In a scathing critique of the International Cricket Council (ICC) and major cricketing nations, Cricket West Indies (CWI) CEO Johnny Grave has accused the global cricketing body of deliberately obstructing the resurgence of West Indies cricket by maintaining an unjust economic model.

Grave's outburst follows the West Indies' impressive performance in their tour of Australia from January to February 2024. The underdog West Indies, led by captain Kraig Brathwaite, secured a historic Test series draw against Australia, marking their first Test victory on Australian soil in 27 years.

In a podcast with Daniel Gallan, Grave expressed his frustration, stating, "I think everyone is a bit sick of the phrase - world cricket needs a strong West Indies - when we definitely feel that world cricket is doing everything they can at almost every level to make sure that West Indies Cricket are never strong again."

One of Grave's primary grievances is with the ICC's revenue share model, which he deems flawed. Grave alleged that West Indies' share of the revenue has dwindled from seven to five percent under the current model, despite headlines suggesting an increase in financial support.

"I think that's the borne of the frustration of that as Ian Bishop says in his own words that this is a patronising tone. If you really want a strong West Indies Cricket, it would actually not be that hard to do a bit more. ICC are giving us more money in headlines but our percentage of revenue has gone down from seven to five percent, which we struggle to understand," Grave explained.

The CWI CEO questioned the cricketing community's commitment to fairness, stating, "If we all just are looking after ourselves then are we really acting as a community? Are we putting the best product on the field?"

This is not the first time Grave has criticized the ICC. In January, he had raised concerns about the economic disparity, claiming that the West Indies made no money from the men's and women's tour of Australia series, with the majority of revenue going to Cricket Australia.

"The revenue-share model is completely broken," Grave stated. "If we really want to operate as a cricketing community, we are only as strong as the weakest team, and we've got to change the mindset of bilateral cricket.

 "CWI has spent over USD$ 2 million sending teams to Australia in the last four months, and whilst CA have received all the economic benefits from those series, we've seen zero dollars back. Is that really fair, reasonable, and sustainable?"

Jonjo O’Neill is not ruling out a Cheltenham Festival appearance for Monbeg Genius after a disappointing effort at Kelso on Saturday.

The eight-year-old was among the leading lights in the ante-post market for the Randox Grand National prior to his outing in the Premier Chase, which was a first run since finishing third in the Coral Gold Cup back in December.

Minor setbacks scuppered his intended runs since and there was concern his season could be curtailed after assets linked to owners Baroness Michelle Mone and her husband Doug Barrowman were made the subject of a restraint order, but the British Horseracing Authority subsequently confirmed Monbeg Genius would not be affected.

Sent off a 5-2 chance at Kelso, Monbeg Genius trailed home in fifth place, beaten 38 lengths by Thunder Rock, and O’Neill could give him a chance to redeem himself in the Ultima Handicap Chase at Cheltenham on Tuesday week, a race in which he finished third last year.

He told Sky Sports Racing: “He’s fine but it was disappointing really, we were expecting a better show than that, to be fair.

“He’ll have to come on a lot, but he’s come out of it fine and we might even give him another spin at Cheltenham, we’ll see. It wasn’t the plan but he might come on a bit more.

“The practice might help, he didn’t jump great yesterday, he didn’t do anything that we hoped he would, so let’s see how he is.

“He’s in at Cheltenham, so we’ll have a look and see.”

Monbeg Genius is now a best-priced 33-1 shot for Aintree on April 13.

O’Neill is also keeping his options open with exciting bumper prospect Mister Meggit following his facile success in the Download The Racecourse App Raceday Ready Open NH Flat Race at Doncaster.

Having won by a dozen lengths on his Carlisle debut in November, the six-year-old hacked up by four and three-quarter lengths at 8-15 at Town Moor following a 119-day absence.

Coral cut Mister Meggit from 25-1 to 16-1 for the Champion Bumper at Cheltenham and O’Neill said: “When I was looking at him in the paddock, I was thinking ‘what are we doing here?’ because he’s a shelly little horse. But he’s obviously got an engine and I was very pleased with that.

