Oscara Dara reverted back to hurdles for the first time since the Punchestown Festival to display an authoritative performance, at all bar the final hurdle, in claiming the William Hill Lanzarote Hurdle at Kempton Park.
A lightly-race eight year old son of Oscar, Oscara Dara had failed to make a taking impression on his debut over fences last time out, succumbing to a two length defeat at the hands of Champion Jockey, Tony McCoy, and the JP McManus-owned Cantlow at at Plumpton Racecourse. A performance which disappointed the stable, Nicky Henderson reverted to Plan B with his 2012 Punchestown Festival winner, in reverting him back to hurdles for a shot at the Lanzarote Hurdle.
"Plumpton was alright, but not good enough" said Henderson, "I schooled him again this week and it wasn't going to plan, he's just not comfortable enough over a fence"
Having tracked the front-end pace of Charlie Longsdon's Loose Chips throughout the first circuit, Oscara Dara looked to be travelling supremely well under the guiding hands of Barry Geraghty for the entire race. Exiting the back straight on the final circuit, it looked only a matter of time until Geraghty would ask his charge for a winning effort before pulling away for a facile success.
As the runners entered the stretch, a small select field of five began to draw away from their rivals with Buck Magic towing them all towards the final two hurdles in the straight. Edging towards the second last hurdle, Geraghty asked Oscara Dara for his winning effort and, as expected, began to draw away readily with just one hurdle to jump.
As the partnership jumped the final flight, Oscara Dara stumbled, seemingly losing all momentum, before Geraghty and his charge quickly righted themselves to charge on towards the line for a four length success over longshot, Romeo Americo, and the stretch-drive leader, Buck Magic. Araldur and Black Thunder, from the Paul Nicholls yard, charged home to grab fourth and fifth respectively. Captain Sunshine was an unlucky faller at the last flight when scything through the chasing pack within the final stages of the race.
"We have to stick to hurdles now" said Henderson, "There's no point bullying him over fences, but he is eight so maybe he'll have some further schooling this summer.".
The Coral Cup, a handicap over two and a half miles over hurdles at the Cheltenham Festival, looks to be the likely target for the Nicky Henderson trained gelding at the tail end of the season.
Henderson and Geraghty were also on the mark with chasing debutant, Tetlami, earlier on the card, who suffered a third fence blunder to gain victory as the long odds on favourite. Geraghty was seen at his very best, losing little momentum aboard Tetlami (left) after the third fence, despite losing his irons and being thrown to the side of the horse as the gelding landed over the fence.
Photo Courtesy of Emma-Louise Kerwin (Goodtosoft.co.uk)