Ladbrokes Winter Festival at Newbury: Paisley Park returns in triumph - defeating Thistlecrack in Friday feature race
.A huge weight of expectation was lifted off the shoulders of Ogbourne Maizey trainer Emma Lavelle after the champion staying hurdler Paisley Park made a winning return to action in the £50,000 Ladbrokes Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury on Friday (November 29)
The public favourite stretched his unbeaten run to six with a stirring victory in the Grade 2 prize, achieved only after a sustained dual with former champion Thistlecrack in the feature race of day one of the Ladbrokes Winter Carnival.
The pair joined each other in battle from the last hurdle, from where long-time pacesetter The Worlds End began to tire, and it was Paisley Park, who was conceding 6lb to the 2015 winner, who edged to take the prize by a length.
Paisley Park’s blind owner Andrew Gemmell said: “It was his first race of the season so I was quite worried. Luckily things went okay.”
Paisley Park had already been to Newbury twice before to prepare for the race with a succession of racecourse gallops, exercises which proved pivotal in his winning comeback.
Trainer Emma Lavelle was very relieved: “It’s great to be in a position to have this kind of pressure, but it did feel like quite a lot so I am so thrilled for everybody."
“To train a horse like this is a massive privilege as well as a responsibility. I don’t want to get him beaten for everybody so - to do it the way he did with improvement still there is really exciting. Now it’s going to be more nail-biting until Ascot.”
She added: “He has only just been getting ready for today. They went a right old gallop and actually he has won well in the end. He is amazing."
“The first day he came here he was an absolute lunatic in the paddock and I think his head was a bit fried from everything last year. It was a great thing to come to the racecvourse and not be racing to get used to the experience again. Today he was so much calmer. He was back to being the professional.”
While Paisley Park, 2-1 favourite with Ladbrokes for the Stayers’ Hurdle, will head to the Long Walk Hurdle next month, Thistlecrack will revert to fences for his December target in the Ladbrokes King George VI Chase at Kempton.
“I couldn’t be more pleased, he will improve massively for that run,” said trainer Colin Tizzard. “The plan is to go to Kempton next.”
Performance of a Champ
Champ kept his unbeaten record over fences intact, but only after surviving a couple of mishaps including nearly running off the course in the climax to the Ladbrokes ‘Where The Nation Plays’ Novices’ Chase.
The highly regarded novice, named after Sir Anthony McCoy, was almost down at the third fence when hampered by the loose Dashel Drasher and looked beaten when approaching the last fence only third.
But he rallied gamely for Barry Geraghty, hit the front on the run-in only to head in the direction of the water jump until the jockey snatched up the reins and steered him to the right of the elbow and onto the correct path to hold off Black Op by a length and three quarters.
“He leaned to his left on the run-in,” said Geraghty. “I thought he was coming round [the rail], and then we’re not. He did well. Otherwise he was good most of the way. He gave a good nod at the third and took a chance at the third last.”
Champ was cut to 3-1 favourite, from 4-1, by Ladbrokes for the RSA Chase after his win over 2m4f. Trainer Nicky Henderson said: “Champ wanted to jump the water and go round again because he can’t believe I’ve only run him over this trip. I am quite keen to keep him under the three mile radar for now. The plan was to come here so he can do to Cheltenham on New Year’s Day for the Dipper over two miles five.”
Wood you believe it?
Harry Skelton produced the ride of the day to get Oldgrangewood up on the line and deny Kalashnikov in the £50,000 Get Your Ladbrokes £1 Free Bet Today Handicap Chase.
Oldgrangewood had five lengths to make up on Kalashnikov at the last fence but he rallied determinedly to snatch victory by a nose with Glen Forsa back in third.
Winning trainer Dan Skelton, the jockey’s brother, said: “I am obviously very biased but you won’t see a finer ride."
“Jumping the cross fence I knew Harry was thinking if there was any chance of doing anything it would be late on, because they had gone hard in front. Kalashnikov was giving us tons of weight but it was still a super performance.”
Son shines for Henderson
Son Of Camas, winner of a bumper at the first Newbury jumps meeting of the season, made a winning debut over hurdles at the second in the Ladbrokes ‘Where The Nation Plays’ Maiden Hurdle.
Past winners of the race include Betfair Chase winner Lostintranslation two years ago and in 2015 two-time Champion Hurdle winner Buveur D’Air, from the same stable as Son Of Camas.
Trainer Nicky Henderson said: “He was very professional. I gave him a run in bumper so he can learn about racing and so it’s worked out very well. We are talking about going for the Tolworth Hurdle which would be something to think about.”
Fanion D’Estruval, a name to remember
Fanion D’Estruval, a new recruit to the Venetia Williams stable from France, made an exciting British debut when he captured the Ladbrokes Novices Handicap Chase for the Fulke Walwyn Trophy with aplomb.
The performance was sufficiently impressive to earn the four-year-old a 20-1 quote for the Arkle Trophy from Ladbrokes.
Owner David Wilson, an interpreter who lives in France, was just thrilled to win at Newbury: “It was always a dream for me to have a racehorse. I realised it by purchasing Fanion. This is my first race as his owner. This is enormous for me. It’s something I thought would be impossible."
Above average Severano
Sevarano, who ran several promising races in defeat last season, has kicked off the new campaign in style registering his second win in the Ladbrokes Daily Odds Boosts Novices’ Hurdle for owner Tim Syder and trainer Oliver Sherwood.
“We found out he had some deep-seated ulcers which were affecting him last year and we had to treat those,” said Sherwood. “The longer trip has helped him. He is an above average novice.”
Team Denman reunite for official opening of Denman Gates
The team behind the success of Denman were reunited at Newbury on Friday when the Denman Gates, a permanent tribute to the only horse since Arkle to win two runnings of the Hennessy Gold Cup, were officially opened.
Paul Barber, Harry Findlay, Paul Nicholls, Ruby Walsh and Sam Thomas performed the ceremony on the opening day of the Ladbrokes Winter Carnival, ten years after Denman clinched the second of his victories in the historic race, now known as the Ladbrokes Trophy.
The iron gates were designed and made in collaboration by equine sculptor Charlie Langton and celebrated local blacksmith Guy Clarkson.
Barber, who owned the horse known as ‘The Tank’ with the late Margaret Findlay, mother of Harry, said: “I think they are fabulous. Everyone will come in here years after I’ve gone and still know who Denman was.”
Findlay said: “I live in Devon now so when I come up to London on the train I see them as we pass through. Newbury was the first racecourse I visited as a kid. The whole Denman story was unbelievable. I am sure these gates will be here for a long time.”
Denman won the Hennessy Gold Cup in 2007 and 2009, both times under top weight and on the second occasion having undergone treatment for a heart condition. He also won the Cheltenham Gold Cup in 2008 defeating great rival Kauto Star.
Nicholls said: “These gates are a fitting tribute to Denman and they are permanent. Everyone has some great memories of Denman so anything that remembers him is fantastic.”