Off Minor springs major surprise

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Prior to the Champion Hurdle it seemed that it would be merely a case of who would finish second to Rosa Sainte, a grey mare who has dominated Island jump racing this year.

However, after assuming her normal position at the back of the field for three quarters of the race favourite-backers saw the first warning signs when jockey Adam Jones had cut through the rest of the field with her normal ease to get on the trail of Off Minor approaching the penultimate obstacle.

Off Minor, who had put in an exemplary display of hurdling, answered Proctor’s call for extra effort and despite Rosa Sainte’s efforts she was never going to pass the Mike Weaver-owned nine-year-old.

Having taken the first leg of The Shepherds Crook Triple Crown the winner now heads for the Jersey Derby, while connections of the runner up can take consolation from the fact that their charge has once again run a fine race – the distances between Rosa Sainte and the rest of the field would indicate that she has run to form, but on the day she was beaten by a horse that finally showed his true jumping form.

Having trained the winner of the feature event Stephen Arthur and jockey Proctor made it a quick double when Highland Flight, who had made a belated and disappointing seasonal reappearance at the previous meeting held off the sustained challenge of Compton Spark to win the Pentagon Handicap sprint by one-and-a-half lengths, with Perfect Portrait a further five lengths back in third.

Having hit form punters would be well advised to follow the grey mare for the rest of the season in races over the minimum distance.

Disappointment of the race was the favourite Piccled who was never able to go the early pace and failed to get competitive in the latter stages.

Full story in today’s JEP

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