Doddiethegreat proves popular winner at Ascot

By Sports Desk November 24, 2023

Doddiethegreat has the Scottish Champion Hurdle on his radar after making a successful return from 746 days off the track at Ascot.

Named after the late Scottish Rugby Union star Doddie Weir, who died of motor neurone disease almost a year to the day, the Nicky Henderson-trained seven-year-old has been out of action since winning on hurdles debut at Kempton over two years ago.

Sent off at 5-4 in the hands of Nico de Boinville for the Give The Gift Of Ascot Membership “Introductory” Hurdle, he displayed all the class that had seen him impress in his previous three outings to take advantage of the odds-on favourite Inthewaterside’s below-par display and score by a keeping-on two lengths.

Owned by Kenny Alexander of Honeysuckle fame, prize-money earned by Doddiethegreat is donated to the My Name’5 Doddie Foundation, which raises funds to aid research into MND, and having enhanced his unbeaten record he will now be fittingly aimed at Ayr next April for the big handicap hurdle on Scottish Grand National Day.

“He severed a tendon, it was the most horrible injury,” said Henderson.

“They had to rate him on one run. His target is the Scottish Champion Hurdle. The foundation are so enthusiastic, it’s all about going back to Scotland.”

Your Darling often saves his best for the Berkshire track and Ben Pauling’s eight-year-old made it back-to-back victories in the S.A.F.E. Handicap Chase after putting up a fine display to surge nine-lengths clear in the home straight.

The 11-4 favourite, who is owned by Lord Vesty, has not been the most consistent operator down the years and his handler now intends to keep his powder dry over the winter months ahead of a crack at the Grand National fences in the spring.

“He’s one of the most talented horses I’ve trained and when he’s in form he’s electric,” said Pauling.

“It’s just a bit frustrating that he doesn’t always turn up, so my instinct is to put him away and go straight for the Topham Chase.”

There was a double on the day for Harry Fry who saw his Beat The Bat (6-4 joint favourite) conjure up extra to deny the highly-touted Welcom To Cartries in the opening Ascot Partners “National Hunt” Maiden Hurdle, before Gin Coco (11-8 favourite) gained compensation for missing Cheltenham’s Greatwood Hurdle by taking the Garden For All Seasons Handicap Hurdle.

There was also plenty to cheer for jockey Charlie Deutsch who won the Racing To School Novices’ Limited Handicap Chase aboard Henry Daly’s outsider of four Supreme Gift (17-2) and then doubled up aboard Venetia Williams’ Hold That Thought (7-2) in the All Seasons Scaffolding Handicap Chase.

The concluding Not Forgotten Novices’ Handicap Hurdle went the way of Harry Derham’s Scamallach Liath, who pulled out extra in the closing stages under Paul O’Brien to oblige favourite backers at odds of 13-8.

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