Paul Nicholls celebrated his 13th jumps trainers’ championship with a superb five-timer at Sandown on Saturday.
Knappers Hill, owned by Paul Barber and Paul Vogt, got the ball rolling in the opening bet365 Novices’ Championship Final Handicap Hurdle (2m) before Kate and Andrew Brooks’ Saint Calvados pulverised the opposition in the Grade 2 bet365 Oaksey Chase (2m6½f), leading from start to finish and coming home 16 lengths clear of Mister Fisher.
The market could barely separate Greaneteen and Nube Negra in the Grade 1 bet365 Celebration Chase (2m) but it was the former who justified narrow favouritism with a comprehensive victory, kicking on rounding the home turn and powering home for a thrilling 12-length triumph, following up his win in the contest 12 months ago.
Nicholls said of the Chris Giles-owned Greaneteen: “Harry said that is a proper horse. He doesn’t get the credit he deserves. He has won a Tingle Creek and two of these now. On his day he is very good. That was awesome.
“The ground was too soft in Ireland and he is probably not a February type of horse. He is good in the spring and autumn though he did get an injury to his eye out there, as some mud hit him in the eye and he had three weeks in the vets afterwards.
“He is going Monday to have surgery on his eye to remove an ulcer. It is minor but it has got to be done. We knew he was ready for today though. They go an end-to-end gallop here and he keeps on galloping. You have to jump around here which he does, and he stays on strong.
“Harry was really impressed with him today and he seems to keep on improving. He never gets the credit he deserves. He is a very smart horse on his day. Everyone keeps making excuses for the others [in the division] but he keeps winning and this track suits him.
“The Tingle Creek will be a target next season and this will be afterwards. These races offer good prize-money. Whether Cheltenham quite suits him, I don’t know but he was only beaten two lengths in the Champion Chase last year.”
The fourth win of the afternoon for Team Nicholls came in the Grade 2 bet365 Select Hurdle (2m5½f) as Giraffa Racing’s McFabulous, the lesser-fancied of the stable’s two runners, posted an all-the-way success under Lorcan Williams, seeing off the mare Indefatigable by a length. Samarrive made it five in the closing 2m4f handicap hurdle under Cobden.
Irish challenger Hewick struck in the Grade 3 bet365 Gold Cup Handicap Chase (3m5f) for the combination of trainer Shark Hanlon and up-and-coming rider Jordan Gainford.
The progressive seven-year-old chaser enjoyed the return to decent going after pulling up on soft ground in the Midlands Grand National and scored by eight lengths from Musical Slave.
There was an emotional success on the afternoon when trainer Richard Rowe captured the 2m4f handicap chase named in honour of his former boss Josh Gifford with bottom weight Up The Straight, owned by The Forever Partnership, under James Davies.
Rowe was stable jockey to Gifford in the 1980s and 90s, taking the bet365 Gold Cup – then knows as the Whitbread Gold Cup – on this day in 1982 with Shady Deal.