Harry Fry relieved after Sovereign Hurdle success

Harry Fry hailed the return of "the real Metier" after his dominant performance in the inaugural £100,000 Sovereign Handicap Hurdle.

The six-year-old had struggled for form since winning the Grade 1 Tolworth Hurdle last year but the testing ground once again brought out his best as he made all to finish clear of 17-2 shot Gowel Road.

"That's the real Metier," said Fry. "We knew the conditions would suit him and Sean [Bowen] was great. He set the tempo, went a good even gallop and just kept going – he really loves that ground. 

"I'm delighted to see him back in the winner's enclosure. He wasn't doing masses after the last and the handicapper gave us a serious chance. He could run in the Betfair Hurdle if the ground is suitable."

On the track's Winter festival, the trainer added: "We've won almost three times the amount we won for winning the Tolworth Hurdle. It's a great initiative and you can count on Metier being here next year."

Fantastikas survives late scare

Sam Twiston-Davies survived a late scare aboard Fantastikas to hold off the late challenge of Queenohearts in the 2m7½f novice chase.

The seven-year-old, who finished third in a Cheltenham Grade 2 last time, had the race at his mercy after jumping the last but lost momentum and was almost caught before winning by a short head.

"I was angry at myself at the end of the race as I thought we'd been beaten," said jockey Sam Twiston-Davies. "I couldn't hear anything, so I wanted to be safe and sound going over the last but then I heard the other horse coming and thought 'I could do without this'.

"He rallied well and I was probably all over the place but sometimes you don't think about the riding – it's just instinct to get to the line."

Fantastikas holds entries in the Brown Advisory Novices' Chase and the National Hunt Chase at the Cheltenham Festival, and was cut to 14-1 (from 20s) for the Ultima Handicap Chase by Paddy Power.

Nigel Twiston Davies added: "That was very good. He looks like a stayer so the 3m6f race at Cheltenham might suit him. He's gone close in Graded races and earned a lot of money without winning."

Aintree dreaming

The owners of Top Ville Ben are dreaming of Aintree after the ten-year-old bounced back to form in the 2m7f hurdle for Phil Kirby.

Top Ville Ben had not won since landing the Rowland Meyrick Handicap Chase in December 2019 but looked in control on the switch back to hurdles to hold off 11-8 runner-up Emitom.

He was introduced at 50-1 for the Randox Grand National by Coral but fell on his only start over those fences in the 2021 Becher Chase.

Neil Hassall, a member of the Harbour Rose Partnership, said: "The idea to come back over hurdles wasn't as silly as it looked. We would like to go to the Grand National with him. He was loving it when he fell in the Becher but occasionally just forgets where he's going.

"He's done it over hurdles at Haydock, fell at Cheltenham in the RSA and in the Becher. He'd fall over two barrels on a bad day and jump a ten foot fence on a good one. We'll probably have a run before then, possibly in the Grimthorpe Chase at Doncaster in March."

Top Ville Ben finished two and three-quarter lengths clear of Emitom under a first-time ride by Alain Cawley, while the favourite On The Blind Side was last of four behind 100-1 shot Dan McGrue.

Williams strikes again

Frero Banbou secured a quickfire double for in-form trainer Venetia Williams and Charlie Deutsch when landing the 2m handicap chase.

The seven-year-old, who was third on his last start at Cheltenham, battled through the testing ground to finish clear of Eclair D'Ainay.

Williams and owner Peter Davies also won the 2m4f mares' novice handicap chase with Fontaine Collonges, who won by ten lengths.