Geraghty and Henderson shine at Kempton
Barry Geraghty once again stole the show at Kempton this afternoon as he followed a remarkable recovery on Tetlami by sweeping up the feature William Hill Lanzarote Hurdle aboard his Nicky Henderson-trained stablemate Oscara Dara.
Known best for his immaculate positioning and judgement, the Irishman somehow prevented himself from being dislodged when Tetlami stumbled through the final fence of the first circuit of the williamhill.com Novices' Chase and managed to shove his feet back in the irons as he turned out into the country.
Ultimately, the 30-100 favourite raced to a convincing success, as did the well-backed Oscara Dara (5-1) later in the day.
Asked for his gymnastic marks, Henderson said: "I think I'd give Barry a nine. He was lucky it was then, as there was time to recover.
"We've only just got (Tetlami) back and he's had wind operations but he's a good horse and has options on better ground in the spring."
Oscara Dara's own novice chasing career had stalled after he was beaten on his debut at Plumpton and he had not been convincing Henderson with his jumping of fences at home.
Fourth to stablemate Darlan at Aintree, Oscara Dara went on to take a good hurdle at the Punchestown Festival and at this stage seems to find the smaller obstacles more appealing.
He cruised into contention, and although rather jolting Geraghty at the final flight, he was away and three and a half lengths clear of 100-1 shot Romeo Americo.
Henderson said: "We had it in our minds all year that he would go chasing - he had missed a season with a leg problem - and he was in everywhere this week but I schooled him and I wasn't confident enough to run him over fences again.
"We put him over hurdles, which was plan B, but I think we'll have to stick with plan B at least for the time being, and have some fun over hurdles until the end of the season.
"I suppose he could have an intense schooling session over the summer, but he is eight already."
Alan King does not seem to quite have the four-year-old strength of many recent seasons but L'Unique registers among his brightest hopes after she dismissed her opponents in the William Hill - No.1 Downloaded Betting App Juvenile Hurdle.
The 4-5 favourite also landed her British debut at Aintree and was never in trouble from the front under Robert Thornton.
"I'm very pleased with her and her jumping was absolutely superb," said King.
"I'm going to have to test her a bit now to see how good she is. I'm not saying she'll definitely go to Cheltenham - she will have an entry - and I will maybe look at the Adonis back here.
"She's not just a juvenile, she'll make a lovely chaser, and won't have more than two or three more runs this season."
The victory provided some cheer at the end of a trying week for King who lost his 2008 champion hurdler Katchit, as well as Lidar sustaining a serious injury at Lingfield.
Ian Popham, who only returned with a winner at Catterick earlier in the week on his comeback from a second serious pelvis injury, struck again in the William Hill iPad App Now Available Handicap Chase.
Popham was patient on the Caroline Keevil-trained 9-4 favourite Bally Legend, biding his time as many around him made jumping errors, and he pushed the gelding away from Niceonefrankie to record a two-and-a-three-length victory.
"I've worked very hard to get back, and big thanks to all of those who supported me," said Popham.
"Hopefully I'll now get a clear run until the end of the season. This is a cool little horse - he was idling a bit in front but he had deserved to get his head in front."
Richie McLernon helped Jonjo O'Neill's powerful grey Cloudy Copper pour on the pressure and eventually outpoint fellow 5-2 joint-favourite Hold On Julio in the williamhill.com Novices' Hurdle.
"It's nice to get on good horses and have a decent Saturday winner," said McLernon.
"He just stays and gallops, and he liked that soft ground.
"We knew from his point-to-point form that he'll be a three-mile chaser one day."
It was pleasing to see former Gold Cup-winning trainer Noel Chance back in the swing as Brackloon High (6-1) took the William Hill - Download The App Handicap Chase under smart amateur Nico de Boinville.
"He's a funny horse who runs in snatches, and we just wanted to win a decent race with him," said Chance.
The good form of the Gary Moore yard continued with Whitby Jack (10-1) in the concluding William Hill - Download The App Handicap Hurdle.