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Racing: Splash party celebrates Newbury success

Little-known conditional jockey Ryan Hatch punched the air and cries of "Ginge Army" rang around the winner's enclosure after Splash Of Ginge pulled off a major upset in the feature Betfair Hurdle at Newbury.

Splash of Ginge heads for home after clearing the last in the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury Photograph: PA
Splash of Ginge heads for home after clearing the last in the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury Photograph: PA

The 33-1 chance, trained by Nigel Twiston-Davies, was never out of the first couple of positions in the season's most prestigious two-mile handicap hurdle and his success prompted fanatical celebrations among family and friends of Liverpudlian owner John Neild.

The horse was bought to run in the Grand National but before yesterday's length-and-three-quarters defeat of Dell' Arca (15-2), the novice had only an Aintree maiden hurdle victory to his name from nine previous starts.

Hatch landed last year's Kim Muir at Cheltenham on Same Difference while in the amateur ranks and was not afraid of being positive despite the desperately tough ground.

He allowed Act of Kalanisi to overtake him out in the country, but held the lead all the way down the home straight, repelling not only Dell' Arca but Cheltenian (8-1) and 6-1 favourite Irish Saint, who took third.

Neild, 44, who runs a renewable energy company, said: "This is the dream. I grew up 800 metres from Aintree and I always wanted a National winner, but it's going to be hard to top that. He's a chaser really, but he has never run a bad race over hurdles.

"He wasn't an expensive purchase and I don't think he has had the credit he deserved. Ryan was the first person to sit on him; he broke him in and he has given him a tremendous ride."

Neild had shares in other horses and had visited a handful of trainers before deciding on his venture with Cotswold-based Twiston-Davies."It was the National connection really," he said. "Nige isn't the most outgoing, but I looked into his eyes and believed in him. He just can't lie. I'm absolutely certain if it wasn't for Nige, this horse would never have even won a race."

Harry Topper's return to his very best in winning the Betfair Denman Chase in the Newbury mud served to confirm Kim Bailey's position of only heading for the Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup if conditions are similar on March 14.

The trainer has long regarded the seven-year-old, who beat 5-4 favourite Al Ferof by 25 lengths, as his best horse since his only Gold Cup winner, Master Oats in 1995. "We've believed in him from day one. He loves this ground and that makes a huge difference," said Bailey of the 7-2 shot.

"He dropped the bit and was given a couple of cracks down the far side, but once he gets going he's as tough as they come. We schooled him this morning over five fences and the last time I did that was when Master Oats won the Gold Cup all those years ago. They are similar horses with similar attitudes.

"He proved when he ran at Sandown he doesn't go on good ground and he won't go to Cheltenham for the Gold Cup unless it's very soft."

Paul Nicholls said of Al Ferof: "Daryl Jacob said he travelled very well, but ran out of stamina.

"When Daryl got off he said the Ryanair. John Hales [owner] is keen to go for the Gold Cup, but I'm not sure he's an out-and-out stayer, certainly in that ground. We'll have to sit down and have a think about it."

Sprinter Sacre paid his first visit to a racecourse since being pulled up with what turned out to be an irregular heartbeat in the Desert Orchid Chase at Kempton in December

A walk around the Newbury paddock took him closer to the potential defence of his BetVictor Queen Mother Champion Chase crown.

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