Ascot wins for Captain Chris and Oscar Whisky
Updated: Saturday, 24 Nov 2012 18:06
Captain Chris became the second of Philip Hobbs' star names to look right back to their old selves within a week when taking the Amlin 1965 Chase at Ascot.
Just like Wishfull Thinking, who left behind a season full of difficulties at Cheltenham last weekend, Captain Chris was plagued by jumping frailties last winter but was given a fine ride by Richard Johnson to keep him bolted to the rail throughout.
The heavy Berkshire turf was not for the faint-hearted, and the Champion Chase winner and 5-6 favourite Finian's Rainbow was particularly ineffective as he trailed in last of the four.
Captain Chris (7-2), who took the 2011 Arkle, will now be teed up for a return visit to the King George as he forged three and three-quarter lengths clear of For Non Stop.
Hobbs, who had been struggling with flooded roads earlier in the week in the Minehead area, said: "He always jumps right on the racecourse, but his schooling has been a lot better this year.
"The King George would be the obvious race to go for now. He'd like better ground and was third in it last year, so I don't think the trip will be a problem."
Nicky Henderson said of Finian's Rainbow: "Barry (Geraghty) told me to ignore the run, the excuse was ground, ground, ground and ground.
"They either go in it or they don't. We haven't learnt anything today and you wouldn't think about the King George if it was soft."
Henderson's Oscar Whisky, however, thrived in the conditions and was in a class of his own in the Coral Hurdle.
A faller at the last when right in contention in the race last year, the 8-15 favourite was always in command under Geraghty and cruised eight lengths clear of Raya Star.
"He loved the ground, and that was a very smart performance," said Henderson.
"We thought we would go to Cheltenham next month, then Ffos Las, possibly Fontwell, miss Cheltenham and go to Aintree but if it came up soft, you'd have to run him in the Champion Hurdle."
Easter Day is primed for a rise in class after showing off his credentials in the Playboy Club London Novices' Hurdle.
Daryl Jacob found himself in a duel with Tony McCoy and Dursey Sound but Paul Nicholls' 3-1 favourite went away on the run-in and scored by four lengths.
"He's shown a real improvement from his first run over hurdles to his second," said Nicholls' assistant, Dan Skelton.
"Obviously we're still sorting out our novices but at the moment he'd look the most likely of ours to go for the Challow (Hurdle, Newbury, 29 December)."
Nick Scholfield is riding with great assurance at the moment and pulled off a fine piece of work in the BAM Construct UK Novices' Handicap Chase.
The jockey held the lightly-raced 10-year-old Lord Tomnoddy (8-1) back for as long as possible behind the enthusiastic Tigre d'Aron, but his task was made a little more difficult when the second-last was bypassed due, and despite being jammed up the inner, he galloped four lengths clear.
He was continuing the good run of trainer Kim Bailey, who said: "He loves soft ground and will stay all day."
Trainer Tom Symonds and conditional jockey Ben Poste secured their first prestigious success together with a mud-splattered 33-1 chance Tweedledrum in the Movember Mares' Handicap Hurdle.
"I've never been able to figure her out - I call her Rubik's Cube," said Symonds.
"She was tailed off as my first ever runner but she ran really well at Exeter and went up in the handicap, so then she struggled.
"I only came here for a day out with the owners."
William's Wishes (7-1) has been a similar enigma to Evan Williams but overcame a 664-day absence by beating the smart Champion Court by two lengths in the Carey Group Handicap Chase.
"I could never find what was really wrong with him - he was wrong behind - and I gave him the time off," said Williams.
"But his work has been abysmal and I pretty much gave up and ran him."
Fergal O'Brien had his first Ascot winner when Fiddlers Bid (6-1) ran away with the Josie Reddington Foundation bumper.
"He's done everything we've wanted and will go hurdling over Christmas," said O'Brien.