Un De Sceaux sweeps to imperious treble in the Clarence House Chase

Un De Sceaux gallops at Sandown Park
Image reproduced with the kind permission of Sandown Park Racecourse

Paul Townend deployed patient tactics on Un De Sceux, but his dominance at the finish was unquestionable as the gelding swept to a brilliant third successive win in the Grade One Royal Salute Whisky Clarence House Chase at Ascot.

Five horses went to post for this important two mile contest, with the hat-trick seeking Un De Sceaux looking the class act beforehand.

Speredek went into the lead from the start, with Paul Townend content to gift him a six length advantage on Un De Sceaux.

With a circuit to run, Speredek was 8 lengths clear of Un De Sceaux, the novice Brain Power, Kylemore Lough and San Benedetto.

Speredek extended his lead to 12 lengths, but belted the open ditch down the back, while Un De Sceaux was still patiently ridden, 10 lengths off the pace.

Speredek and Sean Bowen took the fifth last with an 8 length lead, with Un De Sceaux still ambling along.

The pace finally told on the home turn, as Un De Sceaux effortlessly closed and passed Speredek before the second last, with Brain Power trying hard to keep tabs on the Irish runner.

Un De Sceaux leapt well two out, but Brain Power fell heavily, while Speredek was now on the back foot.

That left Un De Sceaux clear and whilst Speredek stuck resolutely to his guns, he was absolutely no match for this outstanding chaser, who eased to his third successive victory in the Clarence House Chase.

Kylemore Lough, never in contention, finished third, with San Benedetto last of the four finishers.

The Willie Mullins trained 10-year old Un De Sceaux won by 7 lengths and will look a formidable contender for either the Queen Mother Champion Chase or Ryanair Chase, which he won last year.

Townend said: “I rode my horse to suit him and the further we went, the more confident I was getting.

“It was hard work, but it was job done today.

“It’s great to get the opportunity to ride these horses. I spoke to Ruby (Walsh) this morning. He’s always helpful when he’s on the sidelines and I’m grateful to Willie and all the owners.

“He has a massive heart.”

La Bague Au Roi crushes her Ascot rivals

La Bague Au Roi demolished her rivals with a commanding performance in testing conditions, as she readily won the Grade Two OLGB.com Mares’ Hurdle at Ascot.

Just five mares went to post for this contest over just under three miles.

Midnight Tune went into the lead and was perhaps four lengths clear at the first from Hitherjacques Lady and La Bague Au Roi.

As the rain continued to fall at a gloomy Ascot, Midnight Tune continued to bowl along and entered the home straight well clear of La Bague Au Roi, while Sainte Ladylime made an error at the back.

With a circuit to race, Midnight Tune held a two length lead from La Bague Au Roi who moved to the outside and was much quicker over the first down the back, momentarily heading her rival, while Hitherjacques Lady was close-up along with Graceful Legend.

Midnight Tune dropped away four from home and La Bague Au Roi went on, while Hitherjacques Lady pulled up.
The Warren Greatrex mare soon pulled clear of her toiling opponents.

La Bague Au Roi and Noel Fehily eased over the two flights in the home straight with an unassailable lead and was eased down to record a wide-margin victory from Sainte Ladylime, with Graceful Legend third.

Fehily said: “She was brilliant the whole way. I’d never sat on her before and I spoke to Richard Johnson and my job was pretty easy.

“Aidan (Coleman) went a nice a gallop but I was hoping he’d take me further than he did. She jumps well so I let her get on with it. She’s a real galloper. She’s a good mare.”


Jenkins continues his improvement with two wins in a week

Nicky Henderson appears to have found the key to Jenkins, who promised so much and is finally starting to deliver now.

The six year old defied a big weight by making it two wins in a week as he landed the Grade Three Ascot Spring Garden Show Holloway’s Handicap Hurdle at Ascot.

Thirteen lined-up for this two mile, 3 furlong contest over ten hurdles in murky conditions.

At flag fall it was the Nicky Henderson pair of Jenkins and Burbank who were prominent with the grey Caid du Lin and the darker grey Night Of Sin.