“It’s hard to know with a four-runner race, but he did it really sweetly at Carlisle as well. He doesn’t show you up at home or anything like that but when he gets down here, he’s obviously a fair horse.

“We’ll see how he is, there’s Liverpool as well. He’s a very shelly horse, so we’ll just have to see how he comes out of it. He did look good, though.”

Jordan Gainford is hoping to get the leg-up on Hewick in the Boodles Cheltenham Gold Cup after securing his first win since returning from a lengthy injury absence at Leopardstown.

The rider struck up a good partnership with Shark Hanlon’s charge in the spring of 2022, partnering him to win the bet365 Gold Cup at Sandown before adding a Galway Plate success in the July and a famous victory in the American Grand National the following October.

However, Gainford has not ridden Hewick since the pair came to grief at the penultimate fence in last year’s Gold Cup, with the rider spending plenty of time on the sidelines due to concussion and injury.

Gainford fractured two vertebrae in a fall in December, meaning he missed Hewick’s King George VI Chase success, with Gavin Sheehan in the plate as the nine-year-old came from last to first in Kempton’s Christmas showpiece.

However, having proved his fitness by partnering 16-1 shot Miss Gherkin to victory in the Anton O’Toole Handicap Hurdle, Gainford is eager to renew his relationship with Hewick in the Cheltenham highlight on Friday week.

He said: “I sat on him last week and he feels great. I’m back in tomorrow for another sit on him. He’s bouncing at home and fingers crossed I get back on him.

“Hopefully he keeps thriving between now and Cheltenham and the ground is good.”

Gainford had had just a handful of rides since his return at the end of last month and he is eager to push on with his first winner now secured.

He said: “It’s great to be back, first of all. It’s busy in Gordon’s (Elliott) and I’m in Shark’s tomorrow and it’s great to be on the scoresheet.

“I’ve many people to thank. Gavin Egan in RACE and Graham Harrison, the fitness coach, and also Jennifer (Pugh) and Adrian (McGoldrick). A massive thanks to them all.

“Hopefully I’m getting better every day and we can drive on.”

Of Miss Gherkin, he added: “Peter (Croke, trainer) was confident that she would run well. She’d a promising run on her first run over hurdles in Tramore and things didn’t go right on her last two runs. She was a little bit keen here at Christmas.

“They flew early today and I wanted to take her back. Every time she passed a horse from the second last home, she put down her head and tried. She showed a nice attitude.”

Dee Capo has a trip to Fairyhouse or Aintree on his agenda after returning to winning ways at Leopardstown on Sunday.

Gordon Elliott’s charge won twice earlier in the season but had been off the track since being beaten a neck in a Navan Grade Three back in November.

Partnered by 5lb-claimer Danny Gilligan in the QuinnBet Hurdle, Dee Capo (3-1) travelled well throughout the extended two-and-a-quarter-mile affair, grabbing the lead from Ashdale Bob after jumping the last.

Gilligan just had to keep his mount up the task on the run to the line, prevailing by a length and three-quarters.

Elliott said: “He’s a nice horse and there is a lot of improvement in him from today.

“He’d had a couple of quick runs and we said we’d freshen him up and have him back for the spring.

“I’d imagine he’ll go to Fairyhouse or Aintree.

“He looks like a chaser.

“Danny gave him a good ride. Jack (Kennedy) is missing a few winners (due to a suspension) but that’s the way it goes. The horses are running well, which is important.”

Blizzard Of Oz defied his status as the perceived second string for Willie Mullins with a smart success in the Connolly’s RED MILLS Irish EBF Auction Novice Hurdle.

Sent off a 6-4 chance in the hands of Danny Mullins, with the Paul Townend-ridden Captain Cody the 4-5 favourite, Blizzard Of Oz hit the front before the last and found plenty on the run to the line to win by two and a quarter lengths, with his stablemate only fourth.

