Messire takes Sandown thriller
Messire des Obeaux came from an improbable-looking spot to deny Ballyandy and Cultivator in the main event at Sandown on Friday, the Grade Two Neptune Investment Management Novices' Hurdle.
Daryl Jacob and Messire Des Obeaux (right) get the best of a tussle with Cultivator (l) and Ballyandy (c) to win the Neptune Investment Hurdle.
The Grade Two event, better known as the Winter Novices' Hurdle, has a decent history with the likes of Fingal Bay and Taquin Du Seuil successful in recent years.
Well supported in opposition to favourite Ballyandy – the winner of the Champion Bumper at Cheltenham last season – the 9/4 second-favourite looked to have been left behind when Cultivator hit the front going well before two out.
But Cultivator was untidy at that flight, and as Ballyandy tried to rally, Daryl Jacob brought the Alan King-trained winner down the outside to throw down another challenge.
Going to the last, any of the three could still have got their heads in front, but Messire des Obeaux dug deep for Jacob and edged ahead to deny Ballyandy by half a length.
Jacob said: "They've just done me for toe between the second-last and the last, but he's a gorgeous horse who stays well and when the going gets tough, he gets going."
King added: "He was very game. I thought between the last two he was going to run very well but finish third, but then he knuckled down well.
"That's the first time he's had a gun put to his head and he was giving 7lb to Ballyandy so it was a good performance.
"I thought it was a cracking renewal of the Winter Hurdle. I've won it a few times before but, to me, this year had the most depth.
"He's a horse that will get better as he's a big, rangy horse.
"The Challow Hurdle (Newbury) would seem the obvious place to go but the only thing that would put me off is my last few runners have been lapped in it.
"I should think he'd be a bit better again on even softer ground as he likes plenty of juice. If he didn't go to Newbury he'd go to Warwick for the Leamington (Novices' Hurdle).
"I wouldn't be surprised if come March, we're looking at the three-miler (Albert Bartlett)."