Delighted jockey Tom Cannon described Edwardstone (10-11 Favourite) as “the horse of a lifetime” after he continued his burgeoning chasing career by picking up a fourth straight success with an impressive victory in the Grade Two Virgin Bet Kingmaker Novices’ Chase (2m) at Warwick today.
The eight year old has won on each of his completed starts over fences to date, including a 16-length romp in the Grade One Close Brothers Henry VIII Novices’ Chase at Sandown Park in December. However, he looked to have plenty on his plate here up against a smart pair of rivals in Third Time Lucki (2-1) and the improving Brave Seasca (9-2).
Edwardstone perhaps had something to prove here under slightly faster conditions than he had been running in of late but there was rarely a moment of worry for Alan King’s charge, who picked up the running down the back straight and continued to pour on the pressure for a four and a quarter length success.
Bookmakers reacted by shortening Edwardstone into 2-1 favouritism for next month’s Grade One Sporting Life Arkle Novices’ Chase at The Festival™ and Cannon could not hide his delight at the performance.
He said: “He was very good and he loved that ground, it was the quickest he’s been on for a while and we went an even gallop. He probably could have done with going slightly quicker but his jumping was electric and he saw it out nicely. The way he jumped the last was fantastic and it was good to be on board anyways!
“He probably felt a slightly quicker horse today but this is a quicker track on quicker ground. He’s always had an engine and I’ve said all along that everything he’s done for his whole career has been leading up to this season.
“He’s always looked a chaser and I’ve always hoped he’d improve and it’s testament to Kingy and everyone that deals with him on a daily basis that he’s performing the way he is today. There is no fluke about it and it’s nice that it’s come to fruition.
“It’s always better when the horses are talking for you and I like it that way! He’s a good horse and Cheltenham is the aim but there’s a lot of time between now and then so hopefully he gets there in one piece.
“He’s the best horse I’ve sat on. He’s the horse of a lifetime and the things he’s done for me this year is amazing, winning two Grade Two races and a Grade One. It’s hard enough to win a 0-100 never mind those races!”
Speaking from Newbury, Alan King told ITV Racing: “He looked good to me. It was strong gallop and he settled and jumped away lovely. I couldn’t have asked for any more really.
“He is a progressive horse. It has taken a year or two to make. He used to be very free over hurdles but I think those big handicaps taught him a lot last season. Fences have just manned him up this year and he is now getting towards the finished article.”
Third Time Lucki was a solid second for Dan Skelton, who hinted after the race that his charge may now head straight to Aintree. He said: “I was very happy with our horse, he travelled and jumped beautifully and did nothing wrong really. There was a small percentage chance having run two weeks’ ago that it would take out a little bit, but only a little.
“I went to Doncaster because we were guaranteed the ground and if I was guaranteed it today I would have come straight here and we would have been a little bit closer perhaps – but I’m not taking anything away from the winner and I think he’s a very strong contender for an Arkle. I know that my horse didn’t necessarily underperform and if he did it was only pennies and not pounds.
“I think we will keep him in the Arkle but I think the reality is he will go to Aintree because I’ve always thought that in a minute it’s going to rain and rain and rain and when it does I don’t think it’s going to stop. If that’s as close as we’re getting to Edwardstone on that ground, it will be accentuated on that ground. I’m happy with our horse though and there’s no excuses.”
There is a record amount of £170,000 in prize money on offer on this afternoon’s seven-race card, which includes plenty of intriguing contests. One of those was the Listed Virgin Bet Warwick Mares' Hurdle (2m 5f), which was won in good style by the Nicky Henderson-trained Marie’s Rock (6-4 Joint Favourite).
The seven year old was luckless in last month’s Coral Lanzarote Hurdle at Kempton Park but she showed plenty of class to pull clear in the closing stages here to score by three lengths and her connections admitted after the race that they were keen on a tilt at next month’s Grade One Close Brothers Mares’ Hurdle at Cheltenham.
Tom Palin, National Hunt Manager for owner Middleham Park Racing, said: “In a Lanzarote where you’re riding a horse for luck you need exactly that and it went against us, both market principals were wiped out within the first two flights or so but we felt we had a good chance going into that race.
“We’ve always rated this mare but she’s been a little stop starty over the last couple of years. Her novice days were very good and we’ve always held her in very high regard, so we’ve been hoping she would be able to progress into the mid-140s ratings wise and into Grade Two level races.
“She is in the Mares’ Hurdle and we will probably put her in the Coral Cup too. We’ll have to talk to the syndicate and the boss too, but I’d say she’s probably likely to turn up in the Mares’ as she’s earned her right. It’s an open race and we think she’s a good mare, so two miles and five furlongs at Cheltenham could be just what she’s after. It’s the race we’ve kind of been working back from all year so we’ll see.”
Winning jockey Aidan Coleman added: “She was desperately unlucky at Kempton for something like that to go wrong so early, though it was probably a positive it happened when it did because Nico (de Boinville) looked after her afterwards and I got the rewards from it. This was a lovely opportunity for her and we didn’t go very quick. We switched off lovely and we saw it out really well so it was a pretty straightforward success.
“Initially, when the race developed from three out to two out, she was the most responsive when we gave them all a nudge and she saw it out really well after that. She showed a good change of gears and she showed the stamina as well so she’s a very versatile and talented mare.
“I don’t see why she can’t go for the Mares’ Hurdle, there’s loads of options for her at Cheltenham and she deserves her place in any of those fields wherever they may be – and I am very fortunate to have had the ride on her this afternoon.”