Walford bowled over by Astre

  • Last Updated: January 18 2014, 17:28 GMT

Trainer Robert Walford was a little taken aback by his first ever Ascot winner courtesy of Astre De La Cour.

Leighton Aspell riding Astre De La Cour to victory
Leighton Aspell riding Astre De La Cour to victory

Someone must have had confidence in the four-year-old gelding, as he went off at 2/1 for the Ascot Badgeholders Juvenile Hurdle despite a moderate first British showing at Kempton.

The currently unstoppable Leighton Aspell sat on the heels of 11/8 favourite Handiwork and forged four lengths clear on the run-in.

"He fell in a hole at Kempton and I expected the same thing to happen again," said Walford. "I thought he'd run OK, but I'm surprised he has won."

Paddy Brennan completed the first half of a busy day by guiding Ballinvarrig to success in the Rosling King LLP Novices' Handicap Chase.

The jockey dashed straight off to link up with another of trainer Tom George's runners at Haydock, and was made to work hard for this victory.

The Clarke family's strapping seven-year-old (7-2) was backing up from a win at Exeter and responded to reminders from his rider to challenge down the outside in the home straight, eventually holding on by a length and a quarter when the leader Benefit Cut had a second wind.

George's wife Sophie said: "He's a real galloper and he has to learn how to jump around the park courses. This looked a suitable race for him."

Noel Fehily, already successful aboard Highland Retreat and Irish Saint, completed a 272/1 treble when taking the Sodexo Handicap Chase on Bury Parade (11/2).

The Nicholls-trained runner was wearing a hood for the first time after refusing to race on his latest start but he got off with the rest of the field and travelled beautifully for the in-form rider.

Stablemate Grandioso was the only threat over the last two fences as Bury Parade galloped on for a five-length victory.

Fehily said: "He jumped well the whole way. Hopefully he can carry on progressing."

Philip Hobbs' Champagne West (11/8 favourite) took another forward step in the EBF Stallions "National Hunt" Novices' Hurdle with a ready victory, paying a handsome compliment to Deputy Dan who had chased him home at Warwick two starts ago before going on to win a Grade Two.

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