Bally hangs on for Ascot success

  • Last Updated: December 21 2012, 16:55 GMT

Ballytober survived a scary moment in the closing stages of the Fernham Homes "National Hunt" Maiden Hurdle at Ascot but the line came in time for Philip Hobbs' runner.

Eastlake on his way to victory for Tony McCoy and Jonjo O'Neill
Eastlake on his way to victory for Tony McCoy and Jonjo O'Neill

Off for more than a year and a half before reappearing at the Berkshire course last month, the 11/2 shot looked sharper here and was well in command before he dived to the left in the closing stages, losing momentum and just holding on by half a length from Westaway.

Jockey Richard Johnson said: "It was only his second run over hurdles and there was a lot to look at for him.

"It was a bit of a jink, but the experience will have done him a lot of good and he should continue to improve."

  • Ballytober wins the opener for Richard Johnson and Philip Hobbs...
  • ...while Tony McCoy is quickly on the scoresheet courtesty of Eastlake
  • Puffin Billy jumps past Up To Something at the last in the novice hurdle...
  • ...and saunters clear for a most impressive victory
  • Simonsig makes a sparkling start to his career over fences in the novice chase
  • He is now as low as 6/4 for the Arkle Trophy at Cheltenham...
  • Barry Geraghty and Nicky Henderson are understandably all smiles
  • The progressive Farmer Matt wins the handicap hurdle
  • Captain Cutter wins the closing bumper for the Seven Barrows team
All the best images as Simonsig makes his chasing debut at Ascot

Graham Whateley, husband of owner Diana, said: "He had a tendon problem and Philip and I agreed to give him every opportunity so I'm pleased to see him back.

"He looks a good stayer, especially in soft ground."

A fine tactical ride from Tony McCoy saw Jonjo O'Neill's Eastlake (9/1) win for the first time since May in the Liberum Capital Novices' Handicap Chase.

The champion jockey was always in front aboard a gelding who appeared to have lost his way in recent outings and his solid jumping kept him in the game.

Rouge Et Blanc looked a severe danger entering the home straight but McCoy was in no mood to be beaten and held on by a length and a half.

"We've been trying to get him to finish his races better but he's a horse that does everything on the bridle," said McCoy.

"He's come back in trip a bit now, and he jumped great."

Paddy Brennan was given a four-day ban (January 4, 6-8) for breaching the whip rule on third-placed Fiddlers Bid, but did at least take the Barclays Handicap Hurdle on Farmer Matt (9/4 joint-favourite).

Barry Geraghty - having won aboard Puffin Billy for Oliver Sherwood and Simonsig for Nicky Henderson - was back with the Seven Barrows handler for his treble as handsome Coolmore newcomer Captain Cutter (11/4) thwarted more experienced 8/11 favourite King's Palace in the Ascot Championship bumper.

"Do we stay in bumpers or do we go hurdling? We'll have to talk," Henderson said.

"He's been in training for two years but has had problems."

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