HORSE RACING: Top Notch success in the highlight of the Huntingdon Racecourse calendar
- Credit: FRANCESCA ALTOFT PHOTOGRAPHY
He’s Top Notch by name . . . and he’s also top notch by nature!
Nicky Henderson's fine performer roared to Fitzdares Peterborough Chase glory for the second time in three years last Sunday - in the process giving his trainer a seventh victory in the highlight of the Huntingdon Racecourse calendar.
Top Notch, who previously triumphed back in 2017 when the race was transferred to Taunton due to snow, was sent off the 15/8 favourite for a repeat success in the 50th anniversary staging of the Grade 2 contest, run over two-and-a-half miles.
And, under the handling of jockey Daryl Jacob, the eight year-old prevailed by three-quarters of a length from rank outsider Kauto Riko, who made a mockery of odds of 100/1 to come close to causing a mighty stock. Talented mare La Bague Au Roi was a further two-and-a-quarter lengths back in third.
Trainer Henderson is now only one win away from equalling Henrietta Knight's haul of eight Peterborough Chase victories and she was on hand to present the trophies to connections following the £65,000 contest.
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But it looks like the money of new race backers Fitzdares is safe. They had put up a £500,000 bonus should the winner of this race go on to land the Ladbrokes King George VI Chase at Kempton Park on Boxing Day and the Magners Cheltenham Gold Cup next March.
That feat has only ever been accomplished once - by the brilliant Best Mate in the 2002—and is not on the radar for Top Notch.
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Not content with victory in the headline Fitzdares Peterborough Chase, Henderson also took the principal supporting race an hour later as 7/4 shot Vegas Blue won the Listed Fitzdares Henrietta Knight Mares' Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race, with 7-4 fancy Vegas Blue. Nico de Boinville was in the saddle.
Top Notch was one of four favourites to triumph during the seven-race card.
The Colin Tizzard-trained Slate House, who was sent off at 4/5, came back from his fall at Cheltenham last month to land the Fitzdares Crosseys Jockey Coaching Novices' Chase.
Tea Clipper then gave champion jockey Richard Johnson a winner at 7/4 in the Fitzdares Racing Welfare Handicap Hurdle.
And the trainer-and-jockey siblings, Dan and Harry Skelton, got in on the winning act with 6/4 market-leader West Cork in the Fitzdares Lord Jim Culloty Novices' Hurdle.
Jockey Jonjo O'Neill jnr rode 7/2 chance Pagero to victory for his father in the Fitzdares Cerebral Gym Conditional Jockeys' Handicap Hurdle to open proceedings while the longest-priced winner of the afternoon came in the finale.
The Fitzdares Award Ben Stokes SPOTY Now Handicap Chase went to Northamptonshire trainer Caroline Bailey and jockey James Bowen at 20/1.
There is one more fixture at Huntingdon Racecourse this year - the traditional MansionBet Boxing Day at The Races.
Adult admission is just £10 in advance with accompanied children aged 17 and under gaining free admission.
Tickets can be bought at https://www.thejockeyclub.co.uk/huntingdon or on 0844 579 3007.