Zambella storms to victory in the feature Wigley Group Lady Godiva Mares' Novices' Chase at Warwick Racecourse
FAVOURITE Zambella, owned by Simon Munir and Isaac Souede, jumped and galloped her rivals into submission to land the Wigley Group Lady Godiva Mares’ Novices’ Chase, feature of Warwick’s seven race card last Thursday, writes David Hucker.
Twice a winner over hurdles in France, Zambella had failed to add to her record in four starts since joining the Nigel Twiston-Davies stable last season, but made a winning debut over fences at Bangor-on-Dee and followed up here in some style.
She wasn’t foot-perfect at the last two fences down the back straight but, otherwise, put in a good round of jumping and readily saw off the challenge of second-favourite Midnightreferendum to earn a quote of 20-1 from the sponsors for the Mrs Paddy Power Mares’ Chase at the Cheltenham Festival.
There was a good finish to the opening Wigley Group Merry Christmas Juvenile Maiden Hurdle with Hamilton Dici, making his British debut for trainer Jane Williams, just holding the persistent challenge of Ambassador.
The two had been at the front from the start and, having seen off the disappointing favourite Hope You Do, who dropped away tamely from the penultimate flight, were simply too good for the rest, with Hamilton Dici getting the verdict by a head in the hands of Chester Williams.
Champion trainer Nicky Henderson was hoping to celebrate his 70th birthday with a winner and saddled two runners in the Wigley Group Support Our SMES Maiden Hurdle, with stable jockey Nico de Boinville on odds-on favourite Patroclus.
Always well-placed, Patroclus came to challenge leader Conceal as the runners straightened up for the second-last flight but, in behind, 14-1 shot Jay Bee Why was clearly going best of all and Tom Bellamy eased him to the front going to the final jump to come right away for an impressive victory.
“I couldn’t really believe it turning in,” said the winning jockey. “When I pushed the button, he really picked up well and I was pleased with him.”
Dan and Harry Skelton rarely leave Warwick without a winner and, having just failed to take the opener with Ambassador, they were bang on target with market leader King D’argent, who made every yard of the running to take the Wigley Building & Development Novices’ Handicap Chase.
Top-weight Belargus was best of the rest, although no match for the winner who jumped well on his chasing debut and should build on this success.
Despite four non-runners, there was still a big field of 16 runners for the Wigley Group Thank You Key Workers Handicap Hurdle over two miles and five furlongs, with Market Rasen chase scorer Somekindofstar hitting the front at the end of the back straight and looking the likely winner.
But, after being joined by Butler’s Brief on the home turn, he quickly back-peddled and it was Samtara who came to mount a challenge on the run-in, with the horses separated by the width of the track.
Despite hanging to his left, Butler’s Brief prevailed in the photo finish to bring up trainer Alastair Ralph’s fifth winner of the season.
Longest race of the afternoon was the Wigley Support Fund Handicap Chase over three miles in which the veteran Goodnight Charlie, a regular visitor to the course, carried top weight.
Sent straight to the front by Jack Andrews, she had Kilpin for company early on, but soon established a clear advantage, leading the field out on the final circuit.
She gave way to fellow grey Volcano at the fourth-last fence and the Ludlow winner ran on well with Ben Jones to hold off Kilpin and make it ten wins for the season for Brecon trainer Sheila Lewis.
There was another big line-up for the closing Wigley Group Daimler Powerhouse Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race and it was newcomer Might I who, despite wandering a little in the final furlong, prevailed under Lorcan Murtagh to give trainer Harry Fry a double on the afternoon after the earlier success of Boothill at Taunton.