Giles ready to Cross border for national bid

High Oscar, right
High Oscar, right
The start of racing on Washout Wednesday / Picture by Malcolm Wells

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Victor Dartnall is planning a Welsh raid with his newly-crowned Southern National champion Giles Cross.

The Devon trainer saddled his nine-year-old gelding to victory in the prestigious £13,000 contest at Fontwell on Sunday.

It was a gruelling triumph for the son of Saddlers’ Hall.

Defying top weight under jockey Denis O’Regan, the 15/2-shot disputed the lead all the way before holding off the challenge of favourite Rey Nacarado from four out.

Fortification finished with renewed vigour in third, while fourth-placed Aldertune threatened at one stage for champion trainer Paul Nicholls.

But there was no doubt who was the hero in the testing Fontwell conditions.

And Dartnall has confirmed a second shot at glory in the Welsh National – early next year – is on the agenda for his 132-rated inmate.

‘He has been working really well,’ said the Brayford handler.

‘He doesn’t run that much because he loves a real slog in the mud but he’s a good horse.’

Giles Cross was second to the impressive Synchronised in the Welsh National at Chepstow last season.

His Southern National triumph proved to be another feather in the cap of Fontwell, too.

Watched by a Channel 4 audience of 622,529 – an increase of 57 per cent on last year – it was the station’s most popular race of the day.

Sunday’s seven-race card at the West Sussex track also included the Tikram Handicap Hurdle.

Caroline Keevil’s six-year-old Bally Legend took the honours under jockey Tom O’Brien.

The 5/2 favourite was driven out to beat rivals Highway Code and Rimini, with defending champion Warne’s Way a distant fourth.

Richard Rowe’s High Oscar was the easy winner of the toteswinger Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Chase at 4/1.

Tribal Dance kicked the day off with a nine-length win in the Ocasan – Not All Heroes Wear Capes Novices’ Handicap Hurdle, justifying 7/4 favouritism.

Always Bold won the toteexacta Handicap Hurdle at 4/1, while Nicholls was on the money with 5/6 favourite Current Event in the John Rogerson Memorial Beginners’ Chase.

Fox Appeal was the shock 20/1 winner of the closing race – the totetrifecta Maiden Hurdle – for Andover trainer Emma Lavelle.