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The Harry Fry-trained Opening Batsman won the Racing Plus Chase under Cork jockey Noel Fehily

Updated: Saturday, 23 Feb 2013 17:18 | Comments

Batsman hits Racing Plus rivals for six

Harry Fry's first season as a trainer in his own right took another major step forward as Opening Batsman stole the Racing Plus Chase at Kempton from under the nose of his mentor Paul Nicholls.

Although responsible for last season's Champion Hurdle winner Rock On Ruby, who he prepared from what was Nicholls' satellite yard in Seaborough, the 26-year-old's name is now above the same Dorset premises and this Grade Three event was by some way his biggest success so far.

Still a novice but an evident improver, Opening Batsman (12-1) hugged the inside rail under Noel Fehily and finished the three miles that little more strongly than Nicholls' Rolling Aces, who was there with every chance but was beaten by two lengths.

He was roared back by owners the Twelfth Man Partnership, which includes cricketer Andrew Brassington.

"What a day," said Fry, who is the youngest jumps trainer in the country.

"I thought Noel gave him an amazing ride and he didn't give away an inch from the inside.

"The ground and the track suited him perfectly and I'm so delighted.

"Big winners on a Saturday is what it's all about and for a young team, it shows what we can do in the future.

"He has multiple entries at Cheltenham, but this was the plan and we will enjoy today."

Fry went on: "I wouldn't be where I am without four fantastic years with Paul. He'll be disappointed to be beaten, as we're all competitive, but he was the first to congratulate me."

Nicholls himself said: "He's done everything right, but he maybe ran with the choke out a bit and it's cost him at the end. We will maybe look for a novice chase for him at Aintree."

Among the footnotes was the performance of the dashing grey Nacarat, twice a winner and twice more placed in the race.

He made a howling error on the first circuit, eventually finishing last and trainer Tom George announced his immediate retirement.

George said: "That's near enough the first mistake he has ever made and it's his way of telling us he's had enough."

Only able to beat Nacarat home was the 3-1 favourite Wyck Hill, who performed miserably on his debut in the colours of the watching JP McManus.

As has been the case all season, there were a succession of almost private battles between the Nicholls and Nicky Henderson yards, and it was two-one to the former in the Graded races.

Nicholls dropped a heavy hint Irish Saint would not be heading towards the Triumph Hurdle despite him winning what is now accepted as the most informative trial in the Racing UK Subscribe For Cheltenham Adonis Juvenile Hurdle.

The stable already has a leading player in Far West, and the 5-4 favourite stayed on well for Ruby Walsh to overcome Henderson's Vasco Du Ronceray by half a length.

A course and distance winner over Christmas, Irish Saint had been beaten by Henderson's Rolling Star at Cheltenham last time.

"I'll have to talk to the owner properly but I suspect we'll end up going to Aintree for either the juvenile or the two-and-a-half against older horses," said Nicholls, whose Triumph hero Zarkandar lifted the Adonis two years ago.

"It's only three weeks until Cheltenham, and with six until Aintree I can get him a good bit better."

The racingplus.co.uk Pendil Novices' Chase saw Ludlow handicap winner Grandioso (9-4) remain on an upward trajectory.

Tracking the Henderson pair of Molotof and Tour D'argent, Grandioso hit the front at the last when a crashing fall took out Theatre Guide, and Nicholls' charge had a length in hand over the rallying 11-8 favourite Molotof.

"If you'd seen him two races ago you wouldn't have thought he'd end up winning a Grade Two but he's an improving horse," said Nicholls.

"He's not in at Cheltenham and he does go a bit right-handed, so Aintree might play against him. I'm sure we'll find another nice race."

Henderson pulled one back with Forgotten Voice (9-2), who used the speed from his high-achieving Flat career to accelerate five lengths clear of 15-8 favourite Brick Red in the William Hill Dovecote Novices' Hurdle.

Henderson said: "He did win a Hunt Cup at Royal Ascot so he has got pace, and now he is learning to settle. He jumps well, and he's a lovely horse."

Bookmakers seemed to feel it would be likely Forgotten Voice could head for the Vincent O'Brien County Hurdle.

Midnight Sail (5-1) earned his reward for a string of consistent efforts in the Rewards4Racing Handicap Chase, with trainer Alan King explaining he had been waiting for better ground.

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