Tizzard takes centre stage
For once Paddy Brennan may not be welcome at Fergal O'Brien's after Theatre Guide (15/2) denied Perfect Candidate at Cheltenham.
Theatre Guide and Paddy Brennan edged home
Brennan has been a key part of the Gloucestershire handler's team since the latter took out his training licence and the pair have enjoyed plenty of success this season.
However, they were on opposite sides in the Unicoin Group Handicap Chase as Brennan teamed up with the eventual winner for Cue Card's connections – Mrs Jean Bishop and Colin Tizzard – against Perfect Candidate, a horse he had ridden in half of his career starts.
Conor Shoemark is the new jockey entrusted with riding the nine-year-old and he got a great tune out of the Winged Love gelding whose jumping and relentless galloping put the pressure on most of the field in the three mile two furlong handicap.
Out Sam was still travelling well despite several mistakes but made one too many and took a heavy fall while Bally Longford made a crucial error when just working his way into contention.
The experienced Theatre Guide was foot-perfect though and appeared to be travelling the best of the leading trio as he moved ominously aside Perfect Candidate.
The latter got away the better of the pair from the last and galloped all the way to the line only for Brennan and Theatre Guide to force their way in front on the line to prevail by a nose.
They finished three and a half lengths clear of Bally Longford.
Tizzard said: "He just showed he is a thorough stayer. We were disappointed he didn't stay on in the Hennessy, as that's what he does best.
"That was lovely for Jean (Bishop, owner) and my daughter rides him every day. We just felt he didn't go through with the job in the Hennessy.
"Whether it was because it was a higher-class race I don't know, but he definitely went through with it today to the line.
"He is thorough stayer and that (Welsh National) looks the obvious race for him."
As well as the agony of such a narrow defeat, there was an additional sting in the tail for Conor Shoemark, the rider of Perfect Candidate, as he was hit with a 15-day suspension by the stewards for using his whip above the permitted level, without giving his mount time to respond and in the incorrect place.
He will sit out December 26 to January 9 inclusive.
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