Heading down the home straight for the first time, it was Night Of Sin who went on from Caid du Lin, with Jenkins, a winner a week earlier, in third.

With a circuit to run, Caid du Lin went back on, but the front trio were in close order, a length ahead of Jabulani and Oxwich Bay.

Down the back straight, Oxwich Bay took a crunching fall but was thankfully soon up.

Meanwhile, Caid du Lin and Jenkins vied for the lead from Burbank.

Jenkins went on and travelled powerfully beginning the turn for home, with Burbank and Air Horse One the challengers.

Two out this trio were nearly in a line and clear of Man Of Plenty.

Jenkins edged into the lead at the last, with Air Horse One still a danger, but a good leap at the last saw James Bowen just have to push his mount out to hold off the persistent Air Horse One, with Burbank third and Man Of Plenty fourth.

First Flow well on top at Haydock

First Flow, in the Harry Topper silks, looked another exciting talent as he slammed his rivals in the Grade Two Sky Bet Supreme Trial Rossington Main Novices’ Hurdle at Haydock.

A field of six lined-up, with Waterlord soon to the fore from Lostintranslation and First Flow.

With a circuit to run, Waterlord continued in front with First Flow moving second, then came Lostintranslation and Lisdoonvarna Lad, Mcgowan’s Pass and Midnight Shadow.

At the halfway point, First Flow joined Waterlord up front and the pair moved a couple of lengths clear at the fourth from home.

First Flow and David Bass moved on from there and turned into the home straight a couple of lengths ahead of Waterlord, who rallied as they approached the third last.

However, First Flow jumped and travelled much the better and extended his advantage heading to the last.

He was untidy, but the Kim Bailey trained First Flow kept on relentlessly to win with ease, with Midnight Shadow staying on for second, ahead of Lisdoonvarna Lad.

The six year old was completing a hat-trick of wins over hurdles.


Tenacious The New One makes it four wins in the Champion Hurdle Trial

The New One
Image supplied by Tattersalls Ireland

The New One, involved in so many wars throughout his illustrious career, showed that at ten, he remains a determined horse to be reckoned with, as he tenaciously fought back to beat Ch’Tibello for a fourth success in the Grade Two Unibet Champion Hurdle Trial Hurdle at Haydock.

Four runners contested this two-mile race, with the ever-popular The New One bidding to win it for the fourth time.

The New One went immediately into the lead and was a length in front of Unison as he turned out with a circuit to run, with Ch’Tibello next and then Clyne.

The four runners were in close proximity at the fourth last, where The New One jumped out to his right.

He turned for home with Ch’Tibello in his slip stream heading to the third last, with Clyne and Unison under pressure.

Two out, The New One led with Ch’Tibello held together to deliver his challenge at the final flight.

The pair jumped the last together, with Ch’Tibello heading the long-time leader in a thrilling battle.

However, The New One, 19 times a previous winner, was made of sterner stuff and gamely answered Sam Twiston-Davies’ calls to fight his way back in front at the line, for that fourth victory in this contest.

The Dutchman lands gruelling Peter Marsh Chase

The Dutchman looked a future Grand National contender as his stamina saw off all challengers in an exhausting renewal of the Peter Marsh Handicap Chase at Haydock.

Thirteen lined-up for another stamina test in heavy ground.

The Dutchman, Yala Enki and Hainan took the field along on the first circuit, with Captain Redbeard just behind these.

Entering the home straight with just over a circuit to go, The Dutchman just edged Yala Enki.

With a circuit to go, The Dutchman and Yala Enki travelled well and moved two lengths clear of Hainain, with Captain Redbeard and Walk In The Mill next, while Highland Lodge and Rock The Kasbah had not enjoyed the conditions and were pulled up, soon followed by Carole’s Destrier.

Up front, Yala Enki headed The Dutchman, with Tintern Theatre moving ominously well and this trio turning for home with a two length lead.

Three out, The Dutchman went on again from Yala Enkii, while in behind, Captain Redbeard took third from the staying on Fine Rightly.

