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Johnson hails Caesar.

Byline: By Robert Pratt

Howard Johnson has his team in good form as he showed when saddling Julius Caesar to win the Sporting Index Novices' Hurdle at Newcastle yesterday.

Stamina is clearly the five-year-old's strong suit as the 9-2 chance saw out the three miles in good style to beat Em's Royalty by four lengths.

"This is a nice horse; he's improving and he likes this soft ground" said Johnson. "He's still a bit green but he's nice."

The victory bodes well for the County Durham handler as he prepares a strong raiding party, which is set to include the likes of Grattan Lodge, Bewleys Berry and No Refuge, for Warwick on Saturday.

Town Crier enjoyed a welcome change of fortune to take the BBC Radio Newcastle Novices' Chase.

Sue Smith's 10-year-old had a race at his mercy at Haydock Park last time only to come to grief at the second-last ( but he had luck on his side this time.

He was in second place and being pushed along by Dominic Elsworth when Mondul, who was three lengths clear and going well, fell at the penultimate fence to present Town Crier with the spoils.

"I'd say we were beaten but it's hard to know; he deserved a bit of luck," said Michael Meagher, who is racing manager to owner Trevor Hemmings.

"This soft ground wasn't ideal. He's a true two-mile horse who doesn't get home as well on this soft ground as he does on good ground.

"He'll be entered in the Arkle but a flatter track at Aintree would suit him better and he's run well at Aintree before."

Indy Mood completed a three-timer when he outstayed his rivals in the Happy 50th Birthday Brian Wray Handicap Hurdle over two and a half miles.

The 5-2 favourite was venturing into handicap company and his trainer Harriet Graham said: "Coming up against handicappers for the first time we did wonder but he's done it really well.

"We'll have to aim him at something a bit bigger now and there's a novice race over three miles at Doncaster at the end of the month that we'll look at."

Vic The Piler was made the 15-8 favourite to make a winning debut in the "National Hunt" Novices' Hurdle and he did not let his supporters down with an ultimately convincing victory.

"He'll make a chaser one day and this is all education; he'll find a lot of improvement with experience," trainer Nicky Richards said.

"We bought him at Fairyhouse and he's a horse I've always liked."

Recent Edition was the shock winner of the Mechplant Handicap Chase over a stamina-sapping three miles and six furlongs.

Peterhouse, pulled up over three miles and three furlongs on his debut over fences at Sedgefield 10 days ago, appreciated the drop in trip to take the Handicap Chase by five lengths from Midlem Melody.
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Publication:Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)
Date:Jan 11, 2005
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