Top Notch graduates with honours

Top Notch beat some more seasoned campaigners in the GL Events Owen Brown Graduation Chase at Ascot on Saturday.

Top Notch (right) leads Sizing Codelco

Nicky Henderson's charge was having his fourth start over fences, all this campaign, and was going for his third victory over the bigger obstacles following wins at Warwick and Plumpton on his last two starts.

They were over two miles, but this race was over two miles and five furlongs, the furthest he had gone in his career, although he was well beaten over two and a half in the Relkeel over hurdles.

It was hard to tell how he did it, such was the restricted view through the thick fog from the Ascot grandstand, but he came out of it in front after the last and was kept up to his work to beat Sizing Codelco by a length and a quarter.

Stablemate Hammersly Lake was just a nose back in third.

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Henderson said: "Daryl could have said anything, as we couldn't see much. But he did say that two miles and five (furlongs), and off a good gallop, would be just as far as he wants to go.

"He is having a ball because his confidence is so good. Daryl said he jumped great and said he had a nice time.

"The great thing is that he was able to start off at that little level of easy races.

"The hardest race he had was that race at Uttoxeter, when he faced Charbel and Le Prezien – that was a good little race and that was on his debut.

"Confidence is huge. You can see how he is growing in stature from that Warwick race last month and at Plumpton, just by having a nice time – instead of getting beaten up in Champion Hurdles and races like that where we know we can't win.

"But he is always going to be competitive. He got beaten in a Fighting Fifth and a Champion Hurdle. He has been very good.

"He doesn't strike you as a chaser, but you have to love him – he is an absolute poppet.

"We will keep him at two-five or two and a half miles at a good gallop."

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