JOCKEY Bradley Gibbs hailed Don Bersy as "probably the best open horse in the country" after the enigmatic character pulled off an amazing victory at the Kingston Blount Racing Club meeting at Kingston Blount, near Chinnor, on Sunday.
Having refused to race on his last two outings, all eyes were on Ryan Potter's eight-year-old at flagfall for the 'Start Royal' Mens Open, sponsored by Stewart and Hilda Nash in recognition of their wonderful servant, who won 27 point-to-points and two hunter chases.
Two false starts added to Gibbs's task, and when the runners were sent on their way at the third time of asking his mount quickly became detached by 20 lengths.
But Gibbs persevered and made up the lost ground, before storming through the field to take up the running going out on to the final circuit.
There was no stopping the duo then with Don Bersy powering away to slam Edgcote Gold Cup winner Vivaldi Collonges and Ben Bromley by ten lengths, with Hawkhurst a neck back in third.
Gibbs said: "We know when he is going he is probably the best open horse in the country, and he has proved that today after giving them 20 lengths.
"After he jumped the second fence he latched on to the bridle and pricked his ears. I knew then to just keep going with him because in a circuit I would be in front."
Potter, who trains at Caradoc Stables, Ross-on-Wye, added: "On his day there are not many horses around that can beat him, but it has to be on his terms.
"I told Brad if he starts he wins. I knew the course would suit him and as soon as he was in a rhythm they would not catch him."
Tom Ellis had expressed stamina doubts about Deans Road before the Skinner's Ladies Open, but his charge just got home to land the spoils in a course record time to set up a crack at the series final at Stratford on May 28.
Gina Andrews gave owner-breeder Michael Creed's 12-year-old a patient ride before collaring Back Bar and Izzie Marshall at the last fence.
A mistake there checked Deans Road's momentum, but he was able to hold off Back Bar, who was conceding 3lbs, to triumph by a neck in 5mins 58.4secs, eclipsing the 5.59.5 set by That's Rhythm in 2013.
Ellis, who is based at Marton, near Rugby, said: "I was not that confident even going to the last. He is a real short runner, but he has loads of back class. He beat Tiger Roll in a novices' chase years and years ago. I think one has progressed slightly more than the other!"
Marshall and Aston Rowant trainer Alan Hill went one better when Normofthenorth completed a hat-trick with an impressive victory in the David Hutchins and Denys Moylan Intermediate.
The seven-year-old quickly put distance between his rivals when sent into the lead by Marshall at the fifth-last to pass the post 25 lengths ahead of Order In Court and Freddie Henderson.
Marshall said: "He just keeps improving and bounces of this quicker ground. He could be a real ladies' open horse in time because he has the speed."
Hill, who owns the gelding with Martin Redman, Maurice Thomas and Ned Allen under the banner of the Three Farmers & A Gardener Partnership, added: "I think he is the first horse to win two intermediates under the new structure this season."
Rupert Stearn was delighted to get off the mark for the campaign when Midnight Cowboy turned the tables on old rivals Newsworthy and Forever Field in the Tony Naylor Memorial KBRC Conditions Race (Level 2).
The ten-year-old grey, trained by James Owen at Newmarket and owned by Stearn's father, Simon, had finished fourth behind Forever Field and Newsworthy in the race won by Tullys Touch at High Easter.
But Stearn's mount came out on top this time after bursting through a wave of five horses at the second-last to beat Newsworthy by five lengths with Forever Field a length back in third.
Stearn said: "He is quite quirky, but it's great to get his head in front again. I am chuffed to bits as it's my first winner of the season."
Owen added: "I thought Rupert gave him a fantastic ride. It was lovely to see that horse winning. He has had plenty of issues. I originally trained him for Tim Gredley, who won on him at Ampton, but unfortunately, as most horses do, he got an injury."
Nick Wright made the trip across country from Chippenham, near Newmarket, worthwhile when Tekap took the Woodway Farm Restricted, sponsored by Alan and Lawney Hill.
The owner-trainer's son, Archie, brought the eight-year-old to take up the running from The Bonny Boy after the second-last in the 2m 5f contest, and although Alice Stevens's mount rallied on the run-in, Tekap held on by a head.
Nick said: "I'm thrilled with that. Our horse did need his first run at Garthorpe and I felt it would just put him right. It's a great thanks to Alan and Lawney Hill for everything they have done. There is an absolutely wonderful covering of grass."
Archie commented: "We will see how he comes out of today, but now he is qualified for Stratford, so that would be great fun."
Fran Nimmo and Charlie Poste added to their fine record with debutants when Irish import Night Duty took the first division of the French Horn Maiden under the season's leading rider, James King, in great style.
The five-year-old son of Kalinisi, a recent arrival at their Ettington stables, near Stratford, from Donnchadh Doyle in County Wexford, galloped clear of his rivals on the final circuit to score by 10 lengths from Levasseur and Charlie Case.
Poste said: "He was very professional. He jumped immaculately and James is riding on the crest of a wave. It was lovely to watch them in tandem. You couldn't ask for more first time out really. He will go to the sales now."
Mountain Assault rewarded trainer-rider Dale Peters' patience with a 10-length verdict over Le Grand Fromage in the second division.
Peters said: "He has lots of ability, but it has been difficult to get it out of him. Hopefully he will go on from that."
The Sawtry handler trains the seven-year-old for his father, Michael, who commented: "This is a horse my son bought three years ago in Ireland. Unfortunately, last year the owner (John Balding) died. His horses had to go to Doncaster sales, and he bought it for me there."