The Dutchman made an error two from home but did not lose momentum, taking the last four lengths clear of Captain Redbeard, as Yala Enki tired.

On the flat, Harry Cobden kept the Colin Tizzard trained eight year old going and he powered away from Captain Redbeard, who had nothing more to give in second and only just held off Hainan.

Yala Enki finished fourth, ahead of Fine Rightly, who looked potent in the straight but whose stamina ran out.
He was the last finisher as only five got home.


Trainer Richard Woollacott passes away aged just 40

Trainer Richard Woollacott has passed away aged 40.

Based at South Molton in Devon, Woollacott hit the headlines in December when Beer Goggles claimed victory in the Grade Two Ladbrokes Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury in the hands of champion jockey Richard Johnson.

A spokesman for Richard Woollacott Racing said in a statement to Press Association Sport: “It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of Richard. May we ask that you respect the family’s privacy at this most difficult time.”

Champion jockey Richard Johnson led the tributes to trainer Richard Woollacott following the shock news of his death.

Johnson paid tribute to Woollacott’s work ethic and likeable personality.

He said: “It’s a massive shock to everyone. I was very lucky to have a couple of nice winners for him, but apart from that I knew him from his point-to-point days. I’ve known him a long time.

“He worked very hard and always did the job very well. He was a lovely fella to have around. He was always good fun and always had a smile on his face.

“It’s very sad and our thoughts are with his young family. He didn’t have many hurdlers, but he had two very nice ones.

“I think everyone is in shock. Hopefully everyone will give his family time to cope with it.”

A spokesman for Richard Woollacott Racing announced Woollacott’s death in a statement issued to Press Association Sport.

The statement read: “It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of Richard this morning.

“May we ask that you respect the family’s privacy at this most difficult time.”

Devon and Cornwall Police also issued a statement which read: “Police were notified at around 10.30 yesterday (Monday) to reports of a concern of welfare for a man at a property in Rose Ash, South Molton.

“A man in his 40s was discovered deceased at the scene.

“His death is not believed to be suspicious and a file has been prepared for the coroner.”

Woollacott began training point-to-point horses in 2005, saddling over 130 winners, and he was also a keen rider in that sphere, claiming over 100 victories.

He was crowned champion point-to-point rider in Britain in 2010, as well as taking the regional title for Devon and Cornwall on multiple occasions.

Woollacott then switched his attention to training under Rules, taking out his licence in June 2012 before saddling 16 winners in the 2012-13 campaign.

He sent out 24 winners in the following three seasons, but enjoyed a breakthrough moment at last year’s Grand National meeting at Aintree as Lalor landed a 33-1 success in the Grade Two bumper in a campaign that yielded 13 winners.

The current season also started well for Woollacott, with Beer Goggles’ Long Distance Hurdle success propelling him up the ante-post market for the Stayers’ Hurdle at Cheltenham.

British Horseracing Authority chief executive Nick Rust pledged full support to the Woollacott yard.

He said in a statement: “We are all devastated to hear the news about Richard Woollacott. It is simply tragic to lose someone so young, and who had so much to offer both the racing world and, more importantly, his young family.

“We are in contact with Richard’s family and are doing all we can to support them and assist with on-going arrangements with his yard.

“Most importantly, though, our thoughts and condolences are with his family, friends and indeed all the horses who Richard cared for in his all-too-short time as a trainer, and who will no doubt miss him greatly.”

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Got Away lands Listed spoils for Oliver Sherwood at Leicester

Got Away created a minor surprise as she lifted the Listed Charnwood Forest Mares’ Chase at Leicester.

Oliver Sherwood’s runner was in receipt of weight from Antartica De Thaix and Lastbutnotleast.

The two principles disputed the early lead but Lastbutnotleast was being pushed along from a long way out and quickly dropped away, leaving Antartica De Thaix in front, with Got Away travelling much the better.

Leighton Aspell seized the initiative with four to jump and Got Away found plenty on the run to the line, coming home four and a half lengths clear.

Sherwood said: “It was a soft fall at Newbury (last time), something and nothing. Typical of a French horse coming over here mid-season.

