A thrilled Emma Lavelle described Warwick’s richest race of the season – the £100,000 Grade Three Agetur UK Ltd Classic Chase (3m 5f) - as a “special race”, after Eclair Surf (11-1) provided her with a second victory in the staying contest courtesy of an emphatic all-the-way success.
Sitting on the front end from the beginning under Tom Bellamy, the eight year old had several under the pump from an early stage and really started to turn the screw when going down the back straight for a second time.
The son of Califet rounded the bend for home with an ever-increasing lead and found gamely to seal a decisive 13-length victory – Lavelle’s second in the race after Shotgun Paddy in 2014.
The Grade Three contest is traditionally seen as a good pointer for the Randox Grand National at Aintree, though Lavelle revealed after the race that she would take her time with the gelding who doesn’t always convince with his jumping.
She said: “First and foremost I have to say a massive thank you to Barry (Fenton, her partner and assistant), who rides him every day at home. He is not straightforward and is a horse who does all of his work on his own, he tends to be keen and Barry has done an amazing job to get him here in the shape he has.
“He’s a horse that has got loads of ability and can jump brilliantly but he just has this thing of throwing in one shocker on the way round and he did it today as well. I knew that Tom wanted to get a good start and get into a good rhythm but the horse was just so fresh and well that he was tanking along. None of us expected him to be quite as clear at that point but he got a chance to fill him up and then finish so it was brilliant.
“He does things his way and that’s him and I think Tom rides him expecting the unexpected and I’m so touched that they’ve got such a great partnership going. Tom is a massive team player, which is great for us and for the rest of the gang at home. He comes in twice a week and when he’s riding he’s thinking about the next time they’re going to run and the time after that, so it’s going well.
“It’s a special race and they’re proper races these, they’re not easy to win and it’s brilliant for the owners and brilliant for all the guys back at home.
“What was exciting today was he can go that gallop and stay, so I think staying trips are definitely up his street. I’m not convinced at this point he’s a National horse, I’m not saying he won’t be down the line, but he couldn’t afford to make one of those errors and get away with it at Aintree. I’m not ruling it out completely but I’d say it’s one for down the line – we could look at the Scottish National as we might get softer ground this time around. Provided the handicapper doesn’t do anything too drastic there are some nice races to aim at.”
Winning jockey Tom Bellamy added: “I’m absolutely chuffed to get this big winner. This horse has always sort of threatened to do it and the Welsh National was the plan but he was going to be out of the weights so we swerved that. He was then meant to go to Cheltenham on New Year’s Day but was lame that morning – there wasn’t today’s amount of prize money on offer so everything happens for a reason.
“I am really enjoying riding for Emma and Barry. It is a joint venture between them and Barry is brilliant with the riding side and has helped me a lot. Emma is very straightforward to deal with and it helps riding nice horses obviously. Long may the success continue.
“In these races everybody tends to line up in the front line and get a good start and I said beforehand we’ll do that for the first couple of fences and see where we’re at. Sometimes you’re seventh and sometimes you land in-front and that’s just the way it happened today. We got a few lengths on them and I was able to dictate from then on so I’m glad we did that.”
Gericault Roque (7-2 Favourite) was second for the David Pipe team and his trainer commented: “He’s run a cracking race there. It was only 17 days after his last run, so we’re really pleased. I’m not sure about what’s next, he’s had two quick runs now so we won’t see him for a while. We could look at the National for him one year, but it won’t be this year.”
Meanwhile, the Lucinda Russell-trained Corach Rambler (11-2) was back in fourth and her partner and assistant trainer Peter Scudamore said: “I thought he’s run very well, obviously we’re disappointed not to win but realistically we’ve run great. He’s a novice and once you get to this level the handicapper dictates where you are – but we can dream to get to Aintree one day with him.
“He wants to hit the front late and for a novice he jumped fantastically. He’ll probably go to Cheltenham for the Ultima and the bet365 at Sandown could be a thought if the ground was right for him as the timing of the Scottish National might not work out this year.