Somersby on top in Victor Chandler thriller
Report: Ascot, Saturday
Victor Chandler Chase (Grade 1) 2m1f, 5yo+
SOMERSBY landed his first Grade 1 when getting the better of Finian's Rainbow in a thrilling finish to the Victor Chandler Chase at Ascot on Saturday.
Second in the race last year, Somersby trailed jumping the final fence, but powered home under Dominic Elsworth for a famous triumph, which provided trainer Henrietta Knight with her first top-level success for seven years.
The Paul Nicholls-trained Al Ferof, stepping out of novice company for the first time, was third.
A trip to the Cheltenham Festival is likely to be the next step for Somersby, who is 7-1 (from 14) for the Ryanair Chase and 8-1 (from 33) for the sportingbet.com Queen Mother Champion Chase with William Hill.
"I worried a bit pulling him back to two miles one, but he ran such a good race here last year and he loves the course," said Knight, whose last Grade 1 came courtesy of El Vaquero in the Scilly Isles Novices' Chase in February 2005.
"He travelled very well throughout. It was one of those days where everything went right. It's a wonderful feeling."
Henrietta Knight: "It's wonderful"PICTURE: Getty
Somersby was a creditable fourth over 3m in the King George VI Chase last month and again showed his versatility, leaving Knight unsure of Cheltenham plans.
She added: "Whether he goes for the Champion Chase or the Ryanair I don't know, but I would like to go for the Ryanair. I think that's the ideal race for him."
The eight-year-old's win also gave Elsworth his first Grade 1 win.
"I'm delighted for the horse," said the jockey. "He's been a bit of a bridesmaid, but I always knew he was going to stay on towards the end."
Finian's Rainbow, the 5-2 joint-favourite with Al Ferof, looked a likely winner jumping the last, but had no answer to Somersby's charge.
Barry Geraghty, who rode Finian's Rainbow, said: "He ran a good race and maybe he needs to go further. Somersby loves it here."
Nicholls was far from downbeat by Al Ferof's performance and will now aim the seven-year-old at the Irish Independent Arkle Chase.
"He came here to get experience for Cheltenham. Ruby [Walsh] is delighted and I'm delighted. I've left plenty to work on and he'll run in the Arkle unless the other race [the Champion Chase] falls apart, which it won't."