Harry Bannister takes Newbury chance with flying colours

La Bague Au Roi and Harry Bannister on the way to victory at Newbury.
La Bague Au Roi and Harry Bannister on the way to victory at Newbury.
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HARRY Bannister recorded another high-profile win in his upwardly mobile career when the exciting novice Las Bague Au Moi won the opening novice hurdle at Newbury’s Hennessy meeting.

After the filly’s third successive win over hurdles this season, following successes at Uttoxeter and Wetherby, she can expect a long lay-off before the Grade 2 Trull House Stud Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival.

The Warren Greatrex-trained La Bague Au Moi has won six out of her seven starts and she clearly thrives on better ground.

Bannister, who is steeped in Yorkshire point-to-point racing and whose family own Coniston Hotel near Skipton, has won three races on the five-year-old and dictated the Newbury race from the front before pulling clear after the second last.

That Greatrex entrusted such a high-profile mount to the Yorkshireman, rather than stable jockey Gavin Sheehan is another reflection of the rider’s progress since turning professional.

“She is becoming the finished article and her jumping was brilliant. Harry was fantastic on her,” said the winning trainer.

“It was a big pressure for him today and he came through it with flying colours. I have never hidden the fact of how good I think she is and I think she is going to get better and better. I think the world of her.”

Typically, Bannister played down his role in the heart-warming success.

“She is a very good mare and, when they are that good, it makes my job a lot easier,” he said.

“I was a little bit worried about the ground today but she went on it fine. She is obviously a very exciting horse to have in the yard and I am very grateful to have a chance to ride her.

“She will probably stay two-and-a-half miles but she has the speed for two as she has just shown. She makes it all quite easy from my point of view – she gives what you ask her first. She would be one of the best horses that I have ridden.”

Bannister’s 20th winner of the season put him joint second in the conditional riders’ championship to Harry Cobden, who rode his 31st success, and first at Group One level, when the Paul Nicholls-trained Irving won a dramatic Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle.

Irving avoided most of the mayhem at the third last when Petit Mouchoir fell heavily under Bryan Cooper, hampering fellow Irish challenger Apple’s Jade, who was ultimately beaten a whisker by Irving in a photo-finish which took an age to settle.

North Yorkshire rider Brian Hughes recorded his 30th win of November when the Sandy Thomson-trained Spirit Of Kayf took the French Furze Novices’ Hurdle.

Hughes said it was simply impossible to chase the retired Sir AP McCoy’s record of 40 winners in a month. He said he was “flattered” but “embarrassed” to be compared with the legendary 20-times champion.

“This is one month. He rode this number of winners every month,” added Hughes.