Henry’s Friend rewards Pauling faith in Reynoldstown

By Sports Desk February 17, 2024

Henry’s Friend held off the late lunge of Kilbeg King to successfully move up in class and win the Sodexo Live! Reynoldstown Novices’ Chase at Ascot, on a tremendous afternoon for trainer Ben Pauling and jockey Ben Jones.

Pauling fitted Henry’s Friend with cheekpieces for the first time, despite him winning his last two outings.

And it certainly had the desired effect, as he showed real determination in the closing stages to win the Grade Two in the hands of Ben Jones.

Brave Kingdom attempted to make all, but he was beaten a long way from home which left 13-8 favourite Apple Away in front.

She could never quite break away, however, as Henry’s Friend, Kilbeg King and outsider The King Of Ryhope all had a chance jumping two out.

It was Henry’s Friend (13-2) who toughed it out best, winning by a head and earning a quote of 10-1 for the National Hunt Chase with Paddy Power, although Cheltenham is unlikely to be on the winner’s radar, as Pauling explained.

“He didn’t jump well enough early doors and it was fortunate for him they didn’t go much of a gallop,” he said.

“I thought they would go a right gallop and if they had done he wouldn’t have been in it. But he was brave from the back of the last and his jumping got better and he keeps improving.

“I thought he was well handicapped, but I just thought he would be better off in a smaller field. I’m thrilled because he had to improve and he has.

“He wants every yard (of three miles) and he will be a lovely staying chaser in time. Stamina would never be a worry for me with this lad.

“He’s got an entry at Cheltenham in the amateur chase, but I doubt he wants to go there after that – that looked a bit of a ding-dong and to go there so quickly might be stupid.

“We might look at Aintree for him or something like that, but I think that will do for now.”

Pauling also claimed the opening Ascot Shop Novices’ Hurdle with Pic Roc (11-2) as he continues to add to his crack team of promising youngsters.

His second to Hasthing at Catterick saw him qualify for Sandown’s European Breeders’ Fund Betfair ‘National Hunt’ Novices’ Handicap Hurdle Final and having downed the well-regarded 13-8 favourite Inthewaterside, his handler confirmed that would be his next assignment.

“He’s a nice horse who I’ve always thought plenty of but haven’t managed to win with him,” added Pauling.

“If you are going to lose your maiden status, here is a great place in a nice race.

“He will go to the EBF Final and he qualified for that at Catterick (when second to Hasthing). I just needed to get a run into him and tried that at Doncaster last week but it snowed.

“He doesn’t jump well enough to be a top-class novice this year – he needs a fence. But he will be a lovely novice chaser next year. He’s not a star of hurdles but he might be a nice staying chaser next year.

“We’ll just chuck him in the EBF, see how we get on and then maybe pull stumps for the year. We’ve got a lot entered in that race this year, but he would probably right towards the top of them now.”

The double marked a big Saturday afternoon for Jones, who has become a key member of Pauling’s Naunton Downs team following the retirement of Luca Morgan and steered home Harry Redknapp’s Shakem Up’Arry at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day.

“I’m absolutely delighted and it’s easy when you have nice horses underneath you,” said the 24-year-old.

“I’m just lucky that I’m able to go out and perform against the big boys and the big horses, so I’m delighted.

“As a jockey all you want to do is ride in the bigger races and at the bigger meetings and winners like that on the big stage mean a lot.

“The better the horse, the better the jockey and I’ve had a couple of willing partners today.”

And it was so nearly the stuff of dreams for the pair, with Bad going agonisingly close to giving them a quickfire hat-trick in the Thoroughbred Industry Employee Awards Handicap Hurdle but just missing out to Mothill in a bob of heads on the line.

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