Rich pickings as the Duke [...].
Rich pickings as the Duke has no peer in a thriller NICKY Richards and Malcolm Jefferson left Carlisle satisfied after exciting novice chasers Duke Of Navan and Urban Hymn fought out a thriller in Cumbria.
The Richards-trained Duke Of Navan competed at Grade One level in the Fighting Fifth at Newcastle and the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton last winter, but missed the climax of the season after suffering a tendon injury in a fall at Kelso in February.
Jefferson's Urban Hymn won twice over hurdles last term, including the Grade Two River Don at Doncaster, before finishing down the field in the Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival.
The two faced off in an intriguing battle for the Weddings Here At Carlisle Racecourse Beginners' Chase, with Urban Hymn the 8-13 favourite and Duke Of Navan next best at 3-1. Having raced predominantly over longer distances, Urban Hymn unsurprisingly set out to make all the running in the hands of Brian Hughes, but the speedier Duke Of Navan was always in his slipstream under Brian Harding.
When Urban Hymn brushed the second fence from the finish, Duke Of Navan loomed up ominously, but the market leader did not go down without a fight.
The two settled down to fight it out on the punishing run-in after jumping the final fence and the Richards runner was made to pull out all the stops to win the argument by a head, with Morning Royalty a long way back in third.
Richards said: "That was grand. He jumped lovely and travelled well. I'm very pleased with him."
Jefferson is likely to step back up in trip with Urban Hymn.
"He just got in a little bit tight to the second last. If he'd pinged it he might have won, but he's still run a blinder," said the trainer.
Duke Of Navan completed a double on the afternoon for Richards and Harding, with 11-1 shot Cultram Abbey running out a five-length winner of the bookmakers.co.uk Handicap Hurdle.
Richards added: "That was lovely and he should make a nice staying chaser in time."
Nicky Richards saw Duke of Navan <B register a thrilling win at Carlisle