Spring dilemma for Skeltons after Roksana produces 'perfect' display
Roksana gave her connections plenty to ponder when barely coming off the bridle to land the Matchbook-backed Grade 2 Mares' Hurdle, leaving owner Sarah Faulks and trainer Dan Skelton with a multitude of options heading into the spring.
After finishing on the tails of Paisley Park and Thyme Hill in a top-notch running of Long Walk last month, Roksana showed no ill effects of that bruising battle as she swept Grand National hopeful Magic Of Light aside with the minimum of fuss.
"You need some patience to deal with her everyday but you don't mind when they've got the ability she has," said winning rider Harry Skelton, who will have had harder workouts on the gallops in the morning.
He added: "In the Long Walk she was just a bit keen and revved up. She relaxed great today and jumped really well – she was never out of first gear. It was perfect and all plans are open going into the spring."
Paddy Power cut the winner to 6-1 (from 12) for the Close Brothers Mares' Hurdle at Cheltenham which she won in 2019, while going 12-1 (from 14) for a rematch with her Long Walk conquerors in the Paddy Power Stayers' Hurdle. She also has the option to bypass the festival altogether and head to Aintree fresh the following month.
"We'll leave it to Dan and Sarah," said the rider. "From my point of view, she definitely feels the best she's ever felt this year. I'd love to try and win a Stayers' Hurdle but whatever the best race to run her in is where we'll be going."
Triumph trail for Tritonic
Tritonic, who failed by just half a length to win at Royal Ascot in June, went one better on his debut over jumps to take the 1m7½f juvenile hurdle for Alan King and Adrian Heskin.
Runner-up in the Golden Gates Handicap in the summer, the winner was rated 99 on the Flat and looks a quality recruit to jumping for owners Max McNeill and Ian Dale.
He needed every yard of the trip to overhaul plucky runner-up Casa Loupi but Heskin felt there was plenty more to come from the winner, who was cut to 12-1 (from 20) with Paddy Power for the JCB Triumph Hurdle.
"He was quite keen with me early and just over raced for the first mile," said Heskin. "I had to sit and suffer a bit going up the hill and the eventual runner-up ended up getting quite a stretch on me but I was confident from the turn in I was going to reel in the two in front of me, albeit it was a little harder work than I expected."
Asked if he could be a potential Triumph contender, Heskin added: "I'd think so. He has stamina and he has gears. If he could get to that level it'd be a dream come true for his owner Max McNeill. It's a race at the festival he's always targeted with his juveniles."
Cannon in wonderland
Tom Cannon had been resigned to watching Saturday's action from his sofa until a surprise text from agent Dave Roberts landed on Thursday morning.
As a result he made his debut for Nicky Henderson's powerful yard in the 2m3½f Grade 3 handicap hurdle and went home with a 100 per cent record as Craigneiche toyed with his rivals on his return from over a year on the sidelines in style.
Cannon said: "Dave text me at ten past ten on Thursday morning saying N Henderson, 10st 6lb, Ascot? And I just gave him the thumbs up. I thought he might have texted the wrong person!
"I was delighted and he's clearly a good horse."
The winning rider, who was stepping in for the injured Jerry McGrath added: "To even ride for Mr Henderson is a dream come true – my mum would've cut it out the paper and put it in the scrapbook and for it to win is a real bonus."
Dashel Drasher shines
First Flow may have stolen the show but Dashel Drasher was not far behind as he set a scorching pace from the off to land the 2m5f handicap chase and put trainer Jeremy Scott and rider Matt Griffiths in the Saturday spotlight.
"I was very taken with that," said a delighted Griffiths. "He got away on the front and there's definitely more improvement in him. It's massive for Jeremy and the guys who own him."
The winner was cut to 25-1 (from 33) for the Ryanair Chase with Paddy Power and Griffiths added: "I don't know what his plans are now. Obviously there's Cheltenham but whether he's a horse for Cheltenham this year I'm not sure.
"If we look after him hopefully he'll keep improving. I do think he'll be better going left-handed and he was still strong at the finish."
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