sport

Bay stakes Festival claim

Royal Ascot winner Fennell Bay was cut into around 20-1 for Cheltenham after maintaining his unbeaten record over timber at Musselburgh.

A veteran of 41 races on the level for Mark Johnston, including a win in the King George V Stakes in 2012, he has taken very well to his new discipline for trainer John Ferguson.

Ferguson has many candidates for Cheltenham but several have fluffed their lines second time out after making an impressive winning debut over obstacles, with Dubai Prince and Mijhaar two notable disappointments.

However, while the battle-hardened Fennell Bay may not have as attractive a profile as those two, he has transferred the likeable attitude he displayed with Johnston to hurdles.

He was briefly under pressure as Ollie G loomed up in the Bet & Watch With RacingUK's App Novices' Hurdle but the 8-11 favourite was soon back on the bridle under Denis O'Regan and without coming under any pressure, he pulled five lengths clear in nice style.

He holds entries in all in all three novice events at the Festival but Ferguson intimated the Neptune is the plan, with Sky Bet going 25-1 from 40s.

Sky Bet's Racing PR manager Michael Shinners said: "It's no surprise that Fennell Bay proved too good for his rivals considering he has won at Royal Ascot, but the style of his performance impressed.

"He looks to have plenty of stamina and looked better the further they went, so the Neptune and the Albert Bartlett look the two most obvious Cheltenham races for him."

The feature Water Tight Green Compliance Handicap Hurdle went the way of Tim Vaughan's Figaro (5-1) who provided the handler with his 500th winner.

Richard Johnson went all the way north for just one ride, but he looked a sitting duck as Roman Flight appeared to be cantering all over him approaching the final flight.

However, Johnson asked his mount a big question and he responded, gaining crucial momentum and he held on by half a length.

Vaughan tweeted: "Delighted to see Figaro win at Musselburgh under @dickyjohnson77 to register our 500th winner! Congratulations to owner Pearn's Pharmacies!

"It has taken 3163 days (or 75,912 hours) to register our 500 winners! Thanks to all the staff @TVaughanRacing - brilliant team effort.

"Delighted that 500th winner is ridden by @dickyjohnson77, over 250 winners for us. Figaro's owners Pearn's Pharmacies are great supporters."

There was a dramatic conclusion to the Edinburgh Evening News Handicap Chase (Betfair Scottish Chase Series Qualifier).

The 3-1 favourite Brieryhill Boy had jumped his rivals silly and had the race in the bag for Willie Amos and Brian Harding only to fall at the last.

That left Civil Unrest in front, but he was running on empty and Chris Grant's Alpha One (8-1) stayed on grimly to win by a length in the hands of O'Regan, providing him the first leg of a treble

The opening Rural Insurance Amateur Riders' Handicap Chase was won in good style by the 4-1 joint-favourite Tears From Heaven, the first of three winners for Grant.

He was ridden by Richard Smith, grandson of Denys Smith who trained the 1968 Grand National winner Red Alligator.

"When the snow was coming in your face it was quite hard, but to be fair to the horse, he dug deep and kept galloping," said Smith on Racing UK.

"I just wanted to be in a handy position when we turned in as I knew he was just a galloper, he needed every yard of that.

"Chris has been good to me, he has a few point-to-pointers and he lets me ride them. I use his gallop as well for my pointers.

"My granddad still goes racing at Catterick and Sedgefield and still keeps an eye on things."

Grant round off his three-timer with Donna's Diamond (16-1) in the closing Suzanne & Nigel 10 Years Together Standard Open NH Flat Race, ridden by O'Regan's younger brother Diarmuid.

Ryan Mania's good run continued on Sandy Thompson's Blue Kascade (5-1 favourite) in the Download The Free Racing App Handicap Hurdle.