'He's enormous' - Hillcrest earns festival quotes after stylish Listed win

Hillcrest (Richard Patrick)leads on the first circuit of the Ballymore Novices' HurdleCheltenham 1.1.22 Pic: Edward Whitaker
Hillcrest: maintained his unbeaten record over hurdlesCredit: Edward Whitaker

Saturday: Cheltenham

Hillcrest proved he has style as well as substance when bounding clear to claim the Listed Ballymore Novices' Hurdle for Henry Daly.

The seven-year-old, who is so tall Daly has difficulty measuring him, made all to finish two lengths clear of the favourite I Am Maximus.

"My measuring stick goes to 18 hands and it won't go over him – he's very tall," said Daly. "He's enormous but he's obviously got some talent, too. I don't think he's really had a race today. He won as he liked and he jumped well. We couldn't have asked for more.

Hillcrest (Richard Patrick) beats I Am Maximus (Nico de Boinville) in the Ballymore Novices' HurdleCheltenham 1.1.22 Pic: Edward Whitaker
Hillcrest: stretched clear of I Am Maximus under Richard PatrickCredit: Edward Whitaker

"He just gallops but he doesn't need to make the running. It's only because he can that he does. He's got a great mind as well and he'll get further but he's not too bad at this trip so we may stick to that."

The Listed contest was won in 2011 by Bobs Worth, two years before his Gold Cup victory, but Daly has not yet decided on a big target for Hillcrest, who was introduced at 16-1 for the Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle and 25-1 for the Ballymore Novices' Hurdle by Paddy Power.

Plan pays off

Connections of Vienna Court were rewarded for their decision to run the seven-year-old back in a handicap when she landed the Grade 3 Paddy Power New Year's Day Handicap Chase from Simply The Betts.

She won by a length and three-quarters under Sam Twiston-Davies and will return to mares' races before a potential tilt at the Grade 2 Mrs Paddy Power Mares’ Chase at the Cheltenham Festival.

"I discussed it with the owners and we had to decide whether to go for a lesser mares' race – even though they can be quite tricky – or have a go at a handicap with big money," said Nigel Twiston-Davies.

Vienna Court (Sam Twiston-Davies,left) jumps the last fence and beat Simply The Betts in the 2m 4.5f handicap chaseCheltenham 1.1.22 Pic: Edward Whitaker
Vienna Court (left): narrowly denied Simply The Betts under Sam Twiston-DaviesCredit: Edward Whitaker

"Now we can go back to those mares' races and she'll be odds-on. She was last early on and Sam was a bit worried but as soon as he switched her on he couldn't stop her. She had a bit up her sleeve."

On whether Vienna Court, who has twice won this season, could join stablemate Zambella at the festival, the trainer added: "It's possible. If she wins her next mares' race then we'd have to think about it."

Drought over

Jamie Moore recorded his first Cheltenham winner since winning the 2018 BetVictor Gold Cup when landing the 3m2½f handicap chase.

The jockey, whose drought includes the devastating final-flight unseat of Goshen in the 2020 Triumph Hurdle, scored aboard Full Back. The pair stayed on powerfully to the line to finish in front of The Wolf.

"The slower ground helped his jumping," said winning trainer Gary Moore. "I wasn't sure whether to take him out or not. We left Brighton and it was beautiful sunshine so we thought we'd take our chance with the ground. I got to Lambourn and it started raining and thankfully the owner said we'll see what it's like when we get there.

"It's good to get his head in front. He'll be entered [in the Ultima] but I don't know if he's up to that – it's different at the festival."

On the march

Poetic Music extended her unbeaten record to three when justifying favouritism and finishing clear of Iliade Allen in the 1m6f Listed bumper.

Winning trainer Fergal O'Brien was quick to praise jockey Paddy Brennan and said: "He gave him a peach of a ride. You wouldn't want anybody else on your side – he's riding as well as ever."

Results, replays and analysis

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West Country correspondent

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