Top Ville Ben in Kelso frame
A review of Thursday afternoon's action from Towcester, where Nicky Henderson's Top Ville Ben teed up a trip to Kelso with victory in the novices' hurdle.
Trainer Nicky Henderson: Saddled Top Ville Ben to success
Top Ville Ben put himself in contention for a step up in class north of the border after taking the Haygain Hay Steamers Clean Healthy Forage "National Hunt Novices' Hurdle at Towcester.
With connections of the Nicky Henderson-trained five-year-old quick to rule out a trip to Cheltenham for a tilt at the Supreme with the five-year-old, a visit to the Scottish Borders for the Premier Kelso Hurdle could now be on the cards.
Although headed approaching the last, the 30/100 favourite took full advantage of a blunder at the final flight by Count Meribel, before pulling away to score by two and half lengths to make it three from three under rules.
Anthony Bromley, racing manager to owners the Million In Mind Partnership, said: "He has got an entry in the Supreme, but I don't think he will be going there. He might go for the Premier Hurdle at Kelso, which is a Grade Two. We did that last season with Le Prezien.
"They stalked us on the second horse and it looked like it had all gone right, but they've got to be jumped. He had entries all over the place next week, but all the tracks looked like this. We took our chance with the first option and got lucky."
There was a landmark success for Fergal O'Brien after Socksy provided the trainer with a career-best 48th winner of the campaign when landing the two-mile-three-furlong mares' novice hurdle.
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The Naunton handler eclipsed his previous best total of 47 winners achieved in the 2013-14 season after the well-backed 11/8 favourite appeared to appreciate a step down in trip to open her account over hurdles at the fourth time of asking with an eight-length success.
O'Brien said: "That's my best season in terms of numbers. I was delighted with that and I was delighted that Paddy Brennan was riding her.
"I've said 100 times before that moving back to Naunton and Grange Hill Farm has been a big plus. Paddy Brennan has been more involved, as has my partner Sally Randell. It is not just one thing. I've got great people at home who work hard."
On the winner, he said: "She did it well. She was tough and didn't do a lot when she got in front. The trip probably helped her as she didn't quite see out three miles the last day."
What A Diva made the 10-hour round trip endured by trainer Peter Bowen was worthwhile when backing up her last-time-out success at Market Rasen in the feature Haygain Hay Steamers Clean Healthy Forage Handicap Hurdle.
Given a patient ride by Sean Bowen the 6/1 shot made her first attempt over three miles a winning one, finding plenty when asked the question to get the better of Pink Gin by three-quarters of a length.
The Haverfordwest handler said: "I was up feeding the horses at 5am this morning and away to get here at 7am. She was a bit weak last year in her bumpers. She is just getting her act together and she likes this ground, being by Kayf Tara.
"She will go chasing eventually. It would be nice to nick a bit of black type with her."
The uphill climb to the line at the Northamptonshire venue has had its say over the years and Deise Vu became the latest casualty in the two-mile handicap chase when reeled in late on by the David Bridgwater-trained Edgar (8/1).
Bridgwater said: "He has won over a mile and six on the Flat a couple of times and over two and half miles over fences, so two miles on heavy ground should have been fine and it was. It is great when you take a bit of punt and it comes off. We were a bit worried about the ground, but it was such a bad race I thought we would have a go."
The Debra Hamer-trained Magical Man (8/1) claimed the extended three-mile handicap chase, while the concluding two-mile-three-furlong handicap hurdle went the way of Evan Williams' Present Times (6/1).
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