Bailey wild about Harry Topper
Kim Bailey could not have heaped higher praise on Harry Topper after he won the Grade Two GPG Novices' Chase at Newbury.
The usually reserved trainer believes the willing five-year-old is as good a horse as he has had in his care since the 1995 Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Master Oats - although it would be unwise to include him in any ante-post Cheltenham bets.
November has been a fertile month for Bailey, but Harry Topper (3-1) looked to have lost any chance in this three-miler when he was badly hampered at the fourth-last fence and was required to make huge progress against some smart rivals.
An impressive winner on his chasing debut at Exeter, Timmy Murphy's mount quickly whittled down the commanding lead of Irish raider Benefficient after the final fence and eventually came a length and a half clear.
Bailey said: "He won't see a racecourse very often, as Timmy said I've got to look after him as he is desperately weak.
"He'll run one or two more times this season, because he is very, very good.
"I've always held a very high opinion of him and he's the best horse I've had since Master Oats. I haven't come across a horse who will run into a brick wall for you since him.
"He wants flat, galloping tracks at the moment, and in 18 months' time I'd hope you will see him at Cheltenham. He is the horse of my dreams."
Last year's Sportingbet Intermediate Hurdle was taken by the subsequent Champion Hurdle winner Rock On Ruby, but Lyvius (7-2) will have to make far greater improvement if he is to feature on such a stage.
Nicky Henderson's gelding beat Edgardo Sol by two lengths, but was receiving a huge amount of weight from the runner-up and the trainer conceded: "It was a nice performance but he was at the right end of the handicap."
Henderson did not dismiss a challenge at next month's Ladbroke Hurdle at Ascot.
Sizing Santiago (9-1) claimed an eventful Sportingbet Handicap Chase for Peter Bowen and Jamie Moore, where jockey Robbie Dunne performed miracles to stay in the saddle aboard Rigadin De Beauchene.
Dunne was around his mount's neck after a horrendous mistake four fences from home but still managed to snatch third.
The conditional rider said: "It helped that he kept straight, so I was able to hang on.
"Coming to the second-last, I still thought I was going to win but he is not a nimble horse and that put an end to it."
Bowen said of the winner: "I got him at the May sales, and I wanted him because he is a half-brother to Take The Stand.
"He's only a six-year-old and is actually better than Take The Stand was at his age. We'll see what the handicapper does now."
Meganisi's greater jumping experience came into effect in the Sportingbet Novices' Hurdle as the 7-4 favourite pulled away from the dual Cesarewitch winner Aaim To Prosper, who was a little cautious on his National Hunt debut.
"He's a nice horse and AP (McCoy) said that two miles is his perfect trip for now," said Gearoid Costelloe, partner of trainer Rebecca Curtis.
"We'll have to sit down and discuss things, but he deserves to go into a Graded race now."
Nigel Twiston-Davies would like African Gold (8-1) to make up into a Cheltenham Festival prospect and he looked to be on the right route as he made it three victories from four outings in the CSP Novices' Handicap Hurdle.
After welcoming back his son Sam, Twiston-Dacies snr said: "You'd hope he might end up as a long-distance Cheltenham novice type.
"He's still quite green and would appreciate better ground."
Parsnip Pete (5-2 favourite) was greeted by the happy members of The Parsnips after he continued on the upgrade in the Burges Salmon Novices' Limited Handicap Chase.
"I wanted to run on Saturday but I wasn't allowed - it's a big meeting of the Beaufort Hunt and the owners are local to the area," said trainer Tom George.
"The horse has taken quite a long time to come together, he was very keen as a young horse but has done it nicely today. He won't run for a month."
Harry Fry, who now has Rock On Ruby running under his name, took the John Banks Legendary Bookmaker bumper when Oscar Rock (7-2) repelled the McCoy-ridden 11-4 favourite Gone Too Far.
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