Birthday winner for Michael Scudamore in Devon National
Last Updated: 24/02/17 6:13pm
Michael Scudamore admitted to being pleasantly surprised after Kingswell Theatre provided him with a birthday winner in the Higos Insurance Services Devon National at Exeter.
An impressive winner of successive races at Chepstow and Market Rasen last season, the eight-year-old has found life tougher from an elevated rating since, most recently finishing down the field in last month's Classic Chase at Warwick.
However, dropped in class for the £25,000 feature at the Devon track, the 20-1 shot travelled well on the pace under conditional jockey Ben Poste and led the field into the home straight.
First 7-2 favourite Spookydooky loomed up as a big threat, before Millicent Silver came home strongly after the final fence, but Kingswell Theatre had just enough in the tank to hold the latter at bay by a neck.
Scudamore, celebrating his 33rd birthday, said: "He's found life tough since going up in the weights after winning a couple last year, so I'm delighted to see him get his head in front again.
"We've always thought heavy ground suited him, but I think he's just got a bit fed up of running in testing conditions during the winter and the drier ground seems to have helped him. Maybe we've been getting him wrong all along.
"He's not the quickest, but a marathon test on decent ground obviously suits him well and it was great to see him battle all the way to the line today."
Discussing targets for the remainder of the season, the Ross-on-Wye handler added: "We'll look at all those long-distance races in the spring. He might get an entry in the Midlands National at Uttoxeter, which is three weeks away, and later on we could look at something like the old Whitbread (bet365 Gold Cup) at Sandown."
Kim Bailey's Cascaye (4-1) opened her account in the Mobile Casino At 188Bet Mares' Novices' Hurdle, before Graceful Legend continued her rich vein of form with victory in the Brewin Dolphin Mares' Handicap Hurdle.
The Ben Case-trained six-year-old was a 9-1 shot to add to successive victories at Doncaster and showed a good attitude to complete her hat-trick by half a length.
"She's another tough mare by Midnight Legend and a home-bred for the Allens (owners), so we're thrilled," said Case.
"She had two fairly quick runs at Doncaster, so we gave her a break and brought her here and she just keeps pulling out enough.
"The plan now would be to run in the mares' final at Newbury, I would think."
Label Des Obeaux (11-8 joint-favourite) was an impressive all-the-way winner of the Andrew West Memorial Chase for trainer Alan King and jockey Tom Cannon.
Cannon was deputising for Wayne Hutchinson, who was stood down after falling in the previous race.
Any Drama justified 2-7 favouritism in the Acca Insurance At 188Bet 'National Hunt' Novices' Hurdle, while 10-1 shot Zero Grand bolted up in the Prydis Handicap Hurdle.
The concluding 188Bet Handicap Hurdle went to Baccalaureate (11-1).