HIDDEN JUSTICE became the latest runner from John Quinn’s stable to put himself in the Cheltenham Festival frame after the youngster ran out an impressive winner at Wetherby Racecourse.
The three-year-old (10-1), with jockey Dougie Costello on board, swept aside some decent opposition, including French horse Vizir D’Estruval and Norton colleague Brian Ellison’s £160,000 buy Mashaari, to win the New & Used Cars @jct600.co.uk Introductory Juvenile Hurdle by 15 lengths from Only Orsenfoolsies.
Bookies immediately installed Hidden Justice as a 25-1 shot for the Triumph Hurdle at March’s National Hunt showpiece and Highfield-based Quinn, although surprised his gelding got off the mark so quickly, feels there will be “worse bets”.
He said: “We liked him but I thought we were starting him off in a race that was a bit hot.
“He jumps and stays and did it very well.
“He revels in the ground so we will bear that in mind. When a horse wins like that, he goes on it.
It’s great. I didn’t expect him to win so it is a nice surprise.
“We will get him out again in about three weeks’ time with a penalty. We have to kick on from there. 25-1 for the Triumph? There are worse bets. He will certainly be entered in the Triumph Hurdle – if the ground comes up soft.
“I’ve got one for good ground (Kashmir Peak) and now one for soft.”
Quinn added the victory made up for the disappointment following the performance of last March’s Triumph Hurdle victor Countrywide Flame. He could only finish fourth behind Darlan in the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton on Boxing Day.
“It was a bit disappointing, but that’s racing,” he said. “It was a very farcical slow run race. I am not making excuses but our horse is a stayer and we all feel that Countrywide Flame is better than that. But well done to Darlan.
“It will still be the Champion Hurdle for him. He loves Cheltenham and we will see how we go.”
Norton trainer Malcolm Jefferson, who enjoyed two winners on Boxing Day at Wetherby including the feature Rowland Meyrick Handicap Chase with Cape Tribulation, picked up where he left off when King Of The Wolds dominated the opening Irish Experience Package Novices’ Hurdle.
The 11-10 favourite, ridden by Brian Hughes, was in charge from the start and, while others toiled on the heavy ground, Jefferson’s five-year-old was strolling.
The trainer even managed a onetwo – Firth Of The Clyde profiting from a last-flight mistake from Lexington Bay, saddled by Malton’s Richard Fahey, to trail in six lengths behind King Of The Wolds.
Jefferson reckons his gelding will be even better when he eventually takes on the bigger obstacles.
“It hasn’t been so bad has it?” he said of a brilliant two days at Wetherby.
“He’s a lovely horse and he just wants time. He’s a chaser in the making and anything he does over hurdles is a bonus.
“In another two years’ time he will be better still. I think he will be a lot better horse on better ground but we are not getting any better ground and he is coping.
“He wings hurdles but I think he will just be a nice horse next year for a novice chasing campaign.
“Whatever he does now, he’s going to improve.
“Firth Of The Clyde ran a blinder at Newcastle and finished third and I then ran him far too quickly. He just ran a stinker. He is quite a nice horse but he is seven, coming on eight, and he had never seen a racecourse until we got him.”
The feature race, the £16,000 two mile Castleford Chase, was won by Drumshambo (evens fav). Venetia Williams’ six-year-old fought off a determined challenge from course specialist Lease Lend, trained by Great Habton’s Tim Easterby, to get up by a length and a quarter.