Eclair Surf overcomes blunder to win Warwick Racecourse's £100,000 feature at Agetur Classic Chase Day
ECLAIR Surf, running in the colours of Dominic Burke and Tim Syder and ridden by Tom Bellamy, took the feature £100,000 Grade 3 Agetur UK Ltd Classic Handicap Chase, highlight of Warwick's televised card on Saturday, writes David Hucker.
Last year's winner Notachance and runner-up Achille occupied the last two places of the seven finishers as there was a new order up front with Eclair Surf, who was always up with the pace, overcoming a blunder at the 14th fence to forge clear from well-backed 7-2 favourite Gericault Roque, who could make no impression in the home straight.
Run over a trip of three miles and five furlongs, the race is a recognised stepping stone for the Randox Grand National, but winning trainer Emma Lavelle is not harbouring thoughts of this year's race, saying afterwards she was not convinced that, at this stage of his career, it was the right option for Eclair Surf.
"He has loads of abilty, but is not straightforard and does all his work on his own," said Lavelle. "He stays and there are some nice long-distance races to aim for."
Favourite backers got off to the best possible start when Punctuation, having his first run for trainer Fergal O'Brien, came to join pacesetter Greatest Star at the penultimate flight and run right away with the opening Start Your Racing TV Free Trial Now Novices' Handicap Hurdle.
The field had been reduced at the start when Numbers Man, who had been reluctant to leave the paddock, wouldn't line up and, close to home, Sainte Doctor ran on to deprive Greatest Star of second spot.
The Class 2 Alder Demain & Akers PMS Oxford Edward Courage Cup Handicap Chase is run annually in memory of one of racing’s most successful owner/trainers who sent out a host of winners from his base at Edgcote near Banbury.
Brave Seasca, who was chasing a hat-trick, and Not Available cut out the running tracked by last year's winner Sky Pirate, who was giving 20lbs and upwards to his rivals.
Brave Seasca led into the home straight with Sky Pirate close up but, in the end, weight told and he ran out a comfortable winner, with the runner-up going down honourably in defeat to a progressive rival who was landing a hat-trick.
Threeunderthrufive became the third winning favourite of the afternoon when notching his fourth win from five chasing starts, dominating from start to finish in the Grade 2 Wigley Group Hampton Novices’ Chase.
In doing so, he set himself up for a £25,000 bonus from the sponsors should he go on to win one of the three novice chases at the Cheltenham Festival and Paddy Power shortened him from 8-1 to 6-1 to take the National Hunt Chase in two months time.
Trainer Archie Watson is better known for his successes on the flat, but he has a useful hurdler on his hands in the shape of Stag Horn, who made it two wins from two runs when landing the Grade 2 Ballymore Leamington Novices’ Hurdle.
The race has been won in previous years by The New One and Willoughby Court, who both went on to score at the Cheltenham Festival itself, and time will tell if Stag Horn, five times a winner on the flat before going hurdling, is in the same league.
Irish horses dominated the entries for the Pertemps Network Handicap Hurdle, in which the first six home qualify for the final at the Cheltenham Festival, but it was a British-trained runner that prevailed as Sporting John, in the hands of Aidan Coleman, triumphed for owner J P McManus and Philip Hobbs, following which Paddy Power halved his odds for the final from 16-1 to 8-1.
The 2020 final winner Sire Du Berlais, also owned by McManus, finished fourth and, with Riggs, who was sent off the 85-40 favourite, having been pulled up by Harry Skelton, all of the six finishers qualified for this year's contest.
Lambourn trainer Nicky Henderson had an afternoon to remember as his Luccia, ridden by conditional jockey Ben Ffrench-Davis, took the closing Racing TV Free For A Month "Newcomers" National Hunt Flat Race to add to the four winners he sent out at Kempton Park.