In-form Williams continues to blaze a trail
Venetia Williams continued her merry romp through 2022 when adding a further double to her tally at Ludlow this afternoon. Fresh from her first Grade I success since 2002 with L’Homme Presse at Sandown in the Scilly Isles Novices Chase, she was unlucky not to drive home with a treble in the bag after her third runner lost out by a head in the feature chase.
After a lucrative Saturday that saw over ┬ú100k added to her prize money haul for the season through L’Homme Presse and Green Book, the bright lights of Ludlow shone on Galop de Chasse in the 2m Novices Handicap Chase, in which jockey of the moment, Charlie Deutsch, didn’t need to break sweat to bring home a comfortable 2 1/2l winner.
Lucy Turner enthused yet another French-bred from King’s Capel, Chambard, into a terrific late run in the Attwood Memorial Trophy Handicap Chase. In another stride, she would have overcome long time leader Isolate from Alan King’s, but the post came just soon enough to deny the on-fire trainer a treble. King, who has branched out into the Flat, has plenty to look forward to over this weekend, and fields his strongest prospective Festival team for a while, headed by Edwardstone, who needs to burnish his Cheltenham credentials in the Kingmaker Chase at Warwick this Saturday.
The second leg of the Williams double came then in the Suzuki ATV Mares Handicap Hurdle, when Bellatrixsa made most of the running to win by 2 1/4l from Kissesforkate, receiving weight all round. In so doing Harry Bannister added a 33rd winner of the season. Williams will be praying this form extends to March; she is not to be underestimated in those hot Festival handicaps, but the ┬ú1m prize money mark looks well in reach.
Another trainer who likes to peak in March is one Nicky Henderson, who opened the card with yet another promising youngster in the Racing To School Juvenile Fillies Hurdle in Ile de Jersey. Formerly with Patrice Quinton and a winner of a conditions hurdle in France, she has evidently adapted well to the British winter, winning on debut.
Every trainer and virtually every news column now refers to Cheltenham after each run, plenty with long faces in the seemingly impossible task of upsetting the Irish invasion. However, one race we did win in 2021 may well have an additional British-trained challenger in Pont Aven, who ran out a 16l winner of the Chase Meredith Hunters Chase that concluded the card. Winner of a Higham Open just over 3 weeks ago, he was untroubled to win here, even if wandering a little in the closing stages. One or more of the three Foxhunters surely beckons for this Tim Gredley-owned nine year old, starting next month.
David Bridgwater averred his appetite for the serried ranks of winners produced by Martin Pipe when he was a rider, and his style as a niche operator has continued as a trainer. Not for him a yard with 80 horses. You can always rely on him producing one or two during the season, but the trainer was clearly among those surprised to see 25/1 shot Fortunedefortunata prevail in the National Hunt Novices Hurdle. All the money had come for Dan Skelton’s runner, who faded to a distant 16 1/2l sixth.
Cothelstone maiden winner Lassue came good in the Maiden Hurdle to start Fergal O’Brien’s pursuit of his second century of winners this season. Along with Venetia Williams, he is another British trainer nudging the ┬ú1m mark, and rarely was it more deserved.