Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Great reception for Aerial after last-gasp Newbury success

Ruby Walsh was seen at his very strongest at Newbury on Saturday as he galvanised the very willing Aerial to a short-head victory in the Barbury International Supporting Greatwood Gold Cup, prevailing from the luckless Dan Breen to lead in the very last stride, writes Elliot Slater.

Sent off the solidly backed 10/3 favourite for the two-and-a-half-mile affair, Aerial was patiently ridden at the rear of the field but didn’t respond immediately when Walsh asked his mount to take closer order on the turn for home. Dan Breen soared into the lead at the second from home and looked home and hosed after the last, but Walsh’s mount was finally hitting full stride and on the long Newbury run-in he made gradual inroads into the advantage of the leader, eventually being driven alongside in the last couple of strides to put his nose in front right on the line. Anyone following the best 2012 Cheltenham race odds will have been impressed.

Winning trainer Paul Nicholls was full of praise for the French-bred son of Turgeon who he observed needs plenty of time between his races as he always gives his all, and as a result a bid for the Grade 3 Byrne Group Plate at next week’s Cheltenham Festival has been conclusively ruled out with connections being left to decide whether to rough their charge off for the rest of the term or see how well he recovers from his Newbury exertions before considering a trip to Ireland in May for the Punchestown Festival.

Bookmakers had reacted to Aerial’s thrilling victory by cutting him to as short as 12/1 in places for the Byrne Group Plate (from 20/1), but in an open market it is the Ferdy Murphy-trained Divers and David Pipe’s dark horse Salut Flo who share favouritism at the head of the market at 8/1.

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