Harry Fry has Grade 1 star to enjoy as top novice Metier dazzles in Sandown mud
Harry Fry has a new yard and now also a new star in the shape of Metier, a wonderfully exciting young hurdler who had his smitten trainer executing a flawless finger slap when galloping past him at a near deserted Sandown.
Seven months after moving into a new Dorset yard, Fry enjoyed his first taste of Grade 1 success as the master of Higher Crockermoor farm when Metier made light of heavy ground to win the Unibet Tolworth Novices' Hurdle with overwhelming superiority.
Surrounded by as much daylight as his horse, the normally reserved Fry made his feelings clear as Metier stormed up Sandown's hill under Sean Bowen to defeat Shakem Up'Arry by 12 lengths and announce himself as the best British two-mile novice hurdler seen so far this season.
Bookmakers undoubtedly felt that was the case and, having started the day as big as 50-1 for the Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle, Metier is now a best-priced 8-1.
Yet punters thinking of backing him have been warned mud may be necessary for Metier to line up in the Cheltenham Festival opener, which may not even be his most immediate target, with Fry having for some time been keen on Newbury's Betfair Hurdle.
Wherever Metier goes, he will be feared.
"He comes alive on the racecourse and relishes those conditions," said Fry of the five-year-old, adding with conviction: "I do think he is a very exciting hurdler."
That view would be hard to challenge given how easily the once useful Flat performer cruised through the contest before asserting himself in between the final two flights.
"Rarely do races go quite so smoothly, certainly not at this level," admitted Fry. "They went a good tempo, he jumped for fun and turning for home Sean had a double handful.
"I'm delighted to have got the first Grade 1 winner from our new yard having moved only in June. A lot of people have helped us to get the yard up and running, so it's fantastic to have got a Grade 1 in our first season there. We need horses like him to fly the flag for us. These are the races we all want to win and it's great to have another Grade 1 horse in the yard."
Fry's leading light had been bought by Gary Stevens for 150,000gns with a juvenile hurdles campaign in mind, yet the trainer became sure the horse would benefit from time. That wisdom and the owner's patience have already reaped a handsome reward, with Metier unbeaten over hurdles this season following earlier wins at Newton Abbot and Ascot.
"The time to mature has done him the world of good," said Fry.
"I wouldn't be in too much of a hurry to run him on drying ground because of his rounded action, although good horses have to be able to run on all ground. He can hopefully go a long way over hurdles, and not just this season, which is exciting."
Ben Pauling is already looking forward to seeing Shakem Up'Arry switch to fences.
"He has run a cracker," said Pauling. "We've always been looking forward to him going over fences because of the way he jumps but he has done himself absolutely proud there today. That was probably his big novice race and we may now look at coming back for the Imperial Cup."
By then, the Tolworth form could already have been tested in handicap company if Fry and Stevens decide to run Metier in a race that has often been dominated by novices.
"We targeted the Tolworth but I've felt all along he would be a lovely horse for the Betfair Hurdle," said Fry. "We've probably gone about it the wrong way by winning a Grade 1 by ten lengths but he'll certainly have an entry and it will be an interesting conversation with the handicapper."
Asked if he had a rating in mind for Metier, who already held a mark of 142 before his Sandown romp, Fry answered immediately but with a smile: "Yes, 142."
He may not be finger slapping at the end of his conversation with the handicapper. He does, however, have a tremendous new star.
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