“We weren’t sure if she’d get the trip on that ground. I’m still learning about the horse, but job done.

“She had good form in France. These are famous colours worn by Amadeus Wolf.

“I’d be interested to see her on better ground and I certainly won’t be going further than this at the moment. I might look for a mares’ chase over two and a half miles.

“I don’t know, (it’s) job done. She’s won a Listed race in England.”


Peter Casey trainer of Flemenstar passes away

Andrew Lynch has paid tribute to trainer Peter Casey following his death at the age of 82.

The County Meath handler shot to prominence in 2012 when Flemenstar, partnered by Lynch, won both the Irish Arkle at Leopardstown and the Powers Gold Cup at Fairyhouse’s Easter meeting.

While the rider hailed those Grade One victories, he also recalled how Casey enjoyed winning at every level.

He said: “We had some great times with Flemenstar at Leopardstown and Fairyhouse.

“We had some unbelievable days together, not just with Flemenstar, but there were one or two others as well.

“I remember riding a hurdles winner for him, just a moderate race, and he wasn’t there that day, but he rang me up and was over the moon, even though it was just an ordinary race. He was one of the good ones.

“He was a great character and a very good man. He was an easy trainer to ride for and a very good trainer as well.”
Flemenstar won the Irish Arkle in 2012, with Casey became something of an internet sensation following his subsequent interview with RTE presenter Tracy Piggott, which featured some colourful language regarding his celebration plans and went viral.

Flemenstar went on to win the John Durkan Chase at Punchestown in December 2012 but owner Stephen Curran decided to send his star to Tony Martin for the 2013-14 season and he ended his career in the care of the owner’s son, Anthony.

Casey also counted 2010 Troytown Chase winner Jack The Bus among his notable performers, while he also bred Scottish Grand National winner Hello Bud.

He is survived by his wife June, to whom he was married for over 55 years, and their children Francis, Peter, Oliver and Alison.

Former jockey turned bloodstock agent Tom Malone was among those to offer their condolences on Twitter.

He said: “Hearing the sad news about Peter Casey, gave me my first ever ride at 17 in a charity race in Fairyhouse, lovely man, thoughts with his family.”

Fellow trainer Damien English added: “Very sad to hear that Peter (Boss) Casey has passed away RIP. He gave me my first job in racing and I’ll never forget the education him and his family gave me.”

Rider Ben Curtis said: ” Rest in peace Peter. A genuine guy who I had the pleasure to ride for. He could always be counted on to make you laugh! Thoughts with all his family and friends.

Fairyhouse racecourse tweeted: “Condolences to family and friends of Peter Casey who sadly passed away overnight. A brilliant character, Peter trained Flemenstar to win the Grade One Gold Cup at Fairyhouse in 2012. He will be sadly missed. RIP.”


Cheltenham hero Taquin Du Seuil killed at Huntingdon

Taquin Du Seuil
Image supplied by The Jockey Club

Cheltenham Festival hero Taquin Du Seuil was fatally injured when falling over hurdles at Huntingdon.

It is almost three years since Jonjo O’Neill’s charge claimed the JLT Novices’ Chase at Prestbury Park. He returned to Cheltenham to win the 2016 BetVictor Gold Cup and came close to a second Festival success last March when filling the runner-up spot in the Coral Cup behind Supasundae.

He has been campaigned exclusively over hurdles this season, finishing third in the Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury and last of eight runners in the Long Walk at Ascot, before dropping in class for the Pertemps Network Group Handicap Hurdle.

Ridden by Aidan Coleman, the 11-year-old was still in contention when coming to grief three flights from the finish and course officials confirmed subsequently confirmed he had died.


Monbeg Notorious lifts Thyestes Chase

Monbeg Notorious after his Thyestes Chase win
Image supplied by Tattersalls Ireland

Monbeg Notorious provided Gordon Elliott with his first victory in the Goffs Thyestes Chase at Gowran Park.

The Cullentra handler has been the dominant force in staying handicap chases in Ireland in recent years, but this €100,000 contest had previously eluded him.

