Lavelle hoping to taste yet more Newbury success with Eclair Surf in the Betway Challow Hurdle
Emma Lavelle will try to end a memorable 2019 at Newbury with yet more big race glory when she bids to land the track’s final feature race of the year, the Grade 1 Betway Challow Hurdle, with Eclair Surf (Saturday, 28 December 2019).
Last month at Newbury the trainer followed a successful comeback win for champion staying hurdler Paisley Park in the Ladbrokes Long Distance Hurdle with a first triumph in the historic Ladbrokes Trophy with De Rasher Counter.
Eclair Surf, owned by Newbury Racecourse Chairman Dominic Burke and staunch stable supporter Tim Syder, is a new recruit to the yard this season. He made a promising start to hurdling with a comfortable victory at Exeter last month.
He faces a much sterner challenge when he is stepped into Grade 1 company for a race that has drawn five runners, headed by Thyme Hill, one of the leading contenders for the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival.
Lavelle said: “We are kind of liking Newbury at the moment. The Chairman owns half of him, but at no point did I feel undue pressure from his connections to go to Newbury. I think they are excited that we are."
“Eclair Surf is a lovely, big chaser of the future, but he has done nothing wrong so far. He has come on a lot for his win at Exeter. He will love the soft ground. He’s had a great preparation and we will find out whether he is good enough."
“Newbury should suit him as a track because he is a real galloper. For a big horse he is very quick from A to B over a hurdle. He could have gone for another novice hurdle with 16 runners and a penalty but there are only five here and I think it’s the right call to run him.”
Thyme Hill has a pair of Grade 2 victories to his name having landed the Persian War Novices’ Hurdle at Chepstow and Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham as a result of which he is 12-1 second favourite with Betway for the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham in March.
Nicky Henderson, who saddled Champ to win the prize 12 months ago, is represented by The Cashel Man, winner of a handicap hurdle at Newbury last month. Champion Trainer Paul Nicholls will bid for his first win in the race since Denman in the 2005-6 season with Sandown Grade 2 winner Enrilo. The field is completed by the Harry Whittington-trained Stick With Bill.
The seven race card concludes with the Betway Novices’ Handicap Chase in which Lavelle will be represented by Down The Highway, a winning novice hurdler who has yet to shine over fences.
Lavelle said: “It’s just gone wrong for him in his last two runs. He didn’t run too bad at Stratford. He hit the last and that cost him third in a race in which Black Op bolted up."
"At Chepstow he didn’t get home over that distance on that ground. He also pulled off a shoe and stood on the nails so was pretty lame when he came off the track. You will see a different horse this time.”
Newbury Racecourse - Saturday, 28 December 2019 - Gates open: 10.00am. First race: 12.05pm.