Laura Morgan’s Whistleinthedark continued a good run of form when winning the Virgin Bet Novices’ Limited Handicap Chase at Kempton under 3lb-claimer Patrick Cowley.
The eight-year-old was second on his seasonal debut and has won twice since, most recently taking a Wetherby novice by nine lengths before stepping back to two miles and two furlongs.
A 7-2 shot, he pursued the leader in the early stages, eventually taking up the lead himself to triumph by a length and a half from Paul Nicholls’ Cap Du Mathan.
Morgan said: “I’m absolutely delighted, when I saw Harry Cobden (second) coming up on the outside there I was a bit worried, but I think he’s done that really well. It was obviously a drop back in trip today and up in grade, I thought he did that well.
“Today wasn’t the target, I thought that we might go to Aintree with him but I’m not too sure yet. I thought we’d go up in grade today and see what he does and he’s done that nicely.”
Suzy Smith’s Animal was then a decisive winner of the Virgin Bet Handicap Chase under Charlie Hammond, justifying his status as 100-30 joint-favourite when winning by seven lengths.
Hammond said: “He’s a lot easier to ride in his races, he’s relaxed more. Normally we drop him out, today we were able to ride him handy. We went a bit wider for fresher ground but he’s jumped and travelled like the best horse in the race and he’s done it nicely.
“He quite often hits a flat spot in his race and then stays on and hits the line really well. The race has never quite been there for him but it was nice to get a race today, we were a bit concerned about the ground and the quick turnaround, but it’s worked out really nicely.”
Richard Bandey was pleased with the performance of the promising Theatre Man, a five-and-a-half-length winner of the Virgin Bet Fives Novices’ Hurdle.
Having run well in three hurdle starts, the seven-year-old was an 11-4 chance and made all of the running before comfortably pulling clear to cross the line five and a half lengths ahead of Nicky Henderson’s Issuing Authority.
The trainer said: “He’s done that really nicely today. He hasn’t run since December, so that’s the first opportunity that’s come about due to the ground and a few other bits and pieces. He’s done it really nicely, unchallenged, from the front, it seemed to suit the horse.
“He was carrying a 7lb penalty and Mr Henderson’s horse could have put up a serious challenge and it could have been a close affair. He’s it done it that nicely, I’m pleasantly surprised.
“I’d thought about a run round Cheltenham in April but we might be looking at Aintree now, a graded race, you might have to think about something like that.
“Next season he’ll go chasing. I love the way he jumps a hurdle but I think if he does it like that over a fence, he’ll be very impressive.”