Utopie delight at Doncaster
Nicky Henderson further strengthened his hand in the novice hurdling department as Utopie Des Bordes made a winning British debut at Doncaster.
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Winner of a Grade One chase in France, she made her introduction in the 32Red Casino Mares' Novices' Hurdle over an extended two miles.
Barry Geraghty was keen to keep her covered from the fierce headwind in the home straight and there were still four in with a chance jumping the final flight.
In the end, the 4-11 favourite beat Call Me A Star, who was conceding 6lb to the winner, by two lengths, with 66-1 chance September Blaze another two lengths adrift at the line.
"She's not very quick but there have been so many mares' races rained off we had to get her out and it just so happened this race was over two miles," said Henderson.
"She'd been running in staying races in France where she had 18 runs in 14 months so we gave her a break. There's a mares' Listed hurdle over two and a half miles at Sandown on Friday week that she'll go for next.
"As she's still a novice, we don't have to send her for the David Nicholson (OLBG Mares' Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival) this year."
Henderson and Geraghty soon doubled up with the promising Minella Forfitness in what could prove to be an informative £32 Bonus At 32Red.com Maiden Hurdle.
The 2011 November Handicap scorer Zuider Zee and dual Cesarewitch hero Aaim To Prosper were with the eventual winner all the way up the home straight but it was the former point-to-pointer who stayed on strongly.
A good leap at the last settled matters for the 11-4 joint-favourite, who ran out a two-length winner from Zuider Zee, who shaped well first time over hurdles.
"He was pretty keen and at halfway I thought I'd made a mistake stepping him up in trip," said Henderson.
"Barry said he wasn't as keen as he looked, though, and looking at the race you'd say the first three were much the best. He wants this trip, but Aintree could be more his place than Cheltenham."
The Paul Nicholls-trained Ruben Cotter (85-40) made a winning chasing debut in the 32Red.com Novices' Chase.
His main rival in the straight was the 6-4 favourite Vintage Star but the concession of 7lb took its toll and eight lengths separated them at the line.
Winning jockey Daryl Jacob said: "He did it nicely and travelled well the whole way. He's always looked a nice horse at home but disappointed on the track. He jumped well and when I got stuck into him he responded."
Be My Deputy (9-2) benefited from a positive Denis O'Regan ride in the 32Redpoker.com Handicap Chase, while Nick Scholfield successfully linked up with the Claire Dyson-trained Giveitachance (8-1) in the three-mile handicap hurdle in which the Tony Carroll-trained Mujamead lost his life.
At Wolverhampton on the same afternoon, Desert Vision also suffered a fatal injury when he fell three furlongs from home in an eight-and-a-half-furlong claimer.
Back at Doncaster the Fehily-ridden Overdante (16-1) survived a stewards' inquiry to win the 32RedMobile.com Handicap Hurdle, in which Tennessee Bird was beaten by the shortest of heads.