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From fearing cold list to earning warm praise

LUCY ALEXANDER has had to be patient before adding to her already impressive cv but when her moment came yesterday at the Weatherbys Hamilton Insurance Handicap Chase at Musselburgh it will likely have felt worth the wait.

Alexander excelled aboard Isla Pearl Fisher to narrowly clinch first place.

Record-breaking champion Tony McCoy had looked certain of victory on top-weight Blenheim Brook but Alexander produced her mount in the closing stages to snatch an unlikely victory by a neck. It is the jockey's first win in more than three weeks and was a source of pride for her father and trainer, Nick. "She was more worried about going on the cold list when she arrived here," he said. "I'm very proud of her as this was a lovely ride and she must have passed 10 horses from turning in to the straight with four to jump.

"I didn't give much for his chances down the far side but he's a horse that has ability and we struggled to find a race for him after he fell early on at Newcastle last time. He's won six times now and the dream is that one day he might be a Scottish National horse – he's nine now but I think he's still improving."

Nicky Richards-trained Parc Des Princes and Dougie Costello won their fourth race together when the bottom-weight passed 11 rivals on the home straight to pip Ubaltique from the opposite end of the handicap in the Weatherbys Printing Handicap Hurdle. "He's never won for anyone over jumps and he's also won twice on the Flat," said Costello. "I said to Nicky he might benefit from cheekpieces, he said 'don't you think he's won enough races for you?'"

Race goers will also feel rewarded should they head to Musselburgh on Sunday as the entry will be free. The East Lothian course took the decision to waive admission charges as a festive thank you to racing fans. Anyone who has already bought tickets online can apply for a refund by contacting the course.

"It was a late call in arranging this extra meeting and we hope free entry will draw a bigger crowd and generate a great atmosphere," said Sarah Montgomery, Musselburgh Racecourse commercial manager.

"It's also a reward for our regular customers and shows that even race courses like to get in to the Christmas spirit."

Before that, however, is the Paul Stewart IronSpine Charity Challenge Gold Cup at Cheltenham on Saturday, where Hunt Ball and Cristal Bonus will feature among the 23 horses competing.

The Keiran Burke-trained Hunt Ball was one of the most improved chasers in training last season, while former smart novice chaser Cristal Bonus, trained by Paul Nicholls, earned a Grade Two at Down Royal by nine lengths last month. Wishful Thinking heads the weights for the meeting.

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