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Windsor Avenue picks up Sky Bet Handicap Chase from a huge 40-1

Windsor Avenue was revitalised by first-time blinkers and provided Sean Quinlan with back-to-back wins in the Sky Bet Chase at Doncaster.

For trainer Brian Ellison it was the highlight of a 72 hours where his string have well and truly bounced back to form ,following a double at Wetherby on Thursday and Cormier scoring down at Cheltenham.

Always highly thought of by Ellison, Windsor Avenue was in danger of never living up to his potential, only for blinkers to have had a revitalising effect.

Nevertheless, having been pulled up last time out he was sent off a 40-1 chance in a highly-competitive field – but the Town Moor feature had a sombre note to it as it emerged Sue Smith’s Midnight Shadow had suffered a fatal injury.

The Paddy Power Gold Cup winner, the best horse in Smith’s North Yorkshire stable, made a mistake at the first fence down the back straight and was quickly dismounted by Ryan Mania.

Windsor Avenue was always to the fore under Quinlan – whose success on Takingrisks 12 months ago also came at 40-1 – but he looked a busted flush when Kerry Lee’s Storm Control went by before the last.

However, Windsor Avenue got a second wind and went away to score by three and a quarter lengths. Cap Du Nord was third for the second year running.

“He worked great in the blinkers in the week and I said to Sean, ‘just make sure you get him out’ – I didn’t want him around horses,” said Ellison.

“His jumping was very slick and Sean said he almost ran away with him for two miles.

“He’s class, I’ve always said it. When we got headed I thought we’d still run well as he’d run with the choke out. I probably should have run him in the Cotswold (Chase, at Cheltenham)!

“We’ve put him in the National, he couldn’t run with the choke out in that mind, so we’ll just have to see.”

On the change in fortune recently Ellison said: “Over Christmas they were scoping badly, they were working well but not running well.

“They have turned a corner now, Cormier has always been a good horse so it was nice to see him win (at Cheltenham).”

For Quinlan, securing a double on the day having landed the Grade Two Mares’ Hurdle on Lucy Wadham’s Miss Heritage, it was a huge thrill.

“Brian said he’d put the blinkers on the other morning and they’d lit him up,” said Quinlan.

“The plan was to get a good start and get him on the front end and the blinkers made him jump today.

“I was trying to fill him up down the back and turning in I thought I’d win easy, but then Kerry Lee’s horse came to me when my lad had a blow and he got away.

“When we got our second wind he’s winged the last and gone away and won well. The further he went the more impressive he was.”

He added: “I’ve been lucky in this race, it’s been a great race for me. The way this lad jumped today you wouldn’t be afraid of the National, before he never used to attack his fences.”

Paying a heartfelt tribute to Midnight Shadow, Smith later tweeted: “We’ve had two winners today. But they’ll be no cheer on the yard tonight. What a brilliant, talented, great horse Midnight Shadow was. A legend in his own right and a stable superstar.

“Give your horses an extra cuddle tonight because you never know. Rest easy Midnight.”

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