Impressive Apple's Shakira new Triumph favourite after 17-length demolition
Apple's Shakira, sister to the top-class Apple's Jade, looks like she could be just as good as her sibling following an impressive British debut for Nicky Henderson.
A winner on her sole start in France for Emmanuel Clayeux, Apple's Shakira was well backed late on to stay unbeaten and so it proved as she readily dispatched longtime leader Gumball. Tacking over to the stands' side, Barry Geraghty poured it on up the straight and she came clear easily.
Having routed her rivals by 17 lengths, bookmakers unsurprisingly cut her heavily for the Cheltenham Festival. She is now favourite for the Triumph Hurdle and is as short as 4-1 for that race as well as the mares' novice hurdle.
Jockey Barry Geraghty, who was aboard last year's winner of the race and subsequent Triumph Hurdle winner Defi Du Seuil, was full of praise for Apple's Shakira.
'Barry adores her'
He said: "You could only be impressed. She was green through the middle of the race and was learning all the way."
"Her work wouldn't be as flashy as most but she's got a great way of going and you can only love her."
Henderson confirmed Apple's Shakira is not a morning glory on the gallops as he added: "Barry has adored her from the first moment but she doesn't show you anything at home. The first few bits of work were petrifying until we realised that's just her. She does jump, though, and although she isn't that big she has a lovely temperament."
There should be more chances for racegoers to watch the filly, as when asked about future plans and the Triumph Hurdle, Henderson said: "I suppose that's where we'll finish up but she needs to learn, so we won't be hiding her away."
Corton's experience tells as Frost bags another big win
Black Corton, the outsider of the trio for the 3m½f novices' chase, made full use of his previous spins over fences to beat his more-fancied pair of rivals.
Although undoubtedly progressive, it looked pre-race that underfoot conditions would count against Black Corton, who has been making hay in the summer.
However, he handled the slower ground with aplomb and, unlike his two opponents, did not put a foot wrong. It was another big winner on a Saturday for Bryony Frost, who is unbeaten on five rides on the six-year-old.
Favourite Ballyoptic had led for much of the race, but was untidy at some of his fences and, having made a hash of the final fence in front of the stands the first time round, repeated the error when trying to rally against the winner.
West Approach's jumping also let him down, as he was ponderous on more than one occasion and never landed a telling blow.
Black Corton's trainer Paul Nicholls is amazed at how much the horse has improved, and he was inserted at 25-1 for the RSA by Betfair.
"Andy [Stewart] has been telling me all the time he would win the RSA," Nicholls said. "I told him he would have to start now but Andy might be right! He has loads of ability and he gets on with Bryony.
"It's astonishing how much he has improved. We thought he was ordinary, which is why he was running at Worcester in June.
"We might look at a nice novice chase at Doncaster next month now. My belief is when they're in form and improving there's no point putting them away."
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