Top Novices' Hurdle Friday 13th April 2012 

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Darlan Top of the Novices for Henderson

1 Darlan 7/4F
2 Captain Conan 9/1
3 Prospect Wells 4/1
12 ran Distances: 3¾l, 7l, 5l
TIME 4m 4.70s (slow by 11.70s)

It may be a Friday the 13th, but luck was in for Nicky Henderson in the opening Tangle Teezer Top Novices Hurdle and Darlan gained compensation for his second spot in the Supreme Novices Hurdle at Cheltenham, with his stablemates Captain Conan and Oscara Dara in second and fourth spots. Both the first two overcame the disadvantage of a slow early pace.

© Racehorse Photos


“We knew beforehand that there was likely to be no pace,” said Henderson, “and that it would probably turn into a bit of a dash, and that’s just the way it turned out so full credit to the first two for the way they pulled clear. It’s not easy to quicken up to sprint and they’re both very nice horses indeed.

“As far as Darlan is concerned, we’ve only brushed at it so far with him. He’s a big weakish sort of horse with a load of physical development left in him yet. We’ve now got the summer to think of a programme for him for next year,but I’d think he’d stick to hurdles.”

Before Cheltenham, Darlan had seemed poised for victory in the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury before falling two out, an incident which his rider Tony McCoy feels he still remembers. “He’s always been a horse we’ve thought a lot of,” he said, “but he took a very heavy fall at Newbury which I think really knocked his confidence. At Cheltenham he got a bit far back in the race and stayed on to get second place and so today I wanted to ride him a bit handier.

“It was good that he won today, but neither here nor at Cheltenham did he jump as well as he had done at Newbury before he fell. He gave me a better feel over the hurdles that day than either of the days since. But what he does do is travel and stay and he’s shown today he can quicken as well, which they can’t all do off a slow pace. He’s got a bit of size and scope, too, so if he doesn’t make the top grade as a hurdler then there will be the option of chasing open to him in due course.”

The winning owner J P McManus said: “It was nice to win a big race with him. He was unfortunate at Newbury, when he took that heavy fall and, looking at him, he still probably remembers it a little bit. He’s getting his act together again now and that was very pleasing.

“Nicky has done a great job - I thought that Darlan looked great today - and, considering that he has run so many times, I was very happy with his condition. A P said that he was workmanlike today and he was pleased.

“He’s done his quota for this season and I am sure that he will have a rest.”

Referring to his John Smith’s Grand National favourite, Synchronised, he added: “I left the decision to run up to Jonjo and he was very keen that he would run. Normally they are a bit tired after winning the Gold Cup but he ate up that night and I would say that he is even better now.”


Starting Price
Beaten Distance
N J Henderson
A P McCoy
11st 4lbs
7 - 4
Captain Conan
N J Henderson
B J Geraghty
11st 4lbs
9 - 1
3 3/4 lengths
Prospect Wells
P F Nicholls
R Walsh
11st 4lbs
4 - 1
7 lengths
Oscara Dara
N J Henderson
David Bass
11st 4lbs
10 - 1
5 lengths
C E Longsdon
P J Brennan
11st 4lbs
13 - 2
1 length
H de Bromhead
A E Lynch
11st 4lbs
28 - 1
15 lengths
Theatre Guide
C L Tizzard
J Tizzard
11st 4lbs
12 - 1
1 1/4 length
Right Step
A P Jarvis
T J O'Brien
11st 4lbs
16 - 1
6 lengths
Seventh Sky
C J Mann
N Fehily
11st 4lbs
100 - 1
18 lengths
Agent Archie
D McCain Jnr
J M Maguire
11st 4lbs
12 - 1
29 lengths
Toughness Danon
B G Powell
S Twiston-Davies
11st 4lbs
100 - 1
1 1/2 length
North Cape
A J Lidderdale
W Kennedy
11st 4lbs
100 - 1
13 lengths



Paul Nicholls’ lead in the trainer’s championship took a dent in this race when Nicky Henderson saddled the first, second and fourth, but at least the champion had a consolatory third with Prospect Wells.

The seven-year-old son of Sadler’s Wells, carrying Ruby Walsh in the colours of Andrea & Graham Wylie, was further behind winner Darlan compared to their running in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham, and Nicholls admitted: “I’m slightly disappointed - a stiffer track and a faster-run race might suit him.

“I had him in the two-and-a-half miler and couldn’t make up my mind which race to run him in and as he gets older he might appreciate further. He’s run consistently well all season.

“Next season he could be a horse to run in races like the Greatwood Hurdle or Ladbroke and the type of events where they go flat out and it’s a bit rough and tough. He could probably do with a break now.”

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