He saddled no less than six runners in this year’s renewal with Monbeg Notorious partnered by Jack Kennedy.

Visored for the first time after winning a beginners’ chase at Punchestown on New Year’s Eve, the Gigginstown House Stud-owned seven-year-old made steady progress to track Fine Theatre into the home straight and took over jumping the third fence from the finish.

Monbeg Notorious soon drew clear and safely negotiated the remaining obstacles to seal an impressive 11-length success.

The result further increases Elliott’s already significant lead over Willie Mullins in the race to be crowned this season’s champion National Hunt trainer.

Elliott was only narrowly denied a one-two, with Noel Meade’s Wounded Warrior beating the winner’s stablemate Space Cadet to the runner-up spot by a head.


Definitly Red puts down Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup marker in the Cotswold Chase

Definitly Red wins the Cotswold Chase
Image supplied by The Jockey Club

A fascinating renewal of the £100,000 Grade 2 BetBright Trial Cotswold Chase, the centrepiece of the terrific seven-race card at Cheltenham on Festival Trials Day, saw success for Definitly Red, owned by Phil Martin and James Keegan, trained by Brian Ellison in North Yorkshire and ridden by Danny Cook.

The improving nine-year-old chaser will now go straight to the Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup on the fourth and final day of The Festival, Friday, March 16.

He won in good style by eight lengths from American (Harry Fry/Noel Fehily), who does not have a Cheltenham Gold Cup entry but might be supplemented if the ground stays soft according to trainer Harry Fry.

Bristol De Mai (Nigel Twiston-Davies/Daryl Jacob) came home third, two and a quarter lengths further back, disappointing connections, who will now enter him in the Grand National, which closes on Tuesday. He might miss the Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup.

Brian Ellison commented: “It has been ages since I had a winner here – Latalomne was the last one in 2001- but you have to have a good horse to come here and Definitly Red is probably the best that I have ever trained. It’s a good place to have a winner!

“Danny (Cook) gets on great with the horse and gave him a great ride – he is probably one of the best jockeys riding around.

“He had to use his head down the back, when he was sitting upsides American, who was jumping that bit better than us. Danny sat off him by two lengths and, when he had given Definitly Red a kick in the belly, he has gone.

“There was plenty of pace on and they never let up in this ground. He shows that he stays well and it’s the Gold Cup now. He doesn’t need this ground, he has won on good ground, and he just doesn’t like it tacky because he is such a good-moving horse.

“He has got better every year and the plan this season was to keep him fresh. Today was the day when we decided whether to go for the Gold Cup, so we will go there now.”
Apple’s Shakira on top again

Apple’s Shakira (Nicky Henderson/Barry Geraghty) maintained her unbeaten record, consolidating her position for the JCB Triumph Hurdle on the final day of The Festival, March 16.

The four-year-old, a winner on her hurdles’ debut in France, has now enjoyed three impressive victories in Britain, all at Cheltenham.

The filly travelled strongly throughout the race, racing a bit keenly initially as Barry Geraghty held her up as fourth of the six runners.

Northern challenger Look My Way (John Quinn/Tom Scudamore), who took up the running before three out, made a race of it when kicked for home coming down the hill.

He established a clear lead, but then Apple’s Shikara gave chase and closed approaching the last hurdle.

Apple’s Shikira led half-way up the run-in and went away to score by eight lengths from Look My Way, with another 13 lengths back to the third Ulysses (Barry Brennan/Harry Cobden).


Santini battles to victory

The Grade 2 Ballymore Classic Novices’ Hurdle over extended two and a half miles went to Santini (Nicky Henderson/Jeremiah McGrath), who got up in the closing stages to beat Black Op (Tom George/Tom Scudamore) three quarters of a length, with 29 lengths back to the third Aye Aye Charlie (Fergal O’Brien/Paddy Brennan).

Nicky Henderson, after gaining a double on the day, reported: “We took Santini out of Ascot last weekend because we thought that the ground was too soft.

“I said to Richard (Kelvin-Hughes – joint owner) at lunchtime today that it will be softer than Ascot but where do you go? It’s going to be the same next week and the week after, and the horses are ready to run.

