Warner targets Festival with Tolworth hero

Elixir De Nutz and Tom O' Brien (left) on their way to winning The Unibet Tolworth Novices' Hurdle Race at Sandown
Elixir De Nutz and Tom O' Brien (left) on their way to winning The Unibet Tolworth Novices' Hurdle Race at Sandown
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Owner Terry Warner is dreaming of more success at the Cheltenham Festival in March after Elixir De Nutz claimed the Unibet Tolworth Hurdle at Sandown on Saturday.

Having seen his yellow and black silks carried to glory at the blue riband meeting by the likes of Rooster Booster and Detroit City in years gone by, Warner hopes the Colin Tizzard-trained five-year-old can achieve something similar.

Sent off at 3-1, the grey held on by half a length from Grand Sancy in the Grade One prize, and was cut from 16-1 into 12-1 for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle by race sponsors Sky Bet.

Warner said: “He will be better on better ground, but judging by that he seems to go on any ground.

“He just keeps improving. The form of his last Cheltenham win has been franked with Jarveys Plate winning on New Year’s Day.

“He jumps so well and is quick through the air. He will have a break now and he will not run again before Cheltenham. He is a very exciting horse to own.”

Tizzard said: “He has toughed that out again today. Going from the front like that, you have got to be tough.

“He jumps his hurdles and is away from them so fast. If we held him up I don’t know whether he could do that.

“That is the beauty of him – the way he crosses a hurdle he takes a length out of them every time.

“If he folded today in second no one would blame him, but he is a tough old boy and has had a hard race today.

“I wouldn’t think there is any chance of him running between now and Cheltenham, as he has had a tough old race today.

“He has had four runs already this season and it would be nice to save him for the three festivals later on.”

Leading Champion Hurdle contender Laurina had little fuss in making her eagerly-awaited return to action a winning one when casting aside her sole rival by 48 lengths in the Listed Unibet Mares’ Hurdle.

Winning trainer Willie Mullins said of the Ruby Walsh-ridden 1-8 chance: “A winner is a winner and I’m very happy with that.

“It was her first run back and the ground up the straight was very testing.

“We will possibly get another run into her for more more practice, but I’m happy.

“She will get entered for that (Irish Champion), but whether that comes too soon, I don’t know, we will see.

“We will see how she comes out of it.

“At this stage of her career she must be as good if not better than any of them (Annie Power and Quevega).”

It has been more than 20 years since Nigel Twiston-Davies enjoyed his one and only victory in the Triumph Hurdle with Upgrade – but Torpillo could change that statistic following his 22-length success in the Unibet Juvenile Hurdle.

Twiston-Davies said of the still-unbeaten 30-100 scorer: “Upgrade (who won the 1998 Triumph) was an absolute nutter and this one is very controllable.

“That was very nice and he has done it well.

“Just walking in with Anthony (Bromley, racing manager to owners Simon Munir and Isaac Souede) we were thinking about Grand National Trial day at Haydock (Victor Ludorum).

“It should be soft ground again, so that should be ideal.”

Houblon Des Obeaux (7-) gained the most valuable success of his career after ending a winless run stretching back to November 2017 with a 15-length victory for the in-form Venetia Williams yard in the Unibet Veterans’ Handicap Chase.

Williams said: “I’m absolutely thrilled. We always hoped a race like this might come his way. It was a smashing ride by Charlie (Deutsch).

“He has been a wonderful horse and we’ve had him since a three-year-old. He has been a mainstay of the yard for a long time.”

Monsiuer Lecoq could take aim at next month’s Betfair Hurdle after backing up his last-time-out victory at Ffos Las to give trainer Jane Williams and jockey Lizzie Kelly their first winners at the Esher course, taking the 32Red.com Handicap Hurdle by nine lengths.

Kelly said of the 11-4 winner: “He has had the same sort of prep that Agrapart had before running in the Betfair.

“He (Agrapart) ran in the Tolworth and that was an option for this horse, but we just wanted a winner.”