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Uttoxeter: Mon Villez looks latest star for Million in Mind.

Byline: Geoff Lester

Nicky Henderson unveiled another potential star for the Million in Mind Partnership in French import Mon Villez, who annihilated recent Market Rasen winner Bold Bishop when sailing home by 16 lengths under Andrew Tinkler in the two-and-a-half-mile novices' hurdle.

Henderson has a brilliant record for this syndicate - both Mister Banjo and Royal Rosa proved money-spinners before being sold for a huge profit - and bloodstock agent Anthony Bromley looks to have found a new star.

Bromley, who bought Mon Villez after he had won the top three-mile novices' chase at Auteuil in June, said: "It was more relief than elation when he won first time out at Folkestone, because he didn't really travel until he got in front.

"We decided to let him bowl today and he was much happier. We have to stay hurdling this season as he's not qualified for novices' chases, but he looks an exciting purchase."

Paul Webber, enjoying a liquid Christmas lunch in London, received all the plaudits in his absence having sent out Tidour to win a competitive beginners' chase after an absence of 988 days.

Despite hot favourite Keltic Bard running a shocker there were several decent types on parade, but 25-1 shot Tidour, who travelled well throughout, was calling the shots from the second-last and won by an easy two and a half lengths from Green Ideal.

George Baker, assistant to Webber, said: "Tidour had a `leg' after finishing third in a Grade 2 novices' hurdle at Aintree two and a half years ago, but we knew he would be fit enough."

Charlie Mann was baffled as to how Keltic Bard, whom he had rated as an Arkle hope, could do no better than finish a modest fifth.

Barton Gate proved a popular winner when galloping home by five lengths in the conditional jockeys' handicap hurdle in the colours of racecourse chairman Sir Stanley Clarke.

In-form trainer Paul Keane, celebrating his third winner in eight days, said: "We have some brilliant facilities and a lot of promising youngsters, and I fancied this fellow strongly."

Backscratcher provided another surprise at 25-1 when winning at the 16th attempt in the three-mile novices' handicap chase.

Dulverton trainer Jim Payne, paying his first visit to the Staffordshire course, ended 629 days without a winner when saddling Athnowen to score for his father Brian in the two-and-a-half-mile handicap chase, while Jonny Portman's Lowe Go won the juvenile seller before being sold at the auction for 5,800gns.

Star performance

Paul Webber. The trainer was enjoying an early Christmas lunch in London, but he took the honours for producing Tidour spot-on after 988 days off the track

Quote of the day

"I started to get worried when he drifted on the exchanges" - trainer Charlie Mann, reflecting wryly on the disappointing run of Keltic Bard
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:The Racing Post (London, England)
Date:Dec 20, 2003
Words:468
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