Williams given winning boost

Kickahead booted some Cheltenham Festival hopes into touch with victory in a thrilling Severn Handicap Hurdle at Ludlow yesterday.

Kickahead booted some Cheltenham Festival hopes into touch with victory in a thrilling Severn Handicap Hurdle at Ludlow yesterday.

But the Ian Williams-trained 11-1 chance had to survive a lengthy stewards' enquiry after the winner and runner-up, 5-6 favourite Ouninpohja, came close together in the run from the final flight.

The verdict went to Kickahead by a short head and gave Williams a much-needed boost after a quiet time of late.

"He is not the easiest of rides as he can be very keen. He does not have any entries at Cheltenham and we have had some difficulty in placing him because he does not like soft ground," he said.

"We will give him a break now and wait for the drier weather. Our Flat horses have been going well, but we have better-ground horses to go jumping with and we have not had their conditions." The local officials found winning rider Willie McCarthy had been careless and they cautioned him as to his future riding, although he was still banned for four days (March 4 to 7 inclusive) for his use of the whip on third-placed Ben Tally Ho in the preceding Teme Conditional Jockeys' Handicap Chase.

The complexion of that race changed in the last two fences, with Ca Na Trona (14-1) coming from off the pace and surviving a mistake at the last to score by a length and a half from Super Judge.

On what became a graveyard for punters, Viscount Bankes landed odds of 33-1 when taking the Onny Hunters Chase for Rosemary Gasson.

He took up the running at the fourth-last and Hannah Watson kept the nine-year-old going as Red Brook Lad came with a run that was all too late.

Mrs Gasson said: "He has been an unlucky horse on several occasions. Hannah is the granddaughter of Dawn Palethorpe, one our top lady show jumpers in the 50's, and that is her third winner for me.

"She only has small hands but she can handle Viscount Bankes, who can be headstrong."

Viper had too much venom for his rivals with an easy success in the Stour National Hunt Maiden Hurdle.

Left in the lead at the fourth-last flight when La Bonne Vie got rid of Lee Stephens, Viper was always travelling strongly and won with a fair bit in hand.

It was nine lengths back to Mountain Oscar, with 4-1 favourite Spirit Calling a further eight lengths back in third place.

Sarah Hollinshead, representing her father Reg, said: "We gave him a break during the summer and he has gown up. He is a chaser in the making and we think he will be a nice horse, but we will be taking things steady with him."

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