Opportunity knocks for Russell
Davy Russell continued his irresistible winning spree when making a very rare visit to Kempton on Monday.
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The stylish jockey had fashioned a Navan treble for his main employer Gigginstown Stud on Sunday, including on the exciting prospect Don Cossack, and his only ride here was aboard Knockfierna in the Listed OLBG Mares' Hurdle.
Trainer Charles Byrnes felt he had spotted a loophole in the programme book across the Irish Sea as this multiple Graded winner of both novice hurdles and chases was well treated on her return to smaller obstacles after a couple of slightly perplexing outings over fences.
Russell bustled along Knockfierna (11/4) from a long way out but received the response he wanted and she came two and a half lengths clear of Miss Milborne after the final flight.
While Russell recalled winning a race at the Sunbury track a few years ago for Emma Lavelle, it was Limerick-based Byrnes' first Kempton runner.
"The conditions of the race appealed because she's a fair hurdler back in Ireland, but she wasn't penalised for this," said Byrnes.
"Apart from Quevega, she'd be as good as any other mare and if there was a chance she could get in the first half dozen at Cheltenham (in the mares' hurdle), you'd have to consider it.
"The clerk of the course says there is a race back here on December 27 and we'll have a look at that.
"I wouldn't rule out another run over fences, maybe in the spring."
Around a dozen members of the Knockfierna Syndicate had made the journey across.
Their name is taken from a large hill a few miles from Byrnes' stable in Ballingarry.
Nicky Henderson has been forced to endure some knocks over recent days and his woes continued when 1/5 favourite Snake Eyes was beaten in front of watching owner JP McManus in the Halcyon Gallery British Stallion Studs EBF "National Hunt" Novices' Hurdle.
This race was taken by no lesser stablemates than Bobs Worth and Darlan in the last two years so Snake Eyes may yet take high rank.
He looked a smart recruit when cruising past Minella Definitely and into the lead at the final flight.
However, Daryl Jacob refused to let him have it easy and got the 20/1 shot back in front and a neck ahead.
Winning trainer Neil Mulholland said: "To be fair, I possibly thought he could be second today as Daryl thought the horse hurt himself at Chepstow last time and looked after him.
"I showed him to the owner last Friday and he looked a different horse."
Henderson said of Snake Eyes: "Obviously it is soft ground and he did everything right up until the last.
"As JP said, 'He's still a maiden for another day'."
Harry Derham lost his 7lb claim when producing a clever front-running ride aboard Current Event (4/1), trained by the jockey's uncle Paul Nicholls, in the Pertemps Network Handicap Chase.
"I'm pleased to have done it for Paul, I'll just have to keep improving in the saddle with a smaller allowance," said Derham.
"He was nearly brought down last time, and Paul left it all up to me."
Headgear had the desired effect on Loose Chips (4/1 joint-favourite), who never saw another horse in the Coolmore NH Sires Handicap Hurdle.
"Blinkers definitely sharpened him up and Noel (Fehily) gave him a great ride," said trainer Charlie Longsdon.
"He's an old character - he probably walks six miles in his box before he has even raced."
Philip Hobbs looks to have a resolute long-distance type in So Fine (13/2), who ground out the Starlight Children's Foundation Beginners' Chase.
Hobbs said: "That was a good start to his life over fences.
"We were a bit worried he wouldn't go on the ground but he has always been a good stayer."
Oliver Sherwood is a trainer in form and Arkose (11/2) ran out a ready winner of the Cheviot Asset Handicap Hurdle.
Thundering Home (28/1) ably lived up to his name to deny odds-on favourite Benny The Swinger in the concluding Openwork Foundation Conditional Jockeys' Novices' Handicap Hurdle.