Mullins said: “I think the shorter trip was a benefit and he jumped better than he did in Naas.

“The ground might not be riding as heavy as people anticipated, when I see Captain Cody being tapped for toe and that fella going easily at the second last.

“Captain Cody probably wants a longer trip.

“I’d imagine both horses will be aimed for the Final in Punchestown and they will probably have a run before that.”

Brideswell Lad was a shock 33-1 winner of the Listed QuinnBet Handicap Chase for trainer Seamus Neville and jockey Brian Hayes.

The eight-year-old was a winner at the beginning of September but then had a bit of a lay-off following a fall at the end of that month, returning with two average subsequent runs.

However, he was right back to his best in this valuable affair, responding well to pressure to repel all challengers up the home straight, coming home a length and three-quarters clear of Battle Of Mirbat.

Neville said: “He’d a very heavy fall in Listowel and it took him a long time to recover. We felt he was getting there of late.

“He would be ground dependent as well, so it’s not too heavy.

“He’ll probably go to Fairyhouse and Punchestown and we’ll keep him going for the summer.”

Sean Bowen has indicated he could prioritise winning chances ahead of Festival rides during Cheltenham week.

The rider is trying to make up lost ground with Harry Cobden in the jump jockeys’ championship, having had his progress halted by a knee injury sustained on Boxing Day that kept him sidelined until early February.

Bowen claimed his first winner since returning to action at Kelso on Saturday, with Cobden 11 victories in front before racing on Sunday.

While the table topper will have a strong book of Cheltenham rides for Paul Nicholls, Bowen could look elsewhere as he tries to rally in the title race.

He said: “I might be there the first day for Not So Sleepy and if it came up really soft, he’d have half a chance, I’ll just pick and choose from there.

“I could be at Ffos Las or Fakenham on Gold Cup day, something like that. I need winners.”

Bowen is attached to Olly Murphy’s yard and the trainer is thrilled to have him back in action.

He said: “It’s tough for these lads, Harry and Sean are going at it but they are two young boys, the pressure they are under to be champion jockey.

“Sean has had a horrible injury and it’s taken him a while to get back rocking and rolling, he’s ridden through pain, he’s chewing pain killers and it’s been hard.

“We haven’t been flying ourselves, they haven’t been running bad, we’ve just had second after second. Hopefully he can get rolling again now.”

Cobden and Bowen are well clear of three-times champion Brian Hughes, who himself often bypassed days at the Festival in order to ride better chances at lower-profile fixtures.

Murphy hailed the talent of both title challengers and believes a proper battle for the crown can only benefit the sport.

He added: “The boys are two fantastic talents, Harry and Sean. It’s really healthy for National Hunt racing and may the best man win, they are two fantastic jockeys. I think it’s fantastic for Britain to have these two.

“They sit next to each other in the weighing room, it’s mentally tough and they are two fantastic lads. I don’t know Harry overly well but he conducts himself well and so does Sean.

“I’m delighted to have Sean on my side, he’s a humongous part of my team.”

For a young jockey, Jack Kennedy is very familiar with the highs and lows that racing can supply.

The 24-year-old has experienced extremes of both throughout his career so far, winning 10 times at the Cheltenham Festival but missing the meeting completely due to injury twice.

He has suffered a broken leg on five different occasions, but each time has returned to action to seamlessly pick up where he left off.

Cheltenham success, which evades many good jockeys for years, came almost instantly to Kennedy when he partnered Labaik to victory in the 2017 Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, despite the horse being a 25-1 chance with a history of refusing to race.

The triumph was no fluke, however, and at the 2018 Festival he rode four winners for Gordon Elliott, though the following year he drew a blank and returned to Ireland empty handed.

Injury prevented him from riding at the meeting in 2020, but the all-or-nothing nature of his Cheltenham fortunes was evidenced again in 2021, as he rode four winners, including the biggest prize of them all when partnering Henry de Bromhead’s Minella Indo to Gold Cup victory.

