Benson swoops late to set up shot at £100,000 Cheltenham Festival bonus – The Guardian

Benson pounced late to deliver a telling blow for local trainer Sandy Thomson in the Morebattle Hurdle at Kelso, setting up a potential tilt at a £100,000 bonus if able to quickly follow up at the Cheltenham Festival.
Heading into the contest on the back of a clear-cut victory at Musselburgh on New Year’s Day, the eight-year-old was sent off at 11-1 to reward those who follow the Lambden-based handler.
Kept quiet in the rear by Ryan Mania, his jockey, as Wajaaha set a hot pace, he was smuggled into the contest and loomed large as the Lorna Fowler-trained Colonel Mustard hit the front and set for home with two out.
Mania was still to produce Benson as Colonel Mustard’s stride began to shorten jumping the last, but he soon edged past the game Irish challenger with the winning post approaching and the victory was arguably worth more than the official verdict of two lengths.
Victory now offers connections the chance to add an extra £100,000 to the pot if able to add to this victory at Cheltenham later this month. The winner holds entries in both the Coral Cup and Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle, with Coral making the horse a 20-1 shot for both contests.
“The great thing is he has only been out of his box for about four hours, which can make a great difference when you are thinking of going again and we will obviously have to go,” said Thomson. “You have got to try – how good he is, nobody actually knows.
“I’ve got to speak to the owners and chat about it. He will get into the Coral Cup now – on 134 he was perhaps on the brink and what weight he has and what Ryan can do could influence it. Ryan obviously struggles a bit with his weight, but if he gets 10st 9lb or 10st 10lb hopefully he would be able to do that. But firstly we will enjoy today then go home, get all the forms filled in for Cheltenham and take it from there.”
Southwell 1.15 Presenting Jeremy (nap) 1.50 Mexican Boy
2.25 Caryto Des Brosses 3.00 Gitche Gumee 3.35 Chilinlikeavillain
4.10 Charging Point 4.45 Glance At Me 
Wetherby 2.05 Trevelyn’s Corn 2.40 Quick Sharpener
3.15 Your Own Story (nb) 3.50 Jet Legs 4.25 Enzo D’Airy
5.00 Glory Bridge
Wolverhampton 4.55 Admirable Lad 5.30 Boarhunt
6.00 South Dakota Sioux 6.30 My Turn Now 7.00 Evania
7.30 Johnny Boom 8.00 So Chic 8.30 Rockley Point
At Newbury, The Big Bite rolled back the years to edge his way to Greatwood Gold Cup Handicap Chase glory. Third in the race behind Umbrigado in 2021, he was without a victory since his debut for trainer Henry Oliver in November 2020 and was sent off the 12-1 outsider in first-time cheekpieces for a contest which delivered a thrilling finish.
The new headgear seemed to spark some life into the 10-year-old who moved up to challenge long-time leader Gemirande as the field exited the back straight. A good jump at the third last saw the veteran move to the front and it briefly looked like Jonathan Burke was going to quickly sail clear of the field.
But Gemirande proved a tough nut to crack and Venetia Williams’ game seven-year-old was giving The Big Bite plenty to think about all the way up the Newbury home straight – still only a head in arrears as the pair flashed past the winning post. The victory brought up a half-century of winners for the successful rider Burke, who can look forward to partnering the likes of Love Envoi and Queens Gamble at the Cheltenham Festival later this month.


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