Opening Batsman (left) and Rolling Aces jump the last fence in unisonPICTURE: Edward Whitaker/(racingpost.com/photos)
Opening Batsman gives Fry big-race success
Report: Kempton, Saturday
Racing Plus Chase (Handicap) Grade 3 3m
HARRY FRY got the better of his old boss Paul Nicholls as Opening Batsman fought off Rolling Aces to give the trainer the biggest success of his burgeoning career.
Fry, who masterminded Rock On Ruby's Champion Hurdle success last year when part of Nicholls' Ditcheat team, took the 12-1 winner from the champion trainer when branching out on his own at the start of the season.
And on only his fourth start over fences, Opening Batsman jumped up menancingly on the rail, swinging for home under Noel Fehily, before coming out on top after a tussle with 4-1 shot Rolling Aces.
Two-time race winner Nacarat, who was retired after the race, faded out of contention after clattering a fence just before the halfway point, while favourite Wyck Hill, purchased by leading owner JP McManus in the build-up to the race, also failed to land a blow.
Fry said of the winner: "He's not put a foot wrong bar the second last, and Noel gave him an awesome ride. He never gave an inch around the inside.
"He's a horse continuing to improve and the ground and the track suited him brilliantly. I'd never had had him better, and I was surprised at so few confirmations on Monday. We'd got more confident by the day.
Harry Fry: has festival optionsPICTURE: Getty Images
"He's got umpteen entries at Cheltenham, but today was the plan. We'll enjoy it and assess things next week."
Nacarat's trainer Tom George said: "That's it for him. The mistake he made on the first circuit was the first like that of his life. He was telling us he has had had enough."
Duke Of Lucca (10-1) came home in third, one place ahead of stablemate and 2011 winner Quinz, who led for the majority of the contest on his first run for 449 days.
Sarah Hobbs, wife of trainer Philip Hobbs, said: "We're delighted with Duke Of Lucca. He needs good ground and jumped really well. We'll now look for a race for him at Aintree.
"We were very pleased with Quinz, who showed he is back to his normal self. He'll now go for the Grand National."