However, the whole event was held behind closed doors due to the coronavirus pandemic, something that struck him as he walked back to the paddock past an empty grandstand that would usually be brimming with people.

“It was class, obviously it was a pity there was no one there but the initial feeling I got when I crossed the line was the same as if the stands were packed,” he said.

“The walk down the chute and things afterwards, that’s when you realise there’s no one there, but it was a dream come true.”

Delta Work provided him with a sole victory in 2022 when winning the Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase before a fall at Naas the following January scuppered any hopes of riding at the meeting last year.

“Missing it last year was tough and there’s a while to go yet, so hopefully I do make it there,” the rider said.

“I’ll keep going, as when you start thinking about those sort of things, then something goes wrong then. I’ll keep going as usual.

“I suppose it’s just the cards you’re dealt. We seem to be going well this year.

“Labaik seems a while ago and obviously there’s been a couple of years I’ve missed through injury.”

The Cheltenham Festival is the pinnacle of the sport for many and for the big operations, from which people expect success, there is a great sense of pressure to get off the mark as soon as possible.

Spectators will be keenly waiting for the first success from the power stables of Willie Mullins and Elliott and this is a pressure that trails into the weighing room, too.

“To get a winner is great, we’ll try to pick up as many as possible – but if I get one, I’ll be happy,” said Kennedy.

“It’s a big help if you can get one on the board early, it kind of settles you into the week better than if you’re left waiting for one. It’s a massive help if you can get one on the first day.

“If you haven’t had a winner by the Thursday, you’d obviously be getting a bit anxious, but you’d try to not let it get it to you and you just have to keep riding as best you can.

“I suppose I get a bit nervous, but I wouldn’t let it get to me. Sitting in the weighing room, maybe the 10 minutes before you go out, you’re wanting to get on with it, but as soon as you get up on them, it all goes away.

“The weighing room is quieter than everywhere else, as everyone is in the zone. Once you get settled into the whole thing, everyone will loosen up a bit, but before the race people are probably a bit tense.

“It depends what sort of week you’re having, if it’s a good week it flies by and if it’s a bad week it can be the longest week of your life. In 2019, I didn’t have a winner there, that was a long week.”

Kennedy may have ridden a Gold Cup winner for De Bromhead but Elliott is the trainer with whom he is most readily associated and the two have a well-established bond.

“Gordon has been unreal. From the minute I came in here, he hasn’t been afraid to put me up on good horses,” he said.

“I’ve been up here on school holidays since I was 12 or 13 and started here full-time just before I turned 16.

“Myself and Gordon have the same ideas about things and seem to work well together. I’m sure he’s been unhappy with a few rides around there, actually in 2019 after the County Hurdle (unseated from Eclair De Beaufeau at the last), I got a bit of a telling off after that!

“Even if I did something wrong, Gordon would tell me but he forgets about it straight away and it’s on to the next one.”

It is clearly a partnership based on mutual esteem and loyalty and Elliott is unreserved in his praise for the rider, simply saying: “In my mind, he’s the best jockey riding, on either side of the Irish Sea – he’s different class.”

While pleased with their performance in a 0-1 loss to Jamaica in game one, Trinidad and Tobago's Head coach Angus Eve is anticipating even more improvements from his Soca Warriors when the two teams meet in the second game of the two-match series on Sunday.

With Jamaican debutante Kaheim Dixon scoring the game's lone goal in the 58th minute at the Hasely Crawford Stadium on Friday, Eve opted to focus on the positives in the exercise, which provided an opportunity for several local-based players to make their national senior team debut.

Eve gave debut starts Tiger Tanks Club Sando pair of left back Shervohnez Hamilton and midfielder Kai Moos, while AC Port of Spain's versatile wing back Liam Burns also got his first start for the twin island republic. The overseas-based pair of Kai Garvey and Justin Obikwu, who started at the left wing and centre forward positions respectively, also found favour with Eve, who felt the new players adjusted well in their first outing.

