Dunskay heading for Aintree after Huntingdon win

By Sports Desk February 08, 2024

Dunskay booked his ticket to Aintree in the spring when capping off a fine afternoon for Ben Pauling at Huntingdon in the manner of a smart operator.

Pauling had earlier won the feature M1 Agency Sidney Banks Memorial Novices’ Hurdle with Handstands and was doing somersaults after seeing Dunskay bounce back to his very best in the concluding PHP Architects Open National Hunt Flat Race.

A taking winner at Exeter on debut, he was disappointing in Listed action at Ascot prior to Christmas, but carried a penalty to a comfortable success at odds of 4-1 in the hands of Harry Cobden to tee-up another step up in class at the Grand National meeting in April.

“It’s been a good day and this is a lovely horse,” said Pauling.

“He trach washed dirty after Ascot and I was fairly easy on him between there and now, so I thought he might need today. He’s done it nicely, so I’m really pleased.

“He’s a very nice, straightforward, big, gorgeous horse – a big, powerful horse. He’s going to be one for the future again, but he’s a lovely horse and I was delighted with that. Winning under a penalty is never easy, so I’m pleased.

“He will go to Aintree for the Grade Two next. We have some nice novices and bumper horses and it’s going the right way – we’re building a nice team of young horses, which is what it is about.”

Gavin Sheehan’s fine season continued with a double at the Cambridgeshire track.

He got the day off to a brilliant start aboard Christian Williams’ Fortunefavorsdbold (16-1) in the Newlands Developments Mares’ Novices’ Handicap Chase, before following up on Katy Price’s 6-4 favourite King Of Brazil in the Winvic Construction Handicap Chase.

Another jockey hitting the headlines was 10lb conditional Lewis Saunders, who made the early mornings on the gallops at Olly Murphy’s Warren Chase base worthwhile when earning the praise of his boss after putting his claim to good use aboard Barricane.

It was just the second winner of the 20-year-old’s career and, having won aboard the nine-year-old at Uttoxeter in December, he showed his talent in the saddle to drive the 4-1 shot home to a three-length victory in the Urban Logistics Reit Handicap Hurdle.

“He’s a good little rider who came to me from Oliver Sherwood,” said Murphy.

“A lot of things went through my mind there. I was giving him a telling off for being left at the start, he was then getting a telling off for not pulling him up and then I thought, you know what, you have done the right thing and this is going to be the ride of the season.

“Well done to the young lad. He’s ridden his first two winners on Barricane and is good value for his claim and works hard.

“I’ll give young lads chances if they work hard and muck in. I make them work hard and they ride early lots – all my conditionals are in at 6.30am riding an early one – but I do it for the right reasons.

“You have to work hard for what you get in life – and if they work hard and have ability to go with it, I will look after them.”

Harry Derham’s gamble to run Nordic Tiger (11-10 favourite) quickly after his wide-margin win at Wincanton last week paid dividends when the game five-year-old held on by a neck in the Mulberry Developments Novices’ Handicap Hurdle.

“I was so nervous about running him because it was only seven days after his last race and it is not normally my style at all,” explained Derham.

“But he’s about to go up 10lb, which is a fair old hike, so we said we would try our luck and Alice (Stevens, jockey) takes off 5lb, which is very helpful – and he’s just a lovely, genuine horse.

“When it was raining all morning driving up here, I thought it was his chance gone, but he really knuckled down well.

“He’s going to be 10lb higher now and life will get tough, but when you have an attitude like him and you jump and try like him, then he will always have a decent chance and he is a horse who will probably win a few more races next season.”

Meanwhile, you may have seen Hermes Le Gris (2-1 favourite) on your television in adverts in the past, but he put his name in lights when gaining compensation for a fall when leading at Southwell last week by claiming the Oxenwood Real Estate Handicap Hurdle for Robbie Llewellyn.

“He’s been in a Coral advert, so he’s had a few spins round Newbury,” said the trainer.

“After last week, where we thought he would have won and it was disappointing for him to fall, to come back six days later and produce a performance like that shows he obviously has a bit more left in the tank.

“You never quite know when you run them that quick if they will bounce, but I’m delighted.”

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