Ruby
P F Nicholls
D Jacob
11st 4lbs
9 - 2
8 lengths
Drill Sergeant
D McCain Jnr
J M Maguire
11st 4lbs
40 - 1
1/2 length
Storm Brig
A C Whillans
E Whillans
11st 4lbs
25 - 1
4 lengths
Sam Winner
P F Nicholls
R Walsh
10st 11lbs
7 - 2
Bold Sir Brian
Miss Lucinda V Russell
P Buchanan
11st 4lbs
12 - 1
32 lengths
Maringo Bay
C J Mann
Peter Toole
11st 4lbs
28 - 1
73 lengths
Drive Time
J Howard Johnson
B Hughes
11st 4lbs
28 - 1
Non Runner
Rebel Rebellion
P F Nicholls
Nick Scholfield
11st 4lbs
Non Runner
Recession Proof
J J Quinn
R Thornton
11st 4lbs



Cue Card

Cue Card
Cue Card’s season is almost certainly at an end after he finished runner-up to Spirit Son in the John Smith’s Mersey Novices’ Hurdle.

His trainer Colin Tizzard said: “We were just beaten by a very nice horse. Joe [Tizzard] rode him exactly as we asked. We were a bit surprised that he had to wake him up on the bottom bend to get him into a challenging position but he stayed on well.

“That’s probably it for him now for this season and we’ll bring him back next season to go novice chasing. He’s bred to do it and he’ll make a nice chaser. He can go back in novice races, otherwise he’ll have to go back in handicaps and against Champion Hurdle horses.”

He added: “He’s run a lovely race and I’m just chuffed that he’s back here safe and sound. We thought he could sit and travel and come through and pick it up but Spirit Son has done exactly that. He must be a good horse.”


Paul Nicholls' yard had to accept defeat for third-placed Rock On Ruby and sixth home Sam Winner in the John Smith's Mersey Novices' Hurdle, but there was a hidden consolation.

The winner, Spirit Son, had been beaten two lengths by the Nicholls-trained Al Ferof in Cheltenham's Stan James Supreme Novices' Hurdle.

Harry Fry, an assistant at Nicholls' satellite yard, said: "We wanted a good, strong gallop all the way for Rock On Ruby, because he proved he stays two miles five furlongs at Cheltenham [in the Neptune Investment Management Novices' Hurdle] last time.

"He's been beaten by two speed horses, so he's run a good race in the circumstances.

"Similar comments apply to Sam Winner - he's a stayer, a galloper.

"The winner's performance makes Al Ferof look good - he's something to look forward to next year."

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