29 February 2016

WINTER ESCAPE (IRE) continued his progression and emerged an exciting horse for the future when taking the Grade 2 Dovecote Novices' Hurdle at Kempton on Saturday. JP McManus' retained jockey Barry Geraghty rode his mount to track the leaders, closing on his target at two out, outjumped his challengers at the last and stayed on well to win by a length and a quarter. Alan King described the winner as “potentially very, very exciting”, and will now mull over whether to run the five-year-old at Cheltenham. Now unbeaten from three starts, WINTER ESCAPE (IRE) sold to McManus' racing manager Frank Berry for €52,000 at the Goffs Land Rover Sale, with breeders Oliver and Salmone Brennan having earlier sold him as a foal for €15,000 at the Tattersalls Ireland November Sale. By Robin Des Pres, who stands for a fee of €1,500 at Anngrove Stud, he is out of a winning half-sister to Grade 1 hurdler Black Jack Ketchum (IRE), from the family of Fota Island (IRE) and Luska Lad (IRE).

The Kempton card began with an Irish-bred winner in the form of ZUBAYR (IRE), who impressed with a taking performance in the Grade 2 Adonis Juvenile Hurdle. It was the four-year-old's hurdling debut, having raced twice on the flat last year, and Paul Nicholls's post-race comments made that fact all the more impressive, saying “The first time he was schooled on grass was yesterday. He has been slow to come to hand, but he has just started to come alive and I think we can get him better in three weeks´ time. I´m thrilled with him.” Last at three out, the way he made up ground was extraordinary, running past his rivals to score by three lengths and three quarters. Bred by the Aga Khan, ZUBAYR (IRE) is a grandson of Listed winner and Pretty Polly Stakes second Zafzala (IRE), herself a half-sister to Group 2 winner Zerpour (IRE) and three-time Grade 2 hurdle winner Zabadi (IRE).

THEATRE GUIDE (IRE) continued an excellent meeting for Irish-bred horses, coming home a runaway winner of the Grade 3 Betbright Chase. It was a well-deserved Graded win for the nine-year-old, having finished second in the Hennessy in November, and third in a Grade 2 last time out. He looked a clear winner from two out, running clear to win by ten lengths from a competitive field and winning trainer Colin Tizzard was delighted, saying, “He won like a good horse today, I´m chuffed.” The six-time winner was bred by Kenilworth House Stud, who sold him as a foal for €75,000 at the Tattersalls Ireland November Sale. He returned to the venue three years later, selling to Aidan Kennedy for €95,000 at the Derby Sale. By the late, great King's Theatre (IRE), the half-brother to three winners is out of Listed hurdle winner Erintante (IRE), a full-sister to Grade 3 winner and Thyestes third Delgany Royal (IRE). They are siblings of the dams of three-time Grade 2 winner Black Apalachi (IRE) and Grade 2 chase winner Caim Hill (IRE).

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