Roque on a roll
Silver Roque gave Fergal O'Brien some cheer when taking the Berry Bros & Rudd Handicap Chase at Newbury.
Now in his second season as a fully-fledged trainer, O'Brien spent most of his career assisting Nigel Twiston-Davies and is now based at jockey Timmy Murphy's Cilldara Stud at Fossebridge, a few miles south-east of Cheltenham.
Creevytennant will be his sole Cheltenham Festival runner in the CGA Foxhunter Chase, but Aintree could await the sparingly-raced Silver Roque (4/1), who was sent to O'Brien by owner Lord Vestey after the retirement of Henrietta Knight.
He powered a length and a quarter clear of Oscar Hill to double his victories for the yard after striking on his first start last October.
O'Brien said: "He had no chance of getting in the Grand Annual at Cheltenham, but Paddy (Brennan, jockey) said we should go for the two-mile handicap chase at Aintree now.
"He had been off for a while but my head lad Tadgh Darcy said he was spot-on."
Rather stronger in numbers at Cheltenham will be Jonjo O'Neill, whose Twirling Magnets (10/1) proved his resolution for a first triumph over fences in the Zenergi Novices' Handicap Chase.
Tony McCoy, who had been schooling most of the yard's hopes for the meeting at Jackdaws Castle that morning, had to sit tight after his mount made several glaring errors.
"The better ground has helped him," said O'Neill. "He can be a good jumper, but he wasn't today, and he missed a few."
Leading O'Neill's bid for a sixth John Oaksey National Hunt Chase is likely to be Merry King, but he said: "This one has an entry too. He probably won't go, though."
It was unusual for a horse from Philip Hobbs' leading stable to come in at 40/1, and the trainer would have liked the benefit of hindsight about Berkeley Barron in the Physicool 'National Hunt' Novices' Hurdle.
Hobbs said: "Looking at it, you can see reasons why he could win, but realistically we didn't think he would be winning today.
"He ran all right in his bumper, and was jumping left-handed at Kempton on his first run over hurdles."
Gary Moore's son Jamie did the steering to get Leo Luna (5/1) a neck ahead of 3/1 favourite Gassin Golf in the Floor V Davis HL1979 Juvenile Hurdle but another member of the Sussex racing family had played his part.
Leo Luna was fifth to Chatterbox on his debut at the course last month but earlier ran twice for Sir Michael Stoute, to whom Ryan Moore is stable jockey.
"I had a little bit of assistance," said Gary Moore. "Sir Michael was a great help, and I was worried about the drying ground. We might go to Aintree, or come back here for a two-mile-three, which would suit."
Tony Carroll's Le Bacardy (8/1) carried on where he left off in France by hooking the MC Seafoods Novices' Handicap Hurdle and may yet sneak into the Martin Pipe conditional jockeys' race at Cheltenham.
The electric jumping of Arctic Ben (7/1) in the Rickety Bridge Handicap Chase gave Henry Daly his first winner at the Berkshire course in nearly six years.
"I can't remember the last one," he said. "It makes it much easier when they jump like that. He has to go left-handed and could go to Aintree now."
Nicky Henderson had to wait until the end of the afternoon to hit the target through evens favourite Fabrika in the RR Elite Mares' bumper.
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