'He'll be something to be reckoned with' - Roque It impresses on chasing debut
Roque It made a flawless start to a potentially prosperous chasing career, winning by nine lengths and leaving the impression the best was still to come.
The Paul Nicholls-trained seven-year-old took to fences stylishly but to his disadvantage only nine of the 17 flights were in use in the 2m7f novice handicap chase due to the low sun.
Yet the 2-1 favourite stamped his class in holding off nearest challenger Caspers Court to emerge as another smart staying chaser for Gordon and Su Hall, whose biggest days on the track have come with the resolute Midlands National hero Truckers Lodge.
"It didn't play into our hands at all," said Gordon Hall, who was enjoying a second winner in two days. "He'd much rather be jumping and if he had I think he would've won by a lot more than he did.
"He's a work in progress but I'm sure he'll be something to be reckoned with. We've had to take our time, but I think we're about ready to see the best of him.
"He'll be a three-mile-plus chaser and a real stayer. We can look at all those big handicaps, although we don't want soft ground.
"He's a similar sort of horse to Truckers Lodge; they both jump like bunnies. Paul is brilliant at placing horses in the right places, so we'll be looking to win a few trophies with him. He'll be a horse that'll be recognised when he's firing on all cylinders."
Hall will leave Roque It's future targets up to Nicholls, but confirms Truckers Lodge is on course for the Welsh National Trial next Saturday before a likely tilt at the big race itself.
Lockdown and a series of placed efforts denied owners Ken and Della Neilson the chance to cheer their only horse Kendelu back into the winner's enclosure – but they were given a "magical" reminder in the 2m3f handicap hurdle.
The six-year-old – whose name is taken from the first letters of the couple's and son Luke's first names – held off Independence in a close finish. He is the owners' second horse and the only one currently in training.
Ken Neilson said: "That was fabulous. We had three wins but it was in lockdown, and unfortunately we could only see it from outside the ring, then when we could he was coming second and third.
"He's got masses of talent – the Racing Post predictor said he'd win today – and seeing him win is magical. You can never get the same feeling from anything else in the world; you just get that 'wow' every single time. This one is a champion in my book."
Back to form
Connections of Soaring Glory were given a confidence boost ahead of the weekend as An Tailliur bounced back from a first-flight unseat to land the 2m3f handicap hurdle.
Trained by Jonjo O'Neill and ridden by his son Jonjo Jr, he landed a remarkable sixth win of the season.
Joe Hickey, racing manager to owner Pat Hickey, said: "It was disappointing the last day at Cheltenham – he was positioned out but knuckled on landing – but he's bounced back, so happy days.
"He's a good-ground horse, so I'd imagine we'll put him away and go out again in the spring, maybe think about something at Cheltenham in March."
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