Article by John Lees and Graham Dench, originally featured in Racing Post on December 9th 2012
Emma Lavelle had gone 30 days without a jumps winner and endured four seconds from her last 11 runners, so relished the winning return of classy mare Kentford Grey Lady, who defied top weight and a 270-day absence to take the 2m4f Russell Bowes Memorial Mares’ Handicap Hurdle.
Waited with until taking up the running between the last two flights, she was left with a decisive advantage when Justazippy crashed out at the last and crossed the line two and a quarter lengths clear of One Lucky Lady, who held Tempest River in a photo for third.
Lavelle was planning to go chasing with the winner this season, but is now resigned to another clash with the formidable Quevega, who beat Kentford Grey Lady into second in the OLBG Hurdle – better known as the David Nicholson – at Cheltenham last season.
“She has taken so long to get fit we have probably run out of time for fences, so we’ll stick to hurdles,” she said. “It would be nice if it came up soft at Cheltenham because that plays to her strengths.”
Robin rises again
Nico de Boinville, regular partner of Sprinter Sacre at home, didn’t ride the superstar in the Tingle Creek but still got on the scoresheet at Sandown when guiding stablemate Petit Robin to victory in the 2m½f handicap hurdle.
The nine-year-old gained his second successive victory when defeating Into Wain to continue a remarkable recovery from fracturing a shoulder in last year’s Victor Chandler Chase at Ascot, an injury that nearly claimed his life.
“Nine times out of ten a shoulder fracture is curtains,” said his trainer Nicky Henderson. “Simon Knapp and the local Ascot vets screwed him back together and a year later he was still lame.
“It was very long odds against getting him back on the track and I think he will have to go back over fences now.”
Hoof set to go up in grade
The Nicky Henderson stable opened the card with a second straightforward win for Golden Hoof in the colours of golfing pals Chubby Chandler and Lee Westwood but the four-year-old’s best days will come over fences, according to the trainer.
Henderson said: “He has to go up in grade and I think he’ll have one more run in this part of the campaign and then we’ll put him away for something in the spring.
“We’re going to look after him this year and I wouldn’t want to get too ambitious with him over hurdles.”
‘Gentle giant’ returns in style
Araldur returned to the scene of his career highlight to win the 2m6f handicap hurdle on his first run back from injury, Wayne Hutchinson bringing him from well off the pace to collar Kasbadali close home in a driving finish.
He was owner David Sewell’s second winner of the week, following Midnight Appeal at Hereford on Wednesday, and trainer Alan King’s second of the afternoon, following L’Unique at Aintree.
King said: “I’m delighted. It’s four years to the day since he won the Henry VIII here as a four-year-old. He’s a gentle giant and a great favourite in the yard, but I didn’t think I had him fit as he’s one of a group of four who have had problems, so have been trained differently with lots of steady work.”
Trevor Hemmings collected another National when Lively Baron won a duel from the last with Major Malarkey to take the 3m5½f Sportingbet London National.
Winning jockey Richard Johnson said: “He’s a typical Trevor Hemmings horse, a nice staying chaser and only seven, so he’ll hopefully keep improving.”