CHELTENHAM FESTIVAL: Barbury Castle's King strikes on day one
MIDNIGHT Prayer claimed top honours in the Terry Biddlecombe National Hunt Chase at Cheltenham for Barbury Castle trainer Alan King and amateur rider Joshua Newman.
The 8-1 chance moved sweetly throughout the four-mile test and was one of a number of horses still in with a chance as the field rounded the home turn for the final time.
Leading fancy Shotgun Paddy did not jump as well as the winner, but appeared to have been produced to win by Derek O'Connor approaching the last fence.
However, Midnight Prayer jumped the obstacle the better of the pair and dug deep on the run to the line to prevail by a neck.
King said: "He was always in the right position and Josh gave him a beautiful ride.
"My thoughts are with the owner-breeder John Reynolds. He's 85 or 86. He got rushed away just an hour before the race with a massive heart attack. We just hope he's going to be all right."
King suggested a tilt at the Scottish Grand National at Ayr next month could be a potential target for the winner.
Newman, who was 22 on Monday, said: "Fantastic. It doesn't get any better than that.
"All he did was jump. I put him where I wanted to. He did everything he needed to and put in a brilliant jump at the last to put the race to bed.
"He jumped the first couple and got into a lovely rhythm. He bounced off the ground. For a big horse, he's neat and accurate.
"It was a long run-in. I could feel the other horse coming but my horse kept pulling more out. I didn't dare look across, I just hoped he'd held on."
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