Benedictus gives Somerset trainer Western a super win
Taunton punters were treated to another afternoon of thrilling national hunt action when the Orchard Portman course hosted the Royal Bath and West of England Society meeting on Thursday.
In the opener, the Rural Living Show Selling Hurdle, the Evan Williams-trained Get It On went to post the 9-4 favourite, but it was Richard Newland's Bellflower Boy, a 6-1, shot which led from the off.
The ten-year-old stayed out front for the whole time and only looked threatened in the closing stages when local horse Helium (13-2), trained and ridden by Alexandra Dunn, tracked him down but held on to win by one and a quarter lengths with No To Trident third at 4-1.
The Paul Nicholls-trained Fox Run went off 4-7 favourite in the Alpha Motorability Wheelchair Passenger Transport Novices' Hurdle and led the race with a circuit to go.
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Coming down the home straight Garryleigh (7-2) came through strongly but Daryl Jacob drew away as the line approached on the favourite to win by seven lengths.
Nicholls' Jump City went to post the 5-6 favourite in the Royal Bath and West Novices' Handicap Steeple Chase (Class 3) which ,with £13,200 in prizes available, was the richest of the day.
The Nicholls horse led from the start and built up a good lead under Jacob, but the Evan Williams horse Sublime Talent (10-3) under Adam Wedge, almost a stone lighter than the Nicholls runner, reeled in the favourite and mounted a late challenge.
Going to the line there was nothing to choose between them, but the photograph showed that Sublime Talent won by a nose.
One For The Boss led the C and D South West 25th Anniversary Novices' Handicap Hurdle early on and was still there with a circuit to go, but coming out of the top corner Toby Lerone, for Nicholls, came to challenge. Aidan Coleman, on favourite Jupiter Rex (4-6), kept his horse well in touch throughout and three from home jumped to the front, which is where he stayed to run out the winner by one and three quarter lengths from second-placed Decimus (9-1) under Nick Schofield, and record his fifth win on the bounce.
Tony McCoy notched up his only winner of the day when he steered Thunderstorm, the 4-5 favourite, trained by Philip Hobbs in the Bathwick Handicap Hurdle Race.
The champion jockey kept his horse tucked in behind the leaders from the off, but produced him coming down the home straight and jumped into the lead two from home which is where he stayed to notch up the favourites fifth successive victory.
Teshali, under seven-pound claimer, James Banks was second at 8-1.
In the CGA Foxhunter Trial it was Benedictus (4-1), trained by Jane Western near Chard, which claimed the honours from second-placed Khachaturian who went off at 9-2.
The final race, the Foresters Garden Buildings Handicap Hurdle, was won by Come On Annie, the 4-1 favourite trained by Bernard Llewellyn and ridden by Mark Quinland, with 33-1 Green Lightning second.
Amateur jockey Robert Hawker was banned for 12 days following his fifth-placed finish aboard Monderon in the second race at Taunton.
Hawker was found guilty of "failing to take all reasonable and permissible measures to obtain the best possible placing" in the Alpha Motorability Wheelchair Passenger Transport Novices' Hurdle.
Monderon, a 40-1 shot, was beaten 23 lengths by the winner, Fox Run.
Taunton race again on Monday, March 11. For further information, visit www.tauntonracecourse.co.uk
Harry Fry admits it is "doubtful" last weekend's Racing Plus Chase hero Opening Batsman will turn up at the Cheltenham Festival.
The seven-year-old has gone up eight pounds in the weights after winning one of the most prestigious staying handicap chases of the season at Kempton, a hike his trainer believes is a "fair rise".
Opening Batsman holds four entries at Prestbury Park but, if he is to make the trip, he will contest either the JLT Specialty Chase or the shorter Byrne Group Plate.
Fry is not prepared to ask his charge to carry a huge burden in either the Kim Muir or the Pulteney Land Investments Novices' Handicap Chase.
Fry said: "I think it's a fair rise and no decision has been made about whether he'll go to Cheltenham or not yet.
"We'll let the horse tell us, see how he is and then make a decision next week.
"The owners are still on cloud nine and living the dream after last Saturday, so we haven't had a proper discussion about it yet."