JOCKEY Eamon Dehdashti may not have been too chuffed when Lingfield was called off early yesterday, but he ended the day with a smile having switched to Hereford, where he rode Kinkeel to victory in the opening Happy New Year Handicap Chase.
Heavy overnight rain left conditions testing, and the first race on the card turned into a punishing duel between Kinkeel and Tarsus. The latter shaded the advantage heading to the last, but Dehdashti's mount jumped the obstacle best, and the 10-1 chance saw off his rival by three-quarters of a length.
The jockey said: "I was a bit disappointed driving here that Lingfield was off, but it has worked out well. He jumped so well and I knew if he winged the last he would get there. He had won on soft at Towcester earlier in the season so I knew he would go on the ground."
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Robert Thornton executed a well-timed ride to get Parlesotho's head in front right on the line in the mares' novices' hurdle. Double Hit tried to make all but Donald McCain's representative had the 2-1 favourite breathing down her neck on the run-in and the market leader passed the judge a neck to the good.
Winning trainer Alan King said: "Choc Thornton said she didn't do much when she got to the front. It looked a decent race of its type with the first three previous winners, and her last run might have come too quick."
Nicky Henderson then struck with his only runner of the day as Tony McCoy teamed up with Burton Port in the Hereford "National Hunt" Novices' Hurdle. The winner was a well-backed 5-4 favourite.
McCoy said: "No-one wanted to make the running and he had won a point-to-point, so I was happy to go on. Nicky's horses are always good jumpers and very professional. He has done that really nicely."