By Simon Jackson at Kempton Park.
Trainer Colin Tizzard confirmed The Hennessy is the immediate target for Theatre Guide who dead-heated for first place in the £20,000 feature race at Kempton on Monday.
The judge could not separate Theatre Guide and the Emma Lavelle-trained Fox Appeal at the finish of the Class 2 Weatherbys Private Banking Graduation Chase over an extended two and a half miles.
Fox Appeal and Richie McLernon looked the winner when they went three lengths clear two fences out, but were headed by Theatre Guide and Daryl Jacob at the last fence. Fox Appeal rallied and led briefly but failed to repel Theatre Guide who fought bravely to secure a share of the spoils.
The success delighted Tizzard, whose charge was having his first run of the season and will following the same path as last year where he was third in this race before finishing third in the Hennessy.
“He jumped beautifully today – better than last year,” Tizzard said. “The Hennessy will be next. He ran well there last year but will probably get more weight this year.
“He is a good stayer and I am chuffed, particularly winning first time out,” said the trainer whose stable star Cue Card returns to racing at Exeter today (Tuesday).
The Graduation Chase was the second of two Grade 2 contests. The first was won by Brother Brian for trainer Hughie Morrison.
“He is my one and only jumper and that was a pretty good performance,” Morrison said of the winner who led throughout for Tom O’Brien. “He wouldn’t have liked the ground and prefers going left-handed but jumped beautifully out there.
“The staff have done a great job. When we first got him he wouldn’t settle in his box, let alone on the gallops. Luckily the owners are very patient. When he first came to me he spent six months cantering up the back of the gallops day in and day out behind a horse, learning to settle, and racing has made him grow up.
“He has turned into a lovely little jumper and he will make a smashing chaser, but that is probably for next year,” said Morrison who has yet to confirm an immediate target.
“My instincts say ‘wait until Cheltenham’, he said, “But we will see how we get on.”
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