With the second day of the two-day meeting surviving an early track inspection, a big crowd headed to the West Yorkshire track to see if Paul Nicholls’ 10-11 favourite could complete back-to-back wins in the Grade Two contest.
But like other famous names on the recent roll of honour including Cue Card, Cyrname, Definitly Red, Menorah and Silviniaco Conti, the King George VI winner and Cheltenham Gold Cup runner-up failed to do the double.
Only four horses went to post, with fellow former Gold Cup runner Ahoy Senor (3-1) – who finished last of five 12 months ago – this time failing to finish under Derek Fox.
He made the early running before his jumping slowed him and Bravemansgame took it up, with the eventual winner also handily placed under Darragh O’Keeffe – who was making his Wetherby debut.
The Nicholls horse still looked set to land the odds and £57,000 prize at the second last, but with Gentlemansgame (7-2) not going away a mistake at the last cost last year’s winner as the grey took over to claim a one-and-three-quarter length success.
A delighted Morris, enjoying his first win on these shores since Rule the World won the 2016 Grand National, said: “I’m very happy with that, he jumped super. He was a bit fiddly at one or two, but that was to be expected on his third run over fences.
“He was taking on a seasoned, Gold Cup horse (Bravemansgame). We came here because I was limited as to where I could go. The owners had their other horse going to Down Royal (Gerri Colombe) and it would be stupid to take each other on.”
Champion trainer Nicholls insisted the setback would not impact Bravemansgame’s plans for the season, saying: “I was pleased with him, he just got a bit tired on the ground and the other horse had obviously had a run.
“He’s not been away, he’s not had a gallop anywhere. He’s done exactly as he did last year, he’ll take a step forward and the King George will be a different ballgame.”
The VirginBet November Handicap will now be run at Newcastle next Saturday after Doncaster’s final Flat meeting of the year was switched to the all-weather track.
Town Moor is currently unraceable due to waterlogging and, with no significant chance of improvement, approval has been given to transfer the card to the North-East venue.
Arena Racing Company’s Mark Spincer said: “The VirginBet November Handicap is a really popular fixture at the end of the turf season in Britain. It is a huge shame to lose the fixture at Doncaster, but there is simply no chance that the track will be in a position to be fit for racing in time.”
Last year’s Doncaster Futurity Trophy winner, Auguste Rodin, won Longines Breeders’ Cup Turf for trainer Aidan O’Brien and jockey Ryan Moore.