Eclair Surf (11/1) wins Classic Chase from the front under Tom Bellamy, beating favourite Gericault Roque at Warwick; trainer Emma Lavelle unlikely to aim at Grand National this year but Scottish National could be on the cards
Saturday 15 January 2022 17:03, UK
Eclair Surf put in an admirable staying performance to run his rivals into the ground in the Agetur UK Ltd Classic Handicap Chase at Warwick.
The eight-year-old was given a bold, front-running ride by Tom Bellamy, as trainer Emma Lavelle claimed a second success in this stamina test over three miles and five furlongs after Shotgun Paddy in 2014.
Eclair Surf (11/1) jumped well, making only one mistake at the 22 fences, and never looked like stopping.
Watch every race of the Winter Million from Lingfield live on Sky Sports Racing, January 21-23
Chirico Vallis kept him company, but Eclair Surf pulled away before the home turn to score by 13 lengths.
Gericault Roque, the 7/2 favourite, could not got close enough to challenge and was nearly caught for second place by a rallying Chirico Vallis (33/1). Corach Rambler, the top-weight, went past beaten horses to claim fourth spot.
Lavelle said: "He was meant to go to Cheltenham on New Year's Day and I was absolutely gutted when he came in from the field lame and couldn't go.
"Luckily we didn't have to wait too long for this race. We know he can gallop, but jumping has always been an issue.
"In truth he's a good jumper but is always capable of belting one. It keeps Tom on his toes, that's for sure.
"With that in mind I don't think he's a National horse, certainly not this year, but he might be one for the Scottish National. He needs a bit of cut and that race is earlier this year.
"We won this with Shotgun Paddy and that was our first really big handicap win and Barry (Fenton, partner) got quite emotional. He's done a lot of work with this lad, too, so it will mean a lot.
"He's a tricky horse so it's a big 'thank you' to Barry really. His ability has never been in doubt, he just has his thing of throwing in a shocker. I knew Tom wanted to be handy today and that was a good idea."
It is the first feature race Lavelle and Bellamy have won since teaming up, and the trainer was full of praise for her jockey.
"Tom is a massive team player which is great for us and when he's riding, yes he's thinking about the day, but he's also thinking about the next day and the next day," said Lavelle.
"It's working really well and going the right way."
Never miss a story with all the latest racing news, interviews and features on your phone. Find out more
For Bellamy it was a noteworthy success.
"This means a lot, it's certainly the biggest win we've had together, a £100,000 handicap," he said.
"I wanted to be positive and see where we ended up. At one point he nearly ran away with me, which wasn't ideal over this trip, but he does stay well.
"I'm sure he just likes to throw a dodgy leap in to keep me on my toes, but apart from one today he jumped great. It was a pleasure."
Former classy Flat performer Stag Horn remained unbeaten over hurdles with a game front-running performance in the Ballymore Leamington Novices' Hurdle.
By the Derby winner Golden Horn, he was last seen on the Flat winning at Pontefract under Hollie Doyle, taking his mark on the level to 103.
Sent over hurdles by Archie Watson, an unusual move for the Lambourn handler, he showed promise in his winning debut at Hereford under Gavin Sheehan.
Up markedly in class for Grade Two which both The New One and Willougby Court used as a stepping stone to Cheltenham success, he was sent off at 100/30 in what looked a competitive field with no standout contender.
Nick Scholfield was on board this time and was not going to let anyone settle, constantly upping the pace on the tight track, and for a horse having just his second outing over timber his jumping was a big asset.
Not surprisingly he began to get a bit lonely having been out in front on his own for so long, but to his credit he knuckled down after the last and came away to beat Gentleman At Arms by two lengths.
Threeunderthrufive booked his Cheltenham Festival ticket and the possibility of a £25,000 bonus into the bargain when continuing his winning ways in the Wigley Group Hampton Novices' Chase.
Trained by Paul Nicholls and owned by Max McNeill, neither were on course to witness his second Grade Two win as both are on holiday in the Caribbean and no doubt the champagne corks would have been popping some way from home.
Adrian Heskin was positive on the 8/13 favourite and bounced him into an early lead and in truth he never looked like being caught, coming home three and a half lengths clear of Doyen Breed, who was in receipt of 5lb.
The conundrum now for connections is to run in the Brown Advisory Novices' Chase in March, for which he is 16/1 (from 25s) with Paddy Power, or the National Hunt Chase over three-mile-six where he is 6/1 with the same firm.
Threeunderthrufive is also in the new Weatherbys nhstallions.co.uk Novices' Chase at Lingfield next week, but he is highly unlikely to turn out again quickly.