Ideal fences debut sees Divine Spear prevail at Catterick

Jockey Brian Hughes
Jockey Brian Hughes
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Connections of Divine Spear are already dreaming of the Cheltenham Festival after the six-year-old made a successful debut over fences in the Come Racing New Year’s Day Beginners’ Chase at Catterick.

The two-and-a-half-mile novice handicap chase that closes the opening day of the big meeting in March is the long-term aim for the strapping six-year-old, who made light of the opposition at the North Yorkshire track.

We’ve got plenty of entries for him. We know this horse has ability and we just wanted to choose the right race for him, so we went to Catterick. He’s done it nicely.

Tom Palin.

Nicky Henderson’s charge won as an 8-11 favourite should. Travelling close to the leaders under a confident Brian Hughes, he went into the lead two out and was just ridden out to score cosily by three and three-quarter lengths from Alzammaar.

“He’s a lovely big horse. I think he’s the biggest down at Seven Barrows. He was bought to be a chaser and is a half-brother to Grade One-winning chaser Jadanli,” said Tom Palin, National Hunt manager for owners Middleham Park Racing.

“He’s schooled very well and it was nice to see him put it all together on the racecourse.

“We’ve got plenty of entries for him. We know this horse has ability and we just wanted to choose the right race for him, so we went to Catterick. He’s done it nicely.

“There was plenty of horse left under Brian Hughes.”

He added: “The long-term goal is the Cheltenham Festival. We might have a look next at Doncaster on the 15th under a penalty. It’s over two-and-a-half and Might Bite won it last year.”

Course specialist Delusionofgrandeur (6-4 favourite) registered his fourth success at Catterick in the Go Racing In Yorkshire Winter Festival Handicap Chase.

The Sue Smith-trained seven-year-old put up a fine staying display over the three miles and one furlong to see off Thumb Stone Blues by four and a half lengths.

Trainer Donald McCain and jockey Will Kennedy enjoyed a 25-1 double, through Middlebrow (13-2) in the Racing UK Profits Returned To Racing Handicap Chase and Rockalzaro (5-2) in the Injured Jockeys Fund Novices’ Hurdle.

Bryan Cooper went to hospital for precautionary X-rays following a fall in the first race on the card at Ascot.

The leading Irish rider was partnering the Colin Tizzard-trained 5-4 favourite Sizing Tennessee in the Tindle Newspapers Beginners’ Chase in the colours of the late Alan and Ann Potts when he was unseated at the second fence.

Cooper gave up his one remaining ride on Bally Longford, but was hopeful the injury was not serious.

He said: “It’s just a bang. I’m going to get it X-Rayed to see how it is.

“Hopefully, it’s nothing too serious.”

Cooper is due to return to Ascot today to partner Sizing Granite in the Christy 1965 Chase.