Kim Bailey’s good run of form continued as Harry Topper (pictured right) was the unlikely winner of the Grade 2 GPC Novices’ Chase under Timmy Murphy, after he stayed on tenaciously to deny long-time leader Benefficient in a dramatic finish.
The winner, who was introduced at 25–1 by William Hill for next year’s RSA Chase, was under pressure for large parts of the race and seemingly out of the contest when turning for home.
However, Murphy continued to drive out Harry Topper, before his five-year-old mount responded with pace and stamina near the finish to collar Tony McCoy and a tired Benefficient in the final strides.
Highland Lodge, who challenged for the lead throughout the race, kept on well to finish third by three and a half lengths, while 15–8 favourite Houblon Des Obeaux was a disappointing fourth.
The Nicky Henderson-trained Hadrian’s Approach fell four fences out when looking as if he would dispute for first-place honours.
Following the race, Bailey was delighted with Harry Topper’s performance, but cautioned ante post backers that he may not run at next year’s Cheltenham Festival.
"He won't see a racecourse very often as he is a desperately weak horse.
"He'll run one or two more times this season, because he is very, very good, but we have to be careful with him.
“He wants flat, galloping tracks at the moment, but in 18 months' time, I'd hope we would see him at Cheltenham. He is the horse of my dreams."
Elsewhere on the card, Lyvius was an impressive winner of the Sportingbet Intermediate Hurdle.
The four-year-old looked dangerous throughout and stayed on to register a two lengths victory from the Paul Nicholls-trained Edgardo Sol.
McCoy was also successful when Meganisi (pictured) comfortably beat two-time Cesarewitch champion Aaim To Prosper in the meeting’s opener. The pair dominated the race and eventually stretched 14 lengths clear of the field.
After the race, the Champion Jockey described the going as ‘no worse than Soft’, ahead of Saturday’s Hennessy Gold Cup, where he will ride 16–1-shot Teaforthree for Rebecca Curtis.
Parsnip Pete, African Gold and Sizing Santiago all graced the winners' enclosure on the opening day of the Sportingbet Winter Festival, while Oscar Rock ran a promising race when landing the bumper.
Report and photos by James Yellen, www.thestableview.wordpress.com