Silver Roque gave some cheer to trainer Fergal O'Brien after he claimed the Berry Bros & Rudd Handicap Chase at Newbury.
Last Updated: 01/03/13 6:52pm
Silver Roque (left) jumps into the lead at the final fence
Fergal O'Brien's troops will be thin on the ground at Cheltenham Festival but Silver Roque gave the trainer realistic hope of further success elsewhere after he claimed the Berry Bros & Rudd Handicap Chase at Newbury.
Now in his second season as a fully-fledged trainer, O'Brien spent most of his career assisting Nigel Twiston-Davies and is now based at jockey Timmy Murphy's Cilldara Stud at Fossebridge, a few miles south-east of Cheltenham.
Creevytennant will be his sole Festival runner in the CGA Foxhunter Chase, but Aintree could await the sparingly-raced Silver Roque (4/1), who was sent to O'Brien by owner Lord Vestey after the retirement of Henrietta Knight.
He powered a length and a quarter clear of Oscar Hill to double his victories for the yard after striking on his first start last October.
O'Brien said: "He had no chance of getting in the Grand Annual at Cheltenham, but Paddy (Brennan, jockey) said we should go for the two-mile handicap chase at Aintree now.
"He had been off for a while but my head lad Tadgh Darcy said he was spot-on."
Rather stronger in numbers at Cheltenham will be Jonjo O'Neill, whose Twirling Magnets (10/1) proved his resolution for a first triumph over fences in the Zenergi Novices' Handicap Chase.
Tony McCoy, who had been schooling most of the yard's hopes for the meeting at Jackdaws Castle that morning, had to sit tight after his mount made several glaring errors.
"The better ground has helped him," said O'Neill. "He can be a good jumper, but he wasn't today, and he missed a few."
Leading O'Neill's bid for a sixth John Oaksey National Hunt Chase is likely to be Merry King, but he said: "This one has an entry too. He probably won't go, though."
It was unusual for a horse from Philip Hobbs' leading stable to come in at 40/1, and the trainer would have liked the benefit of hindsight about Berkeley Barron in the Physicool 'National Hunt' Novices' Hurdle.
Hobbs said: "Looking at it, you can see reasons why he could win, but realistically we didn't think he would be winning today.
"He ran all right in his bumper, and was jumping left-handed at Kempton on his first run over hurdles."