McCoy strikes at Carlisle
Shutthefrontdoor staked a big claim to be in owner JP McManus' Cheltenham Festival team with a gutsy victory in the Pertemps Handicap Hurdle at Carlisle.
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The six-year-old, trained by Jonjo O'Neill, gave Tony McCoy his first winner when back in the McManus colours after riding the ill-fated Darlan at Doncaster on Monday.
The 17-times champion had to be at his strongest to get Shutthefrontdoor (9-2) to outpoint Ardkilly Witness by half a length and complete a hat-trick.
The pair drew nine lengths clear of the remainder.
Shutthefrontdoor, who has had just the four runs over jumps, has several Cheltenham options, including the Pertemps Final, the Coral Cup and the Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle.
Christopher Ward, the 7lb claimer aboard runner-up Ardkilly Witness, was banned for two days (February 20-21) for using his whip above the permitted level.
Eduard (1-8 favourite), another Cheltenham possible, had little more than an exercise canter as he trotted up in the Exhibitions At Carlisle Racecourse Novices' Hurdle.
A creditable third to Melodic Rendezvous at Cheltenham in December, the Nicky Richards-trained five-year-old had no trouble registering his second win over hurdles.
Once Davy Russell took him to the front after the third-last, Eduard put plenty of daylight between himself and his rivals to coast home by 29 lengths to give Ireland's champion jockey a facile success on his only ride of the day.
Basford Ben was second, with Trust Thomas another three-quarters of a length away in third.
Eduard was given quotes of 40-1 for both the Supreme Novices' Hurdle and Neptune Investment Management Novices' Hurdles at the Festival.
"He's a lovely horse and I'd say his future is over fences," Russell told Racing UK.
"He's a big, honest horse and relaxed from flag-fall - he was very professional the way he went about his job.
"There will be worse horses than him running at Cheltenham.
"I'd say he'd go for the staying novice as the Supreme might be too sharp for him.
"That would be up to Nicky, but he definitely wouldn't disgrace himself."
Kealigolane (11-2) saw off the even-money favourite Vulcanite when making all of the running in the Weatherbys Hamilton Insurance Novices' Chase.
The Barry Murtagh-trained grey enjoyed himself in front in the hands of James Reveley and shrugged off the attentions of Vulcanite to score by three and three-quarter lengths.
"He's a cracking little horse when he's on song," said Murtagh.
"James blamed the ground at Wetherby the last time and this ground is a bit fresher.
"They haven't raced on it for a while so he got away with it.
"The handicapper would have a big say in future plans."
Reveley completed a 109-1 double on Markadam (16-1), who supplemented his two hurdle success at the track with a first win over fences in the Durdar Novices' Handicap Chase.
Dianne Sayer's seven-year-old was never far off the pace before seeing off The Friary's challenge by six lengths.
Hidden Identity (8-11 favourite) had no trouble justifying her short price to record her third win over jumps in the EBF Mares' "National Hunt" Novices' Hurdle.
Tim Vaughan's seven-year-old leapt ahead at the third-last and bounded away under 10lb claimer Jason Kiely to score by 16 lengths from Lucematic, who pipped Detour Ahead for third.
"She was entitled to win on the ratings and she did it nicely," said Irish-born Kiely after his third winner.
"She's a straightforward mare and she'll jump a fence in time."
Detour Ahead's rider Sean Quinlan was banned for two days (February 20-21) for using his whip above the permitted level.
The Nick Alexander-trained Bertie Milan (9-2) wore down long-time leader Oil Burner on the long run to the line to nail the Ultimate Ladies Night On 5th August Handicap Chase by a length under Wilson Renwick.