THOMAS Darby (Olly Murphy/Sean Bowen) did well to stay in the race after losing his hind legs on landing over a hurdle in the back straight, but given time to regain his equilibrium, he arrived with a strong challenge between the last two flights to win the Grade 2 Long Distance Hurdle.

It’s possible that the fitting of a tongue-tie for the first time was instrumental in this success, but the 7/1 shot was also helped by the fact that runner-up On The Blind Side (Nicky Henderson/James Bowen) and 2019 winner Paisley Park got involved in a protracted duel from the top of the straight, and he was able to pounce as that pair began to flag in the closing stages.

It was notable how the winner snapped back onto the bridle halfway up the straight, and it was clear that he would win bar mishaps at that stage.

Thomas Darby has sometimes looked awkward in a finish, with a high head carriage deemed to be a sign of an ungenuine nature, but it’s more likely that his weak finishing in the past is down to a breathing issue, and the tongue tie may well be key with that in mind. Time will tell.

Nassalam picks up the pieces

THE Berkshire Novices’ Chase has gone to a trio of subsequent Gold Cup winners since the turn of the millennium, but it may not prove such a pointer this year, with both Pic D’Orhy and Millers Bank coming down when clear, and Tea Clipper not at the races from an early stage in contrast to his impressive win at Chepstow.

Nassalam (Gary/Jamie Moore) was therefore left to pick up the pieces without having to repeat the form he showed when a narrow winner on his chase debut at Ascot last month.

Pic D’Orhy set the race up with some bold jumping in front, and looked like he might have stolen a march when kicking clear off the home turn, only to get far too low to the first fence in the straight. That fall left Millers Bank in front, but he immediately began to idle, and when he took off a stride too soon at the second-last fence, Harry Bannister had no chance of staying aboard.

Nassalam was able to coast home from that point as Tea Clipper had been dropped in the back straight. In fairness to the 30-length winner, who was sent off the well-supported favourite at 2/1, he might have caught Millers Bank had that one not departed, and he isn’t judged harshly on this fortuitous success. It’s all about the jumping, after all.

Jonbon clear favourite for Supreme after smooth start over hurdles

THE maiden hurdle shown on ITV was interesting due to the presence of Douvan’s brother Jonbon (Nicky Henderson/Aidan Coleman), and intrigue was added when the £570,000 purchase drifted from 2/7 overnight to around 11/8 at midday.

Intrigue briefly threatened to turn into farce when the field stood still for what seemed an eternity when the starter let them go, but they eventually set off, and Jonbon – who was eventually sent off at 10/11 – defied that market weakness, and a tendency to sweat and get on his toes at the start, to run out a ready winner by six lengths from the high-class bumper horse Good Risk At All.

His temperament may need keeping in check, but he did everything asked of him in the race, and is an exciting recruit. He is now a general 3/1 favourite for the Supreme Novice Hurdle.

Coast home

Best effort in the handicaps came from the smart Fanion D’Estruval (Venetia Williams/Charlie Deutsch), and the 2/1 favourite was able to coast home from the last to beat Colorado Doc in the two-and-a-half-mile handicap chase.

The winner had caught the eye flying home after early mistakes in the Old Roan last time, and was simply better class than his Class 2 rivals. He was travelling well when falling in the Peterborough Chase last year, and didn’t convince when tried in Grade 2 races over two miles thereafter. That trip against the best puts too much pressure on his suspect jumping, but he may yet climb the ladder at this longer distance. He’s certainly too good for most handicaps.

Not Available provided a father/son success for the Fulke Walwyn Trophy, with Stan Sheppard riding the ex-Henry de Bromhead chaser to success for his father Matt, who bought the gelding as a replacement for stable star The Bay Birch, for owner Tony Scrivin.

The final contest was won by popular owner/jockey David Maxwell who rode his own Dolphin Square to edge out long-time leader Flemcara, but not before a stewards enquiry. The pair came close together in the final furlong, the runner-up leaning into the winner initially before the favour was returned before the winning line.