Keeper Hill impresses at Hereford
Warren Greatrex is looking forward to seeing the fast-improving Keeper Hill test his powers at a higher level following an impressive display at Hereford.
Warren Greatrex: Won with Keeper Hill
The Market Rasen bumper winner was beaten into second on his hurdling debut at Ffos Las in early November, but comfortably went one better at Bangor and was a 9-4 chance to follow up in the first division of the novice hurdle.
With Wayne Hutchinson deputising in the saddle for sidelined stable jockey Gavin Sheehan, Keeper Hill moved smoothly into contention before powering five lengths clear of Skipthecuddles.
Hot favourite Jameson (5-4) was two lengths further back in third.
Greatrex said: "I was a bit worried about the ground as it was testing all day, but Wayne said he coped with it very easily and he's done it very well.
"He's a horse who is getting stronger all the time and his jumping is improving all the time.
"We'll have to step up now and before this race I had in my mind was the Sidney Banks (Novices' Hurdle) at Huntingdon (February 9).
"It's a race we won last year with Ma Du Fou, it's a track I like and this horse could be the ideal candidate.
"I hope he's a progressive horse with a very bright future."
Keeper Hill does not yet feature in ante-post lists for the major novice hurdles at Cheltenham in March, but Greatrex hopes he could yet develop into a Festival contender.
"Huntingdon will tell us where we're going, but he has everything you need (in a Cheltenham horse) as he travels well in his races, his jumping is getting better and he has a turn of foot," said the Lambourn-based trainer.
"He's a horse we've always liked at home and it's nice to see it paying off now."
Philip Hobbs and Richard Johnson combined to land division two as 4-9 favourite Strong Pursuit made every yard of the running and won decisively.
Harry Fry is to keep targets low-key with Charmix after he opened his account over fences in the novice chase.
The 145-rated hurdler was disappointing on his first two chase starts at Fontwell and Bangor, but while it was hard work for the 5-4 favourite, he got the better of a protracted duel with Dig Deeper by three-quarters of a length.
Fry said: "It was good to see him make it third-time lucky over fences and the first two have pulled a long way clear.
"I don't think either horse deserved to lose, really, and the other horse out-jumped ours for much of the race, but Charmix's ability has seen him through.
"He still needs to improve his jumping, but we'll keep chipping away and hopefully he will improve with experience.
"We'll try and find something similar under a penalty and go from there."
Lake Chapala was a 6-1 winner of the two-mile handicap chase.
Winning trainer Tim Vaughan said: "He's won two races this season now, so I've got a happy owner and it's great.
"Funnily enough, he's probably not the most natural chaser in the world, but when these two-mile chases cut up to small fields it suits him.
"He does need everything to fall in his favour, but he has a bit of ability and we could think about dropping back over hurdles now."
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