Hansard defied a welter burden to win the Bet In Race With Coral Intermediate Handicap Hurdle at Newbury for Niall Houlihan and Gary Moore.

Saddled with top-weight due to some smart form in novices, he dwarfed many of his rivals in the race registered as the Gerry Feilden.

Beaten less than four lengths in a Grade One at Aintree by Henry de Bromhead’s Inthepocket at the Grand National meeting, he had made a satisfactory return to action when second to Rubaud in the Elite Hurdle at Wincanton.

With Jamie Moore sidelined with a serious injury, his father has put plenty of faith in Houlihan and he continues to repay him.

Houlinhan saved every inch of ground on the inner but he looked booked for a place at best two out as Bad and Brentford Hope set a target. Arguably Under Control was travelling the best at that stage, but she was almost pulled up on crossing the line having faded tamely.

With Brentford Hope failing to pick up on ground quicker than ideal, Hansard dug deep and the 15-2 shot went on to win by three-quarters of a length.

“We were very lucky to get him and it was very nice of Noel (Fehily, syndicate manager) to send him to me. He’s a very nice horse and he’s big enough to jump fences one day, whether he does or not I don’t know,” said Moore.

“Wincanton and the pace of the race took the fizz out of him, they went hard from the word go which suits him.

“He’s in the valuable race at Ascot (Betfair Exchange Trophy, December 23) just before Christmas and after that it just depends what the handicapper does to him as we could be in trouble if we over-race him.

“He does all the right things that make you think he could be (a Pattern performer) but he has to improve again.

“He wouldn’t want to run tomorrow but he’s a hardy horse who takes his racing well.”

When asked about a possible crack at the Betfair Hurdle back at Newbury over the same course and distance, Moore said: “Absolutely, but I don’t think he could win that with 12st.”

Fehily said: “I was delighted with that and he’s a horse we liked last year as a novice.

“I was a bit disappointed maybe with his run at Wincanton the last day and I think maybe he is learning to settle a bit better now and they went fast today which suited him.

“I feel a bit sorry for Jamie Moore today, he has been fantastic and I’m sorry he’s missed it as he loves this horse. But it was a great performance and we’re very happy.

“He’s got a big step up to get into Grade Once company, but to win a handicap like that off top-weight, he probably is a Graded horse now. I’ll speak to Gary and see what the plan is, but we’re going in the right direction anyway.”

Goshen will have the assistance of Niall Houlihan when he defends his Coral Hurdle title at Ascot on Saturday.

Gary Moore’s seven-year-old has won two of his four starts over timber at the Berkshire track, including when landing this Grade Two event in supreme style 12 months ago.

He benefitted from the rerouting of Constitution Hill on that occasion and his handler is expecting a sterner examination of his stable stalwart this time around.

“Anywhere right-handed he seems to run well, particularly Ascot,” said Moore.

“He’s in good form with himself, but it’s going to be a little bit tougher than it was last year as you have horses on the up and he’s got a penalty this time.

“He’s been ready to run for a while now and hopefully he will be all right.”

Goshen has been partnered in all of his outings under National Hunt rules by the trainer’s son Jamie Moore. But with the 38-year-old on the sidelines with a bad injury suffered earlier this week, steering duties have been passed on to Houlihan.

A key member of the team at Moore’s Lower Beeding operation, the 23-year-old claimed Grade One glory aboard the stable’s Editeur Du Gite in the rearranged Clarence House Chase earlier in the year and now gets another golden opportunity.

“He’s got a different jockey to contend with,” Moore added. “But Niall has ridden him out a lot at home, especially in his younger days when he used to ride him out all the time, so it is only right he gets a go on him.”

Goshen finished just ahead of Nicky Henderson’s Theatre Glory when they clashed at Sandown at the end of last season, but the Canter Banter Racing team who own the six-year-old hope for a different outcome this time, rematching on a sounder surface.

“We’re very excited and she’s in great form,” said Katie Croft, co-founder of Canter Banter Racing alongside David Fehily.

“It is sort of a similar race to what she ran in at the end of last season (at Sandown). I think the ground was a bit soft for her in that last run at Sandown and it just slowed her down a bit.

“She was only beaten a length behind Goshen and I think the tables will turn this time hopefully on a bit better ground.

“I never say she is ground dependent, but I agree her best form is on quicker ground and she thrives flicking off that and we’re going there hopeful.”

Alan King got his hands on this prize with Yanworth in 2016 and will saddle evergreen 11-year-old Sceau Royal, while Paul Nicholls’ sole victory in this race came via Silviniaco Conti in 2010 and he could have an improving youngster on his hands this time in the form of Blueking D’Oroux.

The four-year-old was a winner at the track before going close in a competitive handicap at Aintree in the spring and seemed to take a huge leap forward with a commanding reappearance victory in Cheltenham’s Masterson Holdings Hurdle last month.

“He is highly progressive, a different horse since we gave him a wind op last season,” Nicholls told Betfair.

“I loved the way he won at Cheltenham last month and he will relish the step up in trip to two miles and three furlongs. While he has a bit to find on official ratings I’m expecting a big run from him.”

The field is completed by Ollie Murphy’s Strong Leader, who was a runner-up to Inthepocket in an Aintree Grade One last term, but bitterly disappointed when sent off favourite for the Welsh Champion Hurdle on his return.

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