“He is a lovely big horse but only a big baby and is going to be a lovely chaser. The Albert Bartlett closes next week and he will get an entry, but I think that we are all leaning against it at the moment. I think that he wants another year and to come back as a chaser.”

Agrapart lifts Cleeve Hurdle for Kelly

Agrapart and Lizzie Kelly 
Image reproduced with the kind permission of Newbury Racecourse

Agrapart was a gallant winner of the Grade 2 galliardhomes.com Cleeve Hurdle at Cheltenham.

He reversed the placings with Wholestone who has not finished out of the first three in seven starts at Cheltenham and won four.

The winning margin was three lengths as Agrapart relished the step-up to three miles and went away from his rival after they were together at the last.

Nick Williams said “Agrapart is very much a ground dependent horse. We hoped to run him in the Reve De Sivola race at Ascot (just before Christmas), but the ground wasn’t soft enough.

“It was similar to the Wholestone battle he had in the Relkeel Hurdle on New Year’s Day. They keep running against each other and keep having tough battles. Cheltenham suits him but, more importantly, it was the ground today.

“We didn’t make an entry for the Stayers’ Hurdle because there is a 90 per cent probability that the ground won’t be soft enough. Even soft ground isn’t soft enough, so he is quite a hard horse to place.

“The ground is quite quick in the spring in France as well and the Grand Prix d’Automne  was always a target for him last autumn, but we had quick ground in Paris, so that went all wrong.”

Naas hosts some smart performers

The dawning of a new era off the track at Naas was complimented with some brilliant racing on the track on Sunday as champion trainer Willie Mullins record a treble and Noel Meade landed the Woodlands Park 100 Club Novice Chase with smart performer Moulin A Vent.

Moulin A Vent, winner of the Woodlands Park 100 Club Novice Steeplechase
Image supplied by Naas Racecourse

Moulin A Vent is a possible Cheltenham Festival candidate now after staying on extremely well in the Grade 3 contest to get the better of Grade 2 winner Jury Duty by four and a half lengths despite the fact that winner wasn’t fluent at all his fences.

“There is no doubt he has a lot of ability,” Meade said afterwards. “There’s certainly a big engine in there but he doesn’t know how to jump fences yet and hopefully some day he’ll get his jumping right. His owner is keen that he goes to Cheltenham and you would think that the National Hunt Chase would be the obvious race for him over there.”

Sandsend, (pictured left) on the way to winning the Limestone Lad Hurdle from Forge Meadow
Image supplied by Naas Racecourse

The Cheltenham Festival could also be on the agenda for each of Willie Mullins’ three winners on the card with Sandsend claiming the Grade 3 Limestone Lad Hurdle following a fascinating tussle with the talented Forge Meadow.

On just his second start in Ireland, Sandsend toughed it with Grade 2 winner Forge Meadow and got the verdict by a neck under in form jockey Paul Townend, who himself enjoyed a treble on the afternoon.

Sayo justified some heavy market support to win the opening maiden hurdle in good style, while the treble was completed by Ballyward who earned plenty of praise from his trainer.

Mullins said; “I think that was a hell of a race and I’d be tempted to bring him to Cheltenham for either the Ballymore or the Albert Bartlett after that sort of performance. The first two horses pulled well clear and I think he’s a fair sort who can only improve.”

Wakanda a poignant winner of the Sky Bet Chase

There were emotional scenes in the Doncaster winner’s enclosure after Wakanda claimed a last-gasp success in a thrilling renewal of the Sky Bet Chase.

The Sue Smith-trained nine-year-old sports the colours of Margaret Scholey and her late husband Ray, who died earlier in the week.

It is 14 years since Truckers Tavern carried the same silks to runner-up spot in the Cheltenham Gold Cup behind Best Mate and while Wakanda might not be at that level, he has been a fine servant to his connections and ended a long losing streak dating back over two years in the hands of Henry Brooke.

Runner-up in the Rowland Meyrick Chase at Wetherby on Boxing Day, he looked booked for minor honours again jumping the final fence, but lunged late to get up and beat Warriors Tale by a head, with 13-8 favourite L’Ami Serge and the long-absent Long House Hall close up in third and fourth respectively.

