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D'Orhy Pics right time to hit home.

PIC D'Orhy defied a big weight to win an eventful renewal of the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury.

The drama began when the starter deemed the jockeys were not listening to his instructions and demanded a standing start.

That caused problem for ante-post fancy and front-runner Not So Sleepy, who completely missed the break and set off in last position.

Then on landing over the first flight another of the leading lights, Nicky Henderson's Never Adapt, was quickly pulled up by Barry Geraghty.

Once the race eventually settled down Willie Mullins' well-backed Ciel De Neige was up there forcing the pace, along with Highly Prized, who dropped away before the last.

The sole Irish raider was still in front, but the challengers, including 66-1 chance Remiluc, Sir Valentine and Pic D'Orhy (33-1) were mounting.

It was Paul Nicholls' Pic D'Orhy who scrambled home in front for Harry Cobden by three quarters of a length from Ciel De Neige and Remiluc, with Sir Valentine fourth in a blanket finish.

There were a number of fallers at the final flight, but happily all horses and riders were reported to have emerged unscathed.

Nicholls said: "I didn't really expect that and you couldn't, could you? He did come with a reputation, but it hasn't happened up until now because of circumstance.

"I've always been training him with next season in mind really. I wanted to go chasing with him this season, but Johnny (de la Hey, owner) said to stay over hurdles and that was the right choice.

"That was really good and he is the future. He did travel well and stayed on really strongly. I rang Johnny up after his last run (sixth at Ascot) and said, 'don't be disappointed with that, as if that was October it would be like his first run of the season and we would be thrilled.'.

"I've drilled him since that last run and I've not missed a day's work with him and he was ready. It is the first time it has all gone to plan. It was a good performance off that big weight.

"He is nice young horse who will be an exciting chaser."

He added: "Harry (Cobden) said that (about running him in the Champion Hurdle). He is going to be in the mid-150s now and that is not far off being Champion Hurdle quality. I'll have to see what Johnny says - it is a lot of money to supplement, but he has won a few quid. "This horse might have the boot to travel really well in it."

Altior resumed winning ways in the Win Bigger On The Betfair Exchange Chase at Newbury.

His 19-race winning run had come to an end last time out against Cyrname in November, when stepped up in trip at Ascot, and then Nicky Henderson's superstar subsequently missed an outing at Christmas with an abscess.

The returning Dynamite Dollars set the pace after Bun Doran fell at the water jump, and plenty looked to have a chance at the third-last in the Grade Two feature.

Nico de Boinville had to get serious on the 1-3 favourite running to the final fence, but on landing his famed turbo kicked in and he sprinted clear to win by three-and-a-quarter lengths, taking the race better known as the Game Spirit for a third time.

Henderson said: "We've had a few hiccups along the way, but we're getting there.

"He was keen early and enjoying himself. He took a blow just before the second-last, but what he really liked was the way he put it to bed - the gears are still there."

Bookmakers trimmed Altior a touch for the Queen Mother Champion Chase, and Henderson added: "He's only in one race (at Cheltenham), so we don't have to question what we are doing."

CAPTION(S):

| Altior ridden by Nico de Boinville

| Harry Cobden riding Pic D'Orhy (R, blue/pink cap) clear the last to win The Betfair Hurdle at Newbury
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Sunday Sun (Newcastle, England)
Date:Feb 9, 2020
Words:660
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