Fergal O’Brien praised his team at home before admitting he was ‘over the moon’ with the victory ofMarble Sands, who took his form to new levels in the M1 Agency Sidney Banks Memorial Novices’ Hurdle at Huntingdon today.
The M1 Agency Sidney Banks this year belonged to @OBMRacing and MARBLE SANDS! 🩴pic.twitter.com/sqs6gNxhZI
— The Jockey Club (@TheJockeyClub) February 9, 2023
For the second time this week O’Brien saw one of his inmates floor an odds-on favourite in a Listed contest after the 9-2 chance landed the £30,000 feature two days after Dysart Enos defeated Queen’s Gamble at the same level at Market Rasen on Tuesday.
With Persian Time a late withdrawal the field of four was soon reduced to three after Kaleb parted company with Jack Quinlan at the first flight in the extended two miles and three furlongs contest, for which much of the running was cut out by 4-5 favourite Rare Edition.
Turning for home the race quickly became a match between Rare Edition and the eventual winner with second favourite Ginny’s Destiny, who finished second in the Grade Two Ballymore Leamington Novices’ Hurdle at Warwick, struggling turning for home.
Although Rare Edition still held the advantage at the front of the field approaching the penultimate flight Marble Sands, under a confident looking Kielan Woods, sat in his slip stream before forging clear on the run to the last.
Despite an untidy jump at the final flight it failed to prevent Marble Sands, who was fifth in the Grade One Coral Challow Novices’ Hurdle at Newbury, stayed on well enough to score by two and three quarter lengths.
O’Brien said of the 9-2 winner: “That is a fantastic win. Kielan (Woods) gave him a fantastic ride. He would not be straightforward at home as he is very gassy.
“He is a fine horse and that is three he has won this season. He has done it well today. He missed the last and lost his shoe and we have beaten a very good horse.
“If we would have finished second we would have been very happy as it would have been a good run but I’m absolutely over the moon.
“Jodie and Dave at the yard have done a fine job with him. It is great for (the owners) Graeme (McPherson), David (Adams) and Jackie (Adams) who are massive supporters of us.
“It was much different ground at Newbury but he didn’t run badly as it was a very good Challow Hurdle. That is where the team have been great they have brought him back from a very tough race and produced him for today.
“This was always the plan after the Challow Hurdle and Dave and Jodie they knew we were coming here and produced him great for today. I feel a bit of a fraud standing here but we are all under one umbrella.
“He was very keen in Challow and he probably pulled his way out of a chance. Kielan spoke to Paddy (Brennan) and he said your best chance of winning today was taking your time and coming with one run and it worked so I’m delighted.
Following the race O’Brien hinted that Marble Sands could now go for the Grade One Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle at The Cheltenham Festival, which he was trimmed to 16-1 for by Paddy Power and given a quote of 33-1 for by William Hill.
He added: “We will go back and have a look but he has done plenty this season to deserve a go at the Ballymore probably so fingers crossed. We will go back and speak to Graeme, David and Jackie and see what they want to do.”
Although connections of the Charlie Longsdon-trained Rare Edition were disappointed with the result they insisted that an outing at The Festival, where he holds entries in both the Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle and the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle.
Bill Esdaile, syndicate manager, said: “We will get him home and see if anything comes to light. We know he can hurdle better and travel better. It is one of those things and that is racing.
“Sam (Twiston-Davies) felt he didn’t get the same feeling as he did at Kempton Park. It might have been the ground as it was plenty quick enough. He is still a very good horse.
“I’d rather him run with a bit of cover, while the trip was a bit of a question mark. I’m not ruling Cheltenham out at the moment.
“When a bubble gets burst everyone is disappointed. One thing I would say is that Menorah got beat over two miles three before coming back and winning the Supreme over two miles.”
Owner Jon Romans hopes the victory of Shirocco’s Dream on her debut over fences in the Oxenwood Real Estate Mares’ Novices’ Handicap Chase is a sign of things to come for his pride and joy, and stablemate, Eldorado Allen at Newbury on Saturday.
The Joe Tizzard-trained eight year old, who Romans owns with Silvano Geranio, put in a foot perfect display under Brendan Powell to open her account over fences at the first time of asking with a two length victory over Do You Think.
Romans said of the successful 9-4 joint-favourite: “She jumped like a stag and is back on form. That two mile seven trip is about right for her on a flat course. She didn’t make a mistake and is a lovely mare.
“Joe always said she would be a much better chaser as she had won a point-to-point and she proved that today.
“She is certainly better on better ground and last time she won at Sandown the ground was like that. I’m highly delighted.”
Looking ahead to the weekend Romans admitted he was ‘hopeful’ that Eldorado Allen could defend his title in the Grade Two Betfair Denman Chase ahead of an outing in next month’s Boodles Cheltenham Gold Cup at The Cheltenham Festival.
Romans added: “I’d like to think he will go well and we are hopeful. He likes the track so hopefully he can defend his crown.
“He is a good horse and we have been quite happy with him this season. He is entered in the Gold Cup and he will go straight to that afterwards.”
Trainer Michael Bell is better known for his exploits on the Flat, however the Classic-winning handler was on hand to welcome home his first winner at the Cambridgeshire track after Artistic Choice got his career back on track.
Produced to challenge 3-1 Favourite Charles St at the final flight in the Urban Logistics Reit Novices’ Handicap Hurdle, the gelded son of Caravaggio rallied well up the run in to score by half a length under Harry Cobden.
The Newmarket trainer said: “It is my first winner at Huntingdon. In 35 years of training, I’ve had about 45 Jump runners and what we have had we have done well with.
“The better ground suited the two Flat-bred horses well. I thought off a mark of 108, from the past experiences we’ve had with jump horses, was a workable mark.”