"It is going to be difficult for these guys (Garvey and Obikwu) coming from where they are coming from and trying to adjust in just a couple days of work. I thought they adjusted well. They tried to bring the strengths they had to the group," Eve said in a post-match conference.

"For the most part, I thought the group did really well. We gave up a really soft goal and we could not get ourselves back in the game. I think it was a lack of belief and that happens when players are not accustomed to playing at this level consistently. For effort, you must give all of the guys an A," he added.

Still, with the main objective being to identify players to fit into his final squad for the upcoming Copa America playoff fixture against Canada on March 23, Eve is expected to look at a different line up with hopes that they will be mor fluid and consist in their play to give the coaching staff much to think about.

"I thought it was a great exercise for the guys. When you look at the starting team, we had about six or seven players who were uncapped. We need more exercises like this to expose these guys and give them the opportunity because they have been doing well in the league," the tactician shared.

"So, it's now to give the guys who are more established a run out going into the playoff game. Rhondel Gibson was good on the ball and when he came on, the team started to believe a little bit more. He wasn't afraid to get to the ball and those are the type of players we are looking for to be that brave and show themselves," Eve ended.

The second game is scheduled for a 4:00pm kick off (3:00pm Jamaica time), at the Larry Gomes Stadium in Malabar on Sunday.

NB: That game will be live on SportsMax.

A swift return to action proved no barrier to success for Dan Skelton’s Heltenham in the BetVictor Greatwood Gold Cup at Newbury.

Turning out just seven days after being beaten half a length into second place at Kempton, the seven-year-old was a 17-2 chance to go one better in the hands of Ciaran Gethings.

Heltenham moved strongly onto the heels of the leaders early in the home straight before being allowed to stride to the front by his confident rider on the approach to the second-last obstacle.

Kandoo Kid, a 9-2 joint-favourite to provide Paul Nicholls with a 10th Greatwood Gold Cup win, briefly threatened to battle back on the run-in, but Skelton’s charge found more once challenged and passed the post with two lengths in hand to notch his second course and distance victory.

“It’s definitely the biggest pot I’ve won, it’s just brilliant to be riding horses like this for a brilliant outfit like the Skeltons,” Gethings told Sky Sports Racing.

“I got instructions from both Harry and Dan and it’s a nice payday. He loved the ground, he was very unlucky last week in Cheltenham and the track would have suited him a lot better today.

“When you’re surrounded by people like the Skeltons and Stuart Edmunds and Kim Bailey you’re going to find a good one at some point, it was nice”

Highland Hunter was a 10-1 winner of the curtain-raising Get Best Odds Guaranteed At BetVictor Veterans’ Handicap Chase for Fergal O’Brien and Paddy Brennan.

The 11-year-old grey, part-owned by the winning rider’s wife Lindsey Brennan, took the race by the scruff of the neck a long way out and was good value for the winning margin of just over four lengths.

Highland Hunter was formerly trained by Nicholls and looked after by the late Keagan Kirkby, who was fatally injured in a point-to-point fall in January.

Brennan said: “This was his (Kirkby’s) favourite horse and he’s going to lead his funeral on Tuesday, so my most important job today was to bring him back safe for that.

“I was going to put them to the sword today as I knew our horse was fit and I knew he was well. The ground is hard work, but it’s not heavy.”

Bucephalus (13-2) took the Download The BetVictor App Novices’ Handicap Hurdle for trainer Neil Mulholland and 7lb claimer Thomosina Eyston, while 2-1 shot Spring Note provided Nicky Henderson with a welcome winner in the Make Your Best Bet At BetVictor Handicap Hurdle under James Bowen.

Title-chasing jockey Harry Cobden enjoyed a double on the card, scoring aboard Anthony Charlton’s Knowwhentoholdem (4-1) in the BetVictor Non-Runner-No-Bet At Cheltenham Seniors’ Handicap Hurdle before steering Makin’yourmindup (11-8 favourite) to a clear-cut victory for his boss Paul Nicholls in the Bet Racing In Running At BetVictor Novices’ Limited Handicap Chase.

