Robinsfirth swoops to land National trial
Last Updated: 16/02/19 4:50pm
Robinsfirth swooped in the dying strides to win the William Hill Grand National Trial at Haydock.
Sean Bowen delivered the Colin Tizzard-trained winner with a perfectly-timed challenge to deny Ramses De Teillee and Chef D'Oeuvre in a thrilling finish to the extended three-and-half-mile heat.
Bowen had been content to bide his time through the early stages as Bishops Road built up an early lead - but when the race began in earnest, it looked as though the grey Ramses De Teillee was going to take the Grade Three honours.
He was in front jumping the last. But Robinsfirth and eventual third Chef D'Oeuvre were motoring in behind, with Bowen switching the winner to challenge in the middle and go on to win by three-quarters of a length, and a further length and a quarter back to the third.
Robinsfirth is not entered in the Grand National, but could now head to next month's Cheltenham Festival.
Assistant trainer Joe Tizzard said: "He's always had bags of ability, but he's very fragile. That's like his Gold Cup.
"Sean gave him a super ride. He got mugged here last time, but he timed it right today.
"His owners have had to be patient, but they've been rewarded today. They weren't interested in Aintree, though.
"Were he to run in the Scottish National he'd need it to rain, but it's almost four weeks to Cheltenham, he could run in the Ultima.
"Today has been his aim all season, though, so it's brilliant.
"(Stablemate) Royal Vacation probably travelled better than anything but just flattened out (in fourth), I'd imagine it will be Aintree for him."
David Pipe, trainer of Ramses De Teillee, is unsure if the Grand National will be the target for his charge this term.
He added: "He's run another career-best, handled the better ground but just got beat.
"Whether he goes to Aintree this year or next year, we'll just have to see."
Midnight strikes in Rendlesham
Shades Of Midnight demonstrated his staying credentials with a wide-margin victory in the William Hill Rendlesham Hurdle.
Runner-up to leading Stayers' Hurdle hope Paisley Park last November, Sandy Thomson's charge was sent off an 11-2 chance in this extended three-mile heat, which also featured the return of dual Grade One winner Yanworth (11-8 favourite).
Henry Brooke always had Shades Of Midnight to the fore - and as Yanworth came under pressure turning for home, it became a duel between the winner and Kilcooley, who was returning from 1,066 days off the track.
Shades Of Midnight was far too strong, though, pushing on down the straight to eventually come home eight lengths clear of Petticoat Tails - who grabbed minor honours as Kilcooley dropped away in the dying strides.
Thomson said: "Brian (Hughes) always said Paisley Park must have been very good to fly past this lad as he did in November.
"We then ran him over fences at Kelso, but he was nowhere near right. I was in the same situation once with Seeyouatmidnight, who won a race without being ready and it fooled me into thinking he was and we took him straight to Cheltenham.
"I learned from that and brought him here today.
"He tries so hard. He's always been tough, but we used to ride him from behind and now we go from the front with him, which he seems much happier doing.
"He was in the Eider next week but that was never really under consideration, it was just in case of an accident - you can't be too careful as the last week has shown.
"Fortunately this lad missed his flu jab in August/September otherwise he wouldn't have been able to run. We then had him done in January and the vet put the wrong date on, he put January 31, 2018 instead of 2019 so when we got here today we had to ring the vet. It's been a crazy fortnight.
"He could go to Aintree for the three-mile hurdle if it's soft enough or the Scottish National, but it must be soft for him to run over fences as he doesn't jump quick enough in the good races."
Yanworth was pulled up before the last by Aidan Coleman, with the stewards reporting that nothing was found to be amiss immediately after the race.
Jester Jet ended a frustrating run of seconds with a hard-fought success in the rearranged olbg.com Mares' Hurdle.
Saved from Warwick's abandoned meeting last weekend, the Listed contest attracted a small but competitive field.
Tom Lacey's Jester Jet was sent off at 4-1, having finished second in all her five races this season, and halfway up the straight she looked booked for the same spot again as If You Say Run attempted to make most of the running.
Tom Scudamore timed his run to perfection, though, and she prevailed by a head.
"I wouldn't say it's a relief, because she's lost nothing in defeat most of the time," said Lacey.
"It's just easy for the media to say she's got seconditis - but she's a pleasure to train, and you couldn't question her attitude.
"I think she's just as good over fences, but there was no suitable race, so we'll just mix and match. She's in the Coral Cup, so we'll give that due consideration."
Quel Destin cemented his claims for the Triumph Hurdle with an all-the-way success in the William Hill Victor Ludorum Juvenile Hurdle.
Paul Nicholls' youngster has been making hay this season, and was sent off the 4-6 favourite to register a fifth success since joining from France.
Sean Bowen set only steady fractions before kicking at the top of the home straight - which sent him clear - but he sprinted away from the last to win by six lengths, and is now around 8-1 for the Cheltenham event.
Nicholls, speaking from Ascot, said: "That is probably one of his best performances, because he has sharpened up. He liked that better ground, and he won despite the ground at Chepstow the other day.
"I've left plenty to work on, and he will improve. He just gets better with every run. He is a leading player in the Triumph.
"That is where he will go now, and he won't run before that. He is tough and keeps galloping, and the one thing at Cheltenham is he will be hard to pass."