Metier rediscovered his best form to take home the lion’s share of £100,000 in the Sovereign Handicap Hurdle at Lingfield Park this afternoon, the feature race on day one of the Winter Million.
Metier looked a star in the making for Harry Fry this time last year, when he relished testing ground to win the G1 Tolworth Novices’ Hurdle at Sandown Park by 11 lengths.
Back on a similar surface today after a good fourth at Ascot before Christmas, the 11/4 favourite was ridden prominently by Sean Bowen and was never seriously challenged after taking the lead before the second hurdle.
Metier travelled best of all off the home turn and kept up the gallop in the straight to score by a length and a quarter from the staying-on Gowel Road. Irish raider Carrarea was nine lengths further back in third.
Fry, who won the opening contest with exciting mare Love Envoi, said: “That was the real Metier with conditions to suit.
“Sean was brilliant on him. We said we would line up and go our own tempo. He went quick to the first and then Sean dropped his hands and the horse galloped and jumped.
“We were a staying-on fourth at Ascot last time and we thought today that we would let him roll. Sean had him in a nice rhythm and they have put the others to the sword.
“This was the plan. He is in the Betfair Hurdle and if we had this sort of ground, he will be there. There are other good options in February as well.
“This is a fantastic prize. We have won three times the amount today that we did in the Grade 1 Tolworth last season. The Winter Million is a great new initiative and if this is an annual event, you can count on him being here.”
Bowen said: “We know Metier stays very well and is one of them that if you try to pull him when you’re going slower, he starts wrestling with you. Rather than that, you just leave him and he goes a good gallop.
“We have always thought that he was a good horse, and he was probably off a nice mark today. He is a proper horse on this ground, which is a problem because we don’t get it very often.
“Ground that is tacky and very hard work, he loves that – it feels like good ground on him. You don’t always get that ground but, when you do, he is a good horse.”