“He loves the ground and stays well and I would see him next year as a Welsh National horse – that will be his ultimate aim next year I think,” said Nicholls.

“What we do now I don’t know really, I could just stick him in the Scottish National or something like that in case it was soft.

“He’s improving and the jockey is improving too isn’t he! He’s riding extremely well, eight weeks today is the last day of the season so we’ve got to keep going until then and if he could be champion jockey it would be fantastic for him and the team.”

Following a last time out victory at Wetherby, Harry Derham’s 7-4 favourite Jasmine Bliss doubled her tally in the Stewart Wright Memorial Mares’ Open NH Flat Race, with Paul O’Brien the winning rider.

Blood Destiny came back in trip to some effect to claim the Flyingbolt Novice Chase at Navan.

Beaten by Spillane’s Tower in January when taking a keen hold in front, he moved nicely this time in second for Paul Townend, going strongly after three out before leading two from home and winging the last on the way to an impressive victory, with his Punchestown conqueror six and a half lengths in arrears on this occasion.

“New tactics, I thought that might be a help after Punchestown,” Willie Mullins said of his 8-11 favourite.

“Paul was very taken with him there. He’s brilliant to jump, that was always his feature, but we were making too much use of his jumping instead of just using it when we needed it.

“Coming back in trip might have been a help as well.”

Despite being trimmed for his Cheltenham Festival entries (Arkle and Turners Novices’ Chase), Mullins has other plans.

He added: “I don’t know whether we’ve made a mistake now leaving him at home for Cheltenham but at least he has one nice prize in the bag.

“I’d imagine he’ll probably go for the WillowWarm Gold Cup at Fairyhouse. That was the plan, here and then on to that.

“I know it’s two and a half, but that two and a half will be all right for him as well.”

Ash Tree Meadow was a 7-2 winner of the BoyleSports Webster Cup for Gordon Elliott and Sam Ewing.

Turning out just six days after finishing fourth in the Newlands Chase at Naas behind the brilliant but injury-plagued Ferny Hollow, the eight-year-old made every yard of the running on his way to a three-and-a-quarter length victory over Lucid Dreams.

The long-absent 4-6 favourite Journey With Me was a further half a length away in third place.

“It wasn’t really the plan to run him but when the race looked like it would cut up we decided we’d declare him and then make our mind up what to do. It worked out great,” Elliott said.

“He’s a good horse, Sam said he hated that ground and he’ll be better on better ground.

“There is a race in Fairyhouse and a race in Aintree for him. ”

Elliott and Ewing were completing a double on the card following the earlier victory of 4-6 favourite Instant Tendance in the BoyleSports Money Back 2nd To The Favourite Mares Maiden Hurdle.

“We had four or five seconds last weekend but no winner. I’d be anxious myself, we haven’t much between now and Cheltenham but it’s happy days (today),” Elliott added.

Nicky Henderson was back among the winners on Saturday to give him something to smile about as he awaits the Cheltenham Festival fate of Constitution Hill.

The champion hurdler scoped badly in the immediate aftermath of his disappointing Kempton workout on Tuesday, while blood test results received on Thursday gave connections even more cause for concern.

A further scope conducted on Friday appeared more encouraging, but Henderson revealed a second blood test to be taken on Monday would be the “acid test”.

He said: “The blood test on Monday will tell us everything and we will know where we are after that.

“If we don’t get the results we want on Monday I wouldn’t go as far as to say it will be the end of the season. Let’s just cross each bridge when we come across it.

“When you train horses you are going to walk into these situations and you’ve got to face up to it.

“It had all been too easy. Everybody thinks it is ‘ABC’ and it has been with him, except he can’t tell you when he’s wrong because he so laid-back about life.

“He’s the slowest walker, the slowest trotter and you have to drag him out of bed on a morning. With most horses you can tell, but with him you can’t as he can’t talk to you, most horses can.”

