Huntsman defies lengthy absence to lift Wetherby prize
Huntsman Son put up a fine performance after a 538-day absence to take the feature Cash Out At bet365 Handicap Chase at Wetherby
Trainer Alex Hales had the 10-year-old in fine shape for his first run since May 2019 and Huntsman Son was given a patient ride to land the spoils.
Kielan Woods had his mount at the back of the field as Two For Gold blazed the trail before making his move as they turned for home.
Huntsman Son crept into the race in the long straight and ranged alongside Two For Gold at the second-last, before a good jump at the last enabled him to pull clear. The 14-1 shot galloped on strongly and crossed the line five and a half lengths in front. Nietzsche was a further two lengths back in third place.
Hales said: “I’m really pleased with him. It was a lovely win. He’s a fair horse on his day.
“I was expecting him to run well, but you don’t expect that after over 500 days off. He’s been training very well. We hadn’t missed a beat with him and he appeared in very good form.
“I thought he was pretty well handicapped, but he’s a 10-year-old coming back from a tendon injury.
“The timing meant we had to miss last season.
“He’s always been talented, but he’s quite fragile. We need to get through tomorrow morning first, and that’s the main thing, before we think abut plans.
The ground will dictate where we go, but I won't be in a massive rush to get him out again
“There’s that race at Cheltenham in December, you’ve got the Grand Sefton at Aintree. There a few possibilities, but I suspect he doesn’t want proper winter ground.
“The ground will dictate where we go, but I won’t be in a massive rush to get him out again.”
Hiconic made a bold bid to lead all the way for Hales and Woods in the Weatherbys Hamilton Wensleydale Juvenile Hurdle, but had to settle for second place behind Irish raider Duffle Coat (11-4 favourite).
The Gordon Elliott-trained gelding loomed ominously a the second-last flight, asserting at the last and going on to win by eight lengths in the hands of Jonathan Burke.
“He was very good, I just watched a re-run of it,” said Elliott, speaking from Down Royal where he had a treble.
“He doesn’t do anything fancy at home and he’s not the biggest horse in the world.
“A great day – to train four winners, I can’t complain.”
Woods had his double courtesy of Pam Sly’s Fransham, who won the bet365 Handicap Hurdle for the second year running.
“He loves this track. He’s like a little motorbike round here,” Woods told Racing TV.
“He had a good run the last day round Market Rasen. Perhaps he just needed it.”
The Dan Skelton-trained Shan Blue backed up his recent course success on his fencing debut with a smart performance in the bet365 Novices’ Chase.
Harry Skelton kicked for home four out and the 10-11 favourite continued to jump with fluency as he quickly put the race to bed.
Unchallenged in the straight, Shan Blue put 16 lengths between himself and the long-time leader Snow Leopardess.
Shan Blue as given a quote of 25-1 for the RSA Chase with Betfair.
Third Time Lucki (2-7 favourite) made it a brace for the Skelton team when cosily landing the odds in the bet365 Novices’ Hurdle.
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