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Exeter: Midlands National is next for game Toulouse.

Byline: Andrew Scutts

ONE National down, one to go. That was the message from connections of Toulouse-Lautrec, when the nine-year-old put himself in line for a tilt at the Midlands National by winning the Devon version in game style.

The Tom George-trained gelding, who was ridden by Jason Maguire, stayed the extended three-mile-six-furlong trip best of all to justify the decision to line-up - which had been in the balance due to the ground.

P art-owner Barry Davies said: ``We wavered about pulling him out, as we thought the ground would be too firm for him. He tends to like it bottomless, and you would think he will get his ground at Uttoxeter. He goes on forever.''

Toulouse-Lautrec does hold the Grand National engagement, but is too far out of the weights to be a serious candidate.

For Maguire, victory in the pounds 20,000 handicap, sponsored by Imperial Hotel, Torquay, was his first at Exeter for 36 rides.

Madam's Man and Kittenkat chased home Toulouse-Lautrec, with clear favourite Headliner back in fourth.

Tom O'Brien, nephew of Ballydoyle trainer Aidan, just got the better of a driving finishin the amateur riders' handicap hurdle aboard Caspian Dusk. O'Brien, who is attached to Philip Hobbs's yard, timed his run to perfection to nail long-time leader Lady Misprint - who was given an enterprising ride by Derek McKenna - on the line.

Winning trainer Bill Turner said: ``Tom rode a point-to-pointer for my daughter a couple of weeks ago, that's how we found him. He was also given a good reference by P addy Brennan.''

He added: ``He's all right this horse - he is tough, genuine and tries, which is what you want.''

McKenna received a one-day ban (date to be confirmed) for using his whip with excessive frequency and for not giving his mount time to respond.

In contrast to the opener, Penneyrose Bay, who established a healthy lead in the mares' novice hurdle, kept up the gallop to win by 11 lengths under Seamus Durack.

T rainer Jonathan Geake said: ``This better ground suited her.

``She'll now go for the final of this series at Newbury in April, and then go novice chasing next season.''

P aul Keane saddled his 18th winner of the term when Barton Hill ended a frustrating sequence by landing the novice chase under in-form Noel Fehily.

Keane said: ``This was the best ground he's run on, but it was quite hard work.''

The long-distance novice hurdle went to Laska de Thaix, trained by Hobbs and ridden by Richard Johnson - a combination always to be feared at Exeter.

Hobbs said: ``I wouldn't rule out running him in the National Hunt Chase at the Festival - he stays forever and raced over fences in France.''

The concluding handicap hurdle went to Rydon Lane, trained by Sarah Williams, for the second successive year.

The nine-year-old was partnered by Carl Llewellyn, and this was his third win at Exeter.

at a glance

Star performance Toulouse-Lautrec dug deep to win the feature race on ground on the firm side for him Quote of the day

``I don't really believe in it'' - Bill Turner explains his failure to blood-test Caspian Dusk, who won the opener, after he had disappointed at Plumpton on his previous start

Ride of the day Tom O'Brien, who timed his effort to perfection to collect the amateurs' handicap hurdle by a short head

m Results and analysis start page 47

CAPTION(S):

Caspian Dusk and Tom O'Brien jump the first flight en route to their narrow success in the opening amateur riders' handicap hurdle
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:The Racing Post (London, England)
Date:Mar 9, 2005
Words:592
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