Spring Note won at Newbury for the Seven Barrows handler, while the Grade One-winning Jango Baie finished second in front of Henderson at Kelso, after which he said: “That’s the second time he’s had to run in a really good race with a 5lb penalty, it stops them. But if you win a Grade One you can’t have your cake and eat it.

“He’s a good horse. He wants to go up in trip, there’s no doubt about that, two-mile-two is tight for him. You could go two and a half but he won over two miles at Aintree, mainly because he stays.

“Over fences he’ll be going three, I’d imagine, and he’ll be very good. This time next year hopefully we’ll be talking about Cheltenham with him.

“Of course it’s nice to see one run well, I’m conscious of what’s happening, but it’s not a lot of pleasure, I can tell you that.

“To be fair the ground in our neck of the woods is so bad, and our horses always want better ground.”

Does He Know put up a tremendous weight-carrying performance to provide trainer Kim Bailey with a third victory in the Grimthorpe Chase at Doncaster.

Although a four-time winner over fences, including Grade Two and Grade Three triumphs at Ascot and Cheltenham respectively, Does He Know was a 20-1 shot for his latest assignment having failed to trouble the judge in three previous starts this season.

The nine-year-old also had the burden of 12st on his back and had to concede upwards of 11lb to each of his nine rivals, but bounced back to his best under a buccaneering ride from David Bass.

The three-mile-two-furlong contest was not for the faint hearted, with eight of the 10 runners failing to complete the course.

Some Scope, the 3-1 favourite to complete his hat-trick following recent wins at Catterick and at this track, looked to have been delivered with a perfectly-timed challenge halfway up the home straight by Gavin Sheehan, but try as he might he was unable to reel in Does He Know, who stuck to his guns to claim top honours by just over three lengths.

Bailey, who has previously won the Grimthorpe with Shraden Leader in 1994 and The Last Samuri in 2016, said: “We very much hoped he would do that. He was the best horse in the race, the rain definitely helped us and we were very hopeful he would run a smashing race.

“He’s got some very good form. He’s a very hard horse to place and we’ve run him in two races this season we knew he had no chance in but there weren’t any alternatives.

“It has always been the plan to run in this race and it was unbelievably good performance with 12st on his back in that ground, it was extraordinary.

“I’m really pleased for the owners and everybody involved because we’ve had a shocking old winter really. The horses haven’t been wrong, but we’ve got very few horses that go in this ground.”

Does He Know holds an entry in the Midlands Grand National at Uttoxeter in a fortnight’s time, but will not take up that engagement.

“He won’t go there, definitely not. He doesn’t have to run again this season, but if he does it will either be the Whitbread (bet365 Gold Cup) or the Scottish National, I would think,” Bailey added.

“He’s had a hard race today, so he’ll want a bit of time to get over that.”

Pinot Rouge (20-1) provided Northumberland-based trainer Susan Corbett with the most notable success of her training career so far in the Tips For Every Race At Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle, narrowly outpointing Irish raider Ottizzini by half a length under Edward Austin.

Corbett said: “I hoped we’d be in the first half of the field because although she’s not got a lot of speed, she grinds away and loves the soft ground.

“On her first run for us she was flying home when she was third and while she’s doesn’t show that at home, the boys that ride her say when you ask her she gives a little bit more.

“If we’d been third today I would have been delighted, so to finish first I’m somewhere on the ceiling I think! We’ve never won a Listed race before or anything near it, so the whole team at home are thrilled to bits.

“She’ll probably have a little break and if the ground is still like it is now in say four weeks she’ll run again, if not we’ll put away because I think novice chasing will be her game next season.”

Homme Public was a 3-1 winner of the Free Digital Racecard At Handicap Chase for the formidable training partnership of Oliver Greenall and Josh Guerriero, while Curley Finger (2-1 favourite) denied stablemate Floueur by a diminishing nose when leading home a one-two for trainer Rebecca Menzies in the Download The Raceday Ready App Handicap Hurdle.

Ferny Hollow has met with a new injury setback and is once again on the sidelines.