Harvey Smith, assistant to his wife, said: “It’s a fitting tribute to Ray. He’s been a great supporter of National Hunt racing in north and we could do with a few more people like him.”

Asked whether he felt Wakanda could be a Grand National contender, he said: “I don’t think so. He’s not big enough.”

Brooke said: “He’s getting a bit lairy in his old age and he was backing off his fences.

“After jumping the last I knew I’d finish well but I didn’t know if I’d get there. Thankfully he got up in the dying strides.

“That’s the first time the horse has won in over two years so it definitely won’t do him any harm.

“His owner passed away earlier this week, so it’s sad circumstances. It’s a shame he couldn’t be here to see this but I’m sure he’s looking down on us.”


Sceau Royal sets up Arkle bid with Doncaster victory

Sceau Royal completed his Cheltenham Festival preparations with a comprehensive success in the Napoleons Casino & Restaurant Owlerton Sheffield Lightning Novices’ Chase at Doncaster.

Alan King’s six-year-old had won three of his previous four starts over fences, most recently claiming Grade One glory in the Henry VIII Novices’ Chase at Sandown in early December.

Despite having to concede weight to each of his three rivals back at Grade Two level, he was given a thorough examination by the front-running and bold-jumping Shantou Rock.

The latter remained in the lead jumping two fences from home, but Sceau Royal wore him down on the run to the last and went on to score by two lengths.

King said: “I’m pleased and relieved. It was a good test for him as they went a very good gallop and I’m just pleased it’s out of the way.

“This was the logical place to come. We had to get a run in as it’s long time between December and March. We gave him a break after Sandown and we’ve left a bit to work on, so I’m happy.

“Fingers crossed he’ll go straight to Cheltenham now.”

Retirement beckoning for Vroum Vroum Mag

Vroum Vroum Mag
Image reproduced with the kind permission of Sandown Park Racecourse

Leading owner Rich Ricci is leaning towards retiring his brilliant racemare Vroum Vroum Mag.

The Willie Mullins-trained nine-year-old has won 14 of her 21 starts under rules, enjoying top-level triumphs in the Mares’ Hurdle at Cheltenham, the Punchestown Champion Hurdle and the Christmas Hurdle at Leopardstown in 2016.

However, she as not been seen in competitive action since finishing outside the first three for the first time when bidding for a second Punchestown Champion Hurdle success last April and Ricci does not want to jeopardise her future career as a broodmare.

He said: ” She is still in training. She got hurt last year at Punchestown and she has been off for a while.

“She is nine and we keep talking about whether we should run her or put her in foal and retire her. I’m in two minds and we will probably just keep her on the go and see what happens.

“If the Mares’ Hurdle was to shake up and a few fell away we might consider it, but at the moment I’m leaning towards retiring her.

“She’s been very good for us. She is a very well-bred National Hunt mare and she will make a very good broodmare.

“I’ve not spoken to the vet about it, but I want to make sure that anything we do won’t jeopardise that side of her career. We will make a decision in the next four to six weeks.”


Renowned trainer Malcolm Jefferson passes away

Malcolm Jefferson

Cheltenham Festival-winning trainer Malcolm Jefferson has died aged 71 following a long illness.

His daughter Ruth confirmed the news of his death on Friday morning, with the licence now switched to her name and her first runners set to be at Wetherby on Saturday.

“He died this morning, we’re all very sad,” she said.

“We’d been in the process of swapping the licence and that has all gone through now.”

Jefferson started training on his own in 1981 and enjoyed Cheltenham Festival success with Tindari in the Pertemps Hurdle Final in 1994.

A year later he saddled the top class Dato Star to win the Champion Bumper. He went on to land the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton and Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle.

In 2012 Jefferson landed a Cheltenham Festival double with Cape Tribulation and Attaglance, both of whom followed up at the Grand National meeting at Aintree.

According To Pete was another stable star many will remember.

Jefferson died with his wife and four children at his side.