Double delight for Brennan
A review of the action from Leicester, where Paddy Brennan brought home two winners to take his seasonal score to 70.
Paddy Brennan: Two winners at Leicester on Thursday.
Paddy Brennan showed his prowess in the saddle with a double on two chasing newcomers at Leicester.
The Gold Cup-winning rider steered home the inexperienced pair of Baraza for Tom George and the Fergal O'Brien-trained Bells 'N' Banjos to take his tally for the season to 70.
Baraza has a lot to live up to being a full-brother to the classy Nacarat and after a fruitless spell hurdling got off the mark over fences at the first time of asking in the Groby Novices' Handicap Chase.
Carrying the same colours of owner Simon Clarke, the grey took to the bigger obstacles with aplomb.
Always travelling well, the 5/2 chance jumped into the lead at the fourth-last fence and went on to score cosily by three lengths from Brinestine.
"He probably takes after his elder brother, he's a very good jumper and hopefully we can get him to start improving now," said George. "He's got quite a long way to go to catch up with Nacarat, but he jumped nicely. Hurdles weren't his thing.
"He'll go for another little handicap like this. He'll probably come back here because he does like the better ground.
"You'd hope one day he might progress like his brother did, but we're not there yet. This was the first step.
"We took him to Uttoxeter last time, but he was lost there – he couldn't cope with the ground. He's a winter good-ground horse."
Previously with Warren Greatrex, Bells 'N' Banjos (10/1) made his first appearance for the O'Brien stable a winning one when taking the Leicester Annual Badge Holders Chase.
The seven-year-old looked a natural as he won a tight novice limited handicap by three lengths from Go West Young Man.
"He was quite a big price, but it was not a surprise as he's been in good form at home and his jumping has been good," said O'Brien's representative, jockey Alain Cawley, who is helping out in the yard while he recovers from injury.
Brennan was denied a treble when he had to settle for second place on Storming Strumpet behind Midnight Jade (4/1) in division two of the Hose Thorns Handicap Chase.
John Groucott's mare was not for catching as she pulled out more for Lee Edwards to win by a length and a quarter and follow up her previous success at Southwell.
Bally Lagan (9/2) stuck on gamely to land the spoils in division one.
Pulling clear early in the long straight, the Robin Dickin-trained bottom weight kept Tommy The Rascal at bay by a length and three-quarters.
Dickin said: "He's been a funny horse to get the better of. He's had issues with his breathing and has had a couple of operations on his wind over the years.
"He's super jumper and I'm a bit shocked how well he's stuck at it having taken it up so far out. From the last I thought something was going to get to him, but he wasn't going to let that happen."
Top Ville Ben (4/5 favourite) made an impressive debut over timber when making all in the Nomad Novices' Hurdle.
Winner of a Ludlow bumper on his debut for trainer Nicky Henderson, the five-year-old looked a cut above his rivals as he easily beat Whatmore by seven lengths under Jerry McGrath.
"He's a free-going horse and is learning all the time. Nicky likes the horse and Jerry is keen on him," said Anthony Bromley, who runs the owning Million In Mind Partnership.
"The track was tight enough today and we'll run him on a galloping track next time. He might get further and his jumping improved as the race went on. He's a nice prospect, but he's a Million In Mind horse so he'll be sold at the end of the season.
"I think I'll go for somewhere with a penalty next rather than a graded race. We'll take it softly with another novice race first."
The winner was trimmed from 33/1 to 25/1 by sponsors Sky Bet in their non-runner no-bet market on the Supreme Novices' Hurdle.
A good jump at the final flight saw Political Quiz (9/2) seize victory from Honey Pound by half a length in the Chieftain Handicap Hurdle.
"I think Sam (Twiston-Davies) riding this horse before at Fontwell certainly helped," said winning trainer Tom Symonds.
"He needs time between his races. He's not very big and he had a nasty fall at Newbury last season. It took him a long time to get his confidence back.
"We'll see what the handicapper does, but hopefully placed right he can win again."
Champion jockey Richard Johnson steered Paddocks Lounge (2/1 favourite) to an eight-length verdict over Smart Catch in the Dove Selling Hurdle to give owners Alistair and Lesley Winrow-Campbell their first winner in their own colours.
They were able to keep the horse as there was no bid for the Sophie Leech-trained 10-year-old at the subsequent auction.