Trained by Willie Mullins and winner of the Champion Bumper back in 2020, the hugely-talented nine-year-old returned from a 791-day absence to take the Newlands Chase at Naas last month, on just his fourth start since that Cheltenham Festival victory.

Speaking at Navan on Saturday, Mullins said: “He picked up another injury and he’s going to miss Aintree and Punchestown, I think.

“You might see him in the Galway Plate or something, I’ll have to find somewhere to run him.

“I think he’s going to be out for six to eight weeks. It’s a completely new injury.

“He’s just one of those individuals that gives his all and hurts himself when he does.

“It’s unfortunate but I think we’ll have him back for the summer, we could maybe head to France with him or something like that.”

Thunder Rock provided Sean Bowen with his biggest success since returning from injury in the Listed bet365 Premier Chase at Kelso.

Bowen – who has seen his lead at the top of the jockeys’ championship eroded and then passed by Harry Cobden – has struggled for winners since his return to action but victory on one of Olly Murphy’s stable stars will have done him the world of good.

Given a patient ride, Thunder Rock grew in confidence as the race progressed, as Minella Drama, Aye Right and Elvis Mail tried to stretch things.

Grand National fancy Monbeg Genius struggled to get on terms and when Thunder Rock went cruising on by as they turned into the straight, it was clear he had no more to give.

Thunder Rock found plenty in the home straight and the heavily-backed 9-4 favourite came home seven lengths clear of Minella Drama, booking himself a ticket to Aintree and a step back up in class.

Bowen said: “He proved he stays three miles. They went quick and every time I gave him a squeeze he picked up.

“I was confident where I was and Olly gave me a lot of confidence going out to ride him. I’d been riding a lot more seconds than winners since I came back and I was getting a bit frustrated. It always helps having a good boss like that.”

Murphy said: “I really enjoyed that. I went to Cheltenham in December when I felt like I’d set him up for a big handicap but he may as well have pulled up and it’s been an upward curve since then.

“He ran well the last day at Musselburgh on the wrong track when he was wheel-spinning for two and a half miles but it did his confidence good.

“I said to Sean not to get in a battle with him and ride him with confidence because he was the classiest horse in the race and to make that tell and he did just that.

“It’s been hard for Sean, he’s riding through pain and we’ve had a quiet couple of weeks ourselves so this will do him the world of good.”

He added: “I think we’ll go to Aintree with him for the Bowl now, it’s a Grade One so he’ll need to step up again but a small field suits him and he’ll be back over 150 in a handicap again.”

Just a week on from seeing an £80,000 prize snatched from his grasp in the Eider Chase, Ewan Whillans was celebrating winning the £120,000 bet365 Morebattle Hurdle at Kelso with Cracking Rhapsody.

When Prince Des Fichaux was reeled in by Anglers Crag after the last at Newcastle, Whillans could have been forgiving for thinking his best chance of winning a major handicap had slipped through his fingers.

However, in Cracking Rhapsody he had an unexposed novice on his hands with course form up his sleeve and the 9-1 chance turned what looked a competitive race into something of a procession.

With Nicky Henderson’s morning favourite Under Control a non-runner, it opened the race up and it was 7-2 the field.

But Cracking Rhapsody pulled away with Ginger Mail, another trained locally, early in the straight and by the time he jumped the last the race was won, pulling four and a half lengths clear.

Whillans said: “That was unbelievable and I’m over the moon. Even though he’s still a novice he’s always been a good jumper.

“I thought they’d have gone really quick, but Craig (Nichol) had him in a lovely position and he travelled really well.

“Having been second in the Eider last week I thought that was our chance for a big race gone. We don’t have many good horses and it’s usually a case of getting in good races.

“Since last week there’s been a buzz about the yard, we’ve got about 25 horses in being ridden, we’re down a bit, but those we’ve got seem quite capable.

“There’s a novice handicap final at Sandown on the last day of the season worth £100,000 and if the ground is decent I’d say we’ll go there. He might stay over hurdles next year.”

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