War Lord gained handsome compensation for his fine run in a Grade One on his previous start with a hard-fought victory in the Cazoo Novices’ Chase at Lingfield.
The Colin Tizzard-trained seven-year-old had finished a long way second behind Edwardstone in the Henry VIII Novices’ Chase at Sandown – but showed he is pretty smart in his own right as he made it three wins from four races over fences.
Il Ridoto made the running in the four-horse affair with War Lord always on his heels in second place under Brendan Powell.
Taking closer order in the straight with three fences to jump, War Lord (11-10 favourite) had to work hard to overtake the long-time leader before landing the spoils by three and a quarter lengths. Faivoir edged Il Ridoto out of second place by a length.
War Lord was cut to 33-1 from 50-1 with Coral for the Sporting Life Arkle Trophy at Cheltenham.
Joe Tizzard, assistant to his father, said: „He deserved it. He has done nothing wrong all season. He is quite a progressive young horse. We have Doncaster next week in mind – we were always going to enter and just see where. I wouldn’t say this race has cut up, but the front three were all, on ratings, much of a muchness. I think he has done it quite nicely and I think he is getting better.
„He earned his right to run in a Grade One and he lost nothing in defeat. We were chuffed to bits he finished second that day and we dropped back down to a Grade Two. He is a two-and-a-half-mile hurdler so we can step up in trip when we need to, but just on this ground, we don’t need to yet.
„He has got two options at Cheltenham – the Arkle and the two-and-a-half-miler. As the ground dries out, we won’t be afraid to step him up, but at the moment, he jumps so well and he’s slick and he travels, so we don’t need to.
„The boys are keen to have a go (at Cheltenham), I’m keen to have a go and he’s earned the right to be there as well. He is three out of four and second in a Grade One, so he deserves to be there. We will wait and see. The guys are enjoying planning all the races, as much as I am.
„I might enter him for next Saturday (Lightning Novices’ Chase), as he has not had a hard race. I might enter him up at Doncaster just in case that cut up to two or three – I won’t tell them that yet. I will just press the button and tell them at 12 o’clock!
„He jumps and travels and done it well. He’s a good chap.“
Our Jester ran out a convincing winner of the Winter Million Open National Hunt Flat Race.
Hughie Morrison’s six-year-old pulled clear of his rivals early in the straight to quickly put the two-mile race beyond doubt in the hands of Tom O’Brien.
Our Jester (5-2) got off the mark in a bumper at Ascot in November on his third start and took a big step forward in a competitive heat.
Always prominent the Garswood gelding set sail for home on the final bend and went on to score by three and a quarter lengths from the Nicky Henderson-trained Swapped. German challenger Estacas, the 15-8 favourite, was a neck away in third.
O’Brien said: „He is huge and that was my worry. It is tight around here, so I wanted to get out handy and luckily we have done that.
„It looked as if there would be a lack of pace, with a lot of speed horses in there, and my lad is a jumper of the future, so I wanted to be up there and luckily it was the right place today.
„Hughie was confident. He got beat twice last year and he obviously took time to strengthen up and he has done, he has done very well. It is a great race to win and great from Lingfield to put it on.“
Ballygrifincottage (7-4) wore down High Stakes in the closing stages to win a thrilling race for the Winter Million Novices’ Hurdle.
The seven-year-old, trained by Dan Skelton, made his stamina count as he knuckled down for Harry Skelton to see off his gritty opponent by a length and a half.
The pair pulled clear eight lengths clear of the third-placed horse, the 11-8 favourite Fameaftertheglory.
It was only Ballygrifincottage’s second start under rules following his third place in the Grade Two Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham on his debut for the Skelton stable last month after being sold out of the point-to-point sphere.
His rider said: „They went so quick, I couldn’t go with them. I was off the bridle going to the first, to the second, but three miles on that ground, I just let him warm up, let him warm into it and he came onto the bridle then with a circuit to go.
„Whatever we do over hurdles will be a bonus. He has quite a lot of experience. He is an older horse, he is a six-year-old. We would never normally start our novices off over the trip we have with him, but he has got that experience and he can cope with it. There is a lot to look forward to.“