Henderson has magic Touch
Nicky Henderson provided the Queen with a rare jumping winner at her Royal course when Close Touch won at Ascot on Saturday.
Her Majesty, who only has a small handful of National Hunt horses in training, has been successful at this track in the past with the likes of Barbers Shop, Gold Award and First Love, and there is every chance the runner in her scarlet and purple silks will soar to greater heights.
The 4-7 favourite had been taken as far afield as Market Rasen and Fakenham for his previous two victories, in a bumper and a hurdle, but he and the rest of the field spotted Loyaute a lead of almost 30 lengths which lasted until the second-last flight.
Close Touch took over and eventually mastered Fair Trade by two and a half lengths under Barry Geraghty, with Lordofthehouse paying the penalty for another of his now customary slow starts back in fourth.
"These introductory races are great for a horse like this, you just have a 5lb penalty for winning and it's a nice place for the Queen to have a winner," said Henderson, who took the race last year with promising chaser Broadbackbob.
"He didn't mind the ground, he has quite a round action, and we've always thought he was nice. We'll tip-toe, I'd think.
"They learn a lot at a place like Fakenham, and he's going to be a chaser in time."
Minella Class (7-4 favourite) ensured Henderson and Geraghty took the David & Toni Eyles Beginners' Chase for the third year running as he followed in the hoofprints of Solix and Master Of The Hall.
The classy hurdler had made a faltering start to his career over fences last season and treated the Berkshire track's obstacles with plenty of respect until warming to his task in the home straight and storming two and a quarter lengths clear.
"It's hard work out there and he was a bit careful, but he had a bad fall last season at Newbury and used to be a bit over-ambitious," said Henderson.
"He won a Tolworth Hurdle but has had problems with his wind and this was good experience. I won't step him up too much yet."
The top team brought up their hat-trick when top-class chaser Petit Robin (15-8 favourite) repelled stablemate First In The Queue in the Canaccord Genuity Handicap Hurdle.
"He was badly injured from a horrible fall here in last year's Victor Chandler Chase so it's great to see him back," said Geraghty.
Oliver Sherwood has assembled a nice team of youngsters this season and Many Clouds looked one to follow after a fine display of stamina in the Berkshire Media Group "National Hunt" Maiden Hurdle.
Not disgraced in the top bumpers at Cheltenham and Aintree and beaten only by Gevrey Chambertin on his recent hurdling debut, the 7-2 shot eventually wore down brave leader Fergall and went away.
"I had a loose horse on my outer, which didn't help, but he's a young horse who has had a nice education. Next year will be his year," said jockey Leighton Aspell.
Sherwood said: "He got a bit jazzed up with the loose horse but he jumped great and looks a proper horse.
"He won't do much this year, and will go chasing next year."
Ackertac (8-1) finally registered a first victory over fences in more than two years' worth of attempts under a strong Sam Twiston-Davies ride in the Winkworth Handicap Chase.
The Rainbow Hunter (16-1), bought from one of Kim Bailey's existing owners by a syndicate formed by Racing UK presenter Oli Bell, also displayed a willing attitude to scrap out the Mitie Events & Leisure Handicap Chase.
"They jokingly hoped he might be a Grand National horse, and at least he's qualified," said Bailey.