Conditional jockey Archie Bellamy sparked wild celebrations after being left “speechless” at securing his first Cheltenham winner aboard Lively Citizen who went one better than 12 months ago in the Catesby Handicap Hurdle.
The DJ Jeffreys-trained six year old built on a solid comeback run at Sandown Park last month when holding all his rivals at bay in the 2m 1f contest to open his account for the season.
Turning for home Lively Citizen looked a sitting duck for strong travelling favourite Broomfield Burg. However, the 6-1 chance was not to be denied in the race for a second year running and pulled out plenty late on to score by half a length.
Bellamy, who is the younger brother of fellow jockey Tom Bellamy, said: “I’ve not had the easiest of times and these days are unbelievable.
“I’m absolutely speechless as I’m so grateful for the owner and trainer for putting me up. These days come few and far between.
“It is unbelievable and absolutely brilliant. I knew he had a chance that’s why I did 9st 7lbs on him.
“I saw Nicky’s (Henderson) horse come upside me and I thought I was beat but I know my horse is genuine and he always finds that bit extra when a horse comes to him. It was good to get the job done today.”
As for winning trainer Jeffreys it was a case of mission complete having hatched a plan to target the race months ago.
He said: “I came up with this plan a long time ago and for them to back me with a horse that was 113 coming into a 0-140 was ambitious, but they allowed me the time to do it. I’m appreciative of it.
“He is a burly horse which is suggestive of his character as he is one of life’s great givers but this was the plan.
“One of the things we pride ourselves on is knowing where we are with our horses. I was a bit worried we didn’t get the rain we were promised.”
Lucinda Russell saw her decision to take in a trip to Cheltenham opposed to going to Doncaster with Corach Rambler vindicated in the Tiggy’s Trust Novices’ Limited Handicap Chase.
After appearing to benefit for the step up to 3m 1f at Aintree last time out the progressive seven year old followed up that success over a similar trip to make it two wins from three starts over fences.
Despite drifting right after the last fence the 2-1 favourite showed an abundance of stamina to hold off the rallying Eva’s Oskar by two lengths.
Russell said: “When he made a mistake at the first you remember he is still a novice. This is a lovely horse and he has just kept on improving.
“The owners had to decide whether to come here or Doncaster but we said ‘let’s go to Cheltenham as it is a bit more fun’ and it certainly is. He stays forever.
“He made a mistake at the last through a little bit of inexperience. He is such a laidback horse but he pricked his ears in front.
“Derek (Fox) was worried he had got there too soon and you could see there was nothing he could do. He is a horse that will keep on improving and he will go four miles but I don’t know where we go next.”
Looking ahead to future targets the Grand National winning trainer believes the Scottish Grand National at Ayr could be a suitable aim.
She added: “He is still a novice but maybe we could look at the Scottish National this season. We are well known for our staying chasers and this is another one.”
Meanwhile Nigel Twiston-Davies believes Vienna Court is more than capable of making her mark back at Listed level after making the most of a drop in class with an impressive success 11 length success in the CF Roberts Electrical & Mechanical Services Mares’ Handicap Chase.
Twiston-Davies said of the 12-1 winner: “We hoped this is what she had. We had been punting her quite highly to get some black type which she has as she has been placed in some good races.
“We dropped her in class and she has proved us right. It was very pleasing. These mares races are a great thing for the girls.
“I think her confidence looked great today and soft ground helped. Sam (Twiston-Davies) was worried about her stamina but she had plenty today.
“She has got a bit of catching up with Zambella - but she might get three miles whereas Zambella might not.”
Asked if the plan was now to try and win a Listed race, he added: “That’s it now, as she has been placed in them.”