Edwardstone won the 2022 renewal of the Grade One Sporting Life Arkle Novices’ Chase, scoring impressively by four and a quarter lengths from 25-1 chance Gabynako.
It is a 16th Festival success for trainer Alan King and his first since 2015. It is King’s third success in the championship two-mile novices’ chase following Voy Por Ustedes (2006) and My Way De Solzen (2007).
It is a first Festival victory for jockey Tom Cannon.
Returned at 5-2, Edwardstone becomes the 23rd favourite in 75 runnings of the race to prevail.
Winning trainer Alan King said:
“There was plenty going on around him. We missed the carnage at the third. I was only half watching at the time, but I thought we could have easily been brought down there. Maybe luck was on our side but he has done it really well and Tom has given him a cracking ride.
“I’m just relieved. I’m not high at the minute that will be later as I’m just relieved. I’m thrilled for the horse and connections as they are wonderful. I don’t think Voy Por Ustedes came here under raced and neither did My Way De Solzen. It has been reasonably spaced out.
“He had a break after Kempton and Warwick is what we wanted. It is great to see Tom win as well. He is riding out of his skin at the moment. He had a double yesterday and he is a great lad and I’m lucky to have him. I’ve been training 22 years and he is only my third stable jockey. I was very spoiled with Choc (Robert Thornton) and Wayne (Hutchinson) and now we have got Tom. It means a lot to me.
“We didn’t start racing Edwardstone until he was five he was just two or three years in the making. I always thought he was very good but I couldn’t win a bumper with him. If you look at the bumper at Warwick he ran in he took on two superstars. He used to over race a bit as a novice. He has got better and better.
“Those big handicap hurdles just made him last year as has a fence. He has always had the potential, but these good horses don’t happen overnight. It has been a team effort. The staff at home do a great job with and Tom does a great job with him. He was running very well in those big handicaps last year but we used to have to put him out the back but he was still finishing fourth or fifth making up 20 lengths. Now over a fence we can ride him just off the pace and that is lot easier. People have doubted his jumping but I’ve not had to many worries about it. It is relief, but it hasn’t really sunk in yet but it will later.
Thank God it was the second race on the first day and I’m not waiting forever. I don’t know about Aintree we will enjoy today first.”
Successful jockey Tom Cannon said:
“Early on we went enough of a gallop. Charlie Deutsch’s horse [Brave Seasca] fell and that hampered me for a little while. I was right in front of him when he fell - it could have gone either way; luckily, I found a leg and whichever way Charlie and the horse rolled, I managed to avoid him. I had to take a pull round the bend, jumped the cross-fence well and then after that, when we went down the straight again, Paul Townend [on Blue Lord] pulled out a bit wider because he was a bit keen and it opened up again, so it was fine.
“We didn’t go a mad gallop, it was an even gallop, which didn’t surprise me because everyone is riding the race to suit themselves and it would be fairly brain-dead to go a mad gallop. I followed Riviere D’Etel down the hill and then I jumped three out well. I didn’t want to commit him too early and, luckily, he does have that finishing kick, so it panned out well. He helped me out at the last - I didn’t see a thing at the last [a stride] but, luckily, he did!
“He’s learnt as he’s gone all year. He learnt from Sandown, and as long as I have the bit up in his mouth he will get in [close] and be very clever, but he wouldn’t have done that early season. It’s all credit to Alan [King] - he didn’t do as much over hurdles as he could have done, but then we wouldn’t have had a horse this year to go to war with. They’re not machines, they only have a certain amount of miles in them, and it’s all credit to Alan. I just steer them round! It’s easy.
“He wasn’t straightforward to begin with, but I think the fences have made him the horse he is. He’s a straightforward ride now and his jumping was impeccable today. He was A1 today and didn’t miss a beat.
“There’s a lot to look forward to and it’s a big wheel that keeps on turning. We might not have had the horses for the past couple of years but they will come again soon. For me it feels great - it feels like it’s been a long time coming, but it doesn’t matter how well you are doing in this game, it always feels like you are treading water, so I will enjoy the moment today and hopefully build on it and see what else we can do.”
Caroline Schofield, the groom responsible for Edwardstone, said:
She said: “That was amazing, and he did it so easy - bless him. He is the horse of a lifetime.
“I knew he had won it when he took it up as he stays all day. My only anxious moment was when that horse fell in front of him and I thought Oh God not again.
“This is way better than Harambe winning the Greatwood as this is a Cheltenham Festival winner. Harambe was lovely and the Greatwood was amazing, but it wasn’t really expected. There was pressure today and he was favourite. We were hoping he was going to win it not just run well. I was more nervous than him!
“There was only one anxious moment in the race but it all went perfectly to plan really. I don’t know how I will celebrate it. I will just come down to earth but one of the first things I will do is collect my winnings.”
Gavin Cromwell, trainer of runner-up Gabynako, said:
“We’re delighted with that, supplementing him was a bit of a gamble and we weren’t sure about the two miles. On the whole, he jumped well and we knew he’d stay well as long as he was in his comfort zone through the race so we’re thrilled with the run.
“Supplementing him was a risk just I suppose in the fact that he’d never run over the trip before and you’d hate for it to be the wrong decision in a race like that.”
Keith Donoghue, rider of runner-up Gabynako, said:
“He went well there and the drop back in trip definitely suited him. He jumped brilliant and we are delighted with second – we ran into a very good horse. Supplementing him worked out well for us in the end.”
Willie Mullins, trainer of the third Blue Lord, said:
“Blue Lord ran well. He had every chance but looked like another horse who might want to go up in trip. He jumped well but Paul said he had to use his jumping throughout the race to keep up with the pace they were setting.
“Softer ground would probably have helped him at the trip, but we are happy with him and have no excuses. Haut En Couleurs was running a great race and coming down the hill it looked like he might get involved, but he cut out, which was disappointing. Sean O’Keefe was unlucky on Saint Sam as he got jumped out of the saddle when there was that faller at the second last.”
Paul Townend, the jockey aboard third-placed Blue Lord, said:
“Everything went well. He probably just wasn’t good enough on the day.”