Barry Geraghty and Close Touch take the last in the lead at SandownPICTURE: Edward Whitaker (racingpost.com/photos)
Nothing can get close to Touch in EBF Final
Report: Sandown, Saturday
European Breeders' Fund paddypower.com "National Hunt" Novices' Handicap Hurdle Final (Grade 3) 2m4f
THE QUEEN may be without a Cheltenham Festival candidate in 2013 but she might well have one in 2014 judged by the Sandown demolition job executed by royal homebred Close Touch in a typically red-hot running of the EBF Novices' Hurdle Final.
Just five days after the Queen ended a hospital stay, the extremely promising Close Touch provided the best possible tonic for the monarch when making light of promising opposition and hock-deep conditions to land the £60,000 contest in imperious fashion.
Trainer Nicky Henderson had found it impossible to split his three runners in the EBF-backed event but stable jockey Barry Geraghty was very much on the right one as the 8-1 shot sluiced through Sandown's mud to pummel top weight Many Clouds by 12 lengths.
In a race in which less than half the field finished, owner Dai Walters saw his colours carried into third and fourth by Edmund Kean and Whisper, a stablemate of the winner.
That winner came to the EBF Final having won three times this season and most recently chased home the smart African Gold at Doncaster, but plainly revelling in the heavy conditions, the royal five-year-old this time made the others do the chasing, cruising into the lead on the run to the final flight, soon after which Geraghty was able to begin the process of easing down his mount.
"He did it real well," said Geraghty. "He was just a little novicey at a couple down the back but I got him wide on the better ground and he picked up really well. He surprised me how well he did it. He put it to bed quickly."
Sir Michael Oswald, representing the Queen, said: "His future is as a chaser. That's what he's designed for and only this time next year will we know what he's made of. He has quite a round action and I was happy when it rained."
Henderson added: "Handicaps have gone now, and I wouldn't mind putting him away, but he could run again on the right ground."