Jockey Nico de Boinville could reflect on a retrieval mission successfully completed as last year’s Supreme Novices’ Hurdle third put behind him a 14-length defeat on his second chase start at Cheltenham in December.
Nicky Henderson’s seven-year-old jumped economically and well to land the odds as 4-5 favourite, by three-and-a-quarter lengths from Coconut Splash.
Chantry House led early in the straight and stayed on well, earning a new quote of 10-1 from Paddy Power for next month’s Marsh Novices’ Chase back at Cheltenham.
De Boinville was not about to pinpoint that target, or any others, but pronounced himself very satisfied after winning with his only mount on the card.
“I was happy with that,” he said. “He’s put Cheltenham behind him there. He jumped well, despite the ground. You couldn’t really be asking for too many big jumps, because he wouldn’t last home then.
“(But) his jumping was very measured, I think. I don’t know what the plan is – we’ll leave that to connections and the boss.”
Chantry House was conceding 6lb to an undoubtedly useful runner-up, and De Boinville added: “I thought that was probably the one, coming into this race, we were going to have to beat.
“That was good – back on track. That was the most important thing after Cheltenham the last day. He’s jumped and travelled well, which is what we were hoping for.
“I think he’ll be better on better ground as well.”
Following her 100th winner in Britain, the Herefordshire trainer was kind enough to suggest the correct soundbite, too.
“It’s Ballybegg for the Ballymore!” she said. The six-year-old, who led almost throughout and then battled back strongly when headed to beat expensive recruit Papa Tango Charly by a head, remains a general 66-1 shot for his only Cheltenham entry.
But Lee said: “I think we’ll have to seriously consider it – as long as there’s some cut in the ground. I’ve been in the job long enough now to think ‘Well, when you have an opportunity you should take it’.
“You don’t get many horses you can consider running in a Grade One. When you do, and they’ve won like that, why not?”
Ballybegg and jockey Richard Patrick were following up their wide-margin win at Hereford last month.
Lee added: “It was a very nice performance – I don’t know how good he is.
“But the runner-up is a very decent horse on his day, and he clearly ran a very solid race.”
Lee is readying two more stable stars for Cheltenham, in Storm Control and Happy Diva.
“It’ll be Storm Control (Kim Muir), Happy Diva (Mares’ Chase) and this chap,” she said. “I’ve only got 20 to run – so that’s not bad, is it? We like a bit of quality.”
Storm Control also has a Grand National entry – but well down the order after the publication of the Aintree weights on Tuesday, Lee is realistic about his prospects of making the cut.
“He is in the National, but I’m not sure he’ll get in,” she said. “I had a quick count down and thought ‘aah’. We’ll concentrate on Cheltenham.”
Lee and Patrick were denied a double when Umbrigado beat their Destined To Shine by two and a half lengths in the feature Sixt Car Hire Handicap Chase.
David Pipe’s novice, having just his third race over fences, was adding to last month’s victory at Fontwell under Tom Scudamore – and is another who may have Festival aspirations.
Scudamore said of the 7-2 winner: “That was really good. We always thought he would make into a nice chaser, and he’s beginning to do that.
“He saw that out well in tough conditions – he’s very versatile. He’ll improve for more experience.
“I imagine he’ll have entries at Cheltenham, but we’ll see – whether it’s Grand Annual or the two-and-a-half (Paddy Power Plate). It’s a shame that the two-and-a-half-mile novice isn’t there any more – that would have been the race for him.”
Robbie Dunne made his first ride on Nightboattoclyro a winning one as Sam Drinkwater’s improving seven-year-old completed his hat-trick, up in grade for the racingtv.com Handicap Hurdle.
The well-backed 3-1 favourite collared front-runner West To The Bridge to prevail by almost two lengths, and Drinkwater said: “He’ll probably have one more run, then he’ll be a chaser next season.
“He won’t get in to Cheltenham, but there’s bound to be something for him at Aintree.”
West To The Bridge’s trainer Dan Skelton was successful with 9-2 shot Embole in the BoscaSports Racings Digital Display Handicap Hurdle – after which Jonathan England was suspended for 11 days for excessive use of the whip on runner-up Billy Ray.
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