Annie Mc had her connections dreaming of Cheltenham success after powering home in the Lady Protectress Mares’ Chase at Warwick.
The 13-8 favourite clinched a double worth more than 100-1 for Jonjo O’Neill and Jonjo O’Neill Jr – and now heads for the newly-inaugurated Mares’ Chase at the Festival next month.
Annie Mc is owned by the Coral Champions Club, which includes reality TV star Chris Hughes, and O’Neill said: “I thought the handicapper had got her, but the soft ground bailed her out.
“She’s honest and she jumps, and has earned her corn to go to the mares’ chase at Cheltenham. She seems to be a decent mare on the soft.”
The Jackdaws Castle trainer admitted he thought she was in trouble at one stage, and added: “She fumbled a bit (on the ground) turning in, but I was delighted with her performance. She’s my best chance of a winner at the Festival, that’s for sure.
“The lads get a great kick out of her.”
Forcing tactics paid off for Cabot Cliffs in the Join Racing TV Now Juvenile Hurdle.
The 4-1 shot kept on strongly for Harry Skelton to dispatch market rivals Sage Advice and Goodbye Stranger by a length and a half and a nose.
Tom Messenger, assistant to trainer Dan Skelton, said: “He was in at the deep end on his previous start and that was a lot more like it. He dictated under a great ride and had plenty left.”
The Skeltons completed a double when Supremely Lucky outstayed Undersupervision in the Visit racingtv.com Handicap Hurdle.
Callum Bewley made the journey from Carlisle to partner Overworkdunderpaid to a hard-fought success over Definite Dilemma in the South West Syndicate Novices’ Handicap Chase.
On only his second visit to the course, Bewley pounced on Definite Dilemma on the run-in, the combination scoring by half a length.
The 7-2 favourite’s trainer Laura Morgan said: “He takes time to warm to the task and needed something to aim at, having got there too soon last time.
“He’s in at Musselburgh on Sunday and Market Rasen next week, and all being well will be out again.”
Uptown Lady posted a 40-1 shock in the Racing TV Mares’ ‘National Hunt’ Novices’ Hurdle, taking advantage of the last-flight fall of Fantastic Lady.
O’Neill explained that the six-year-old has not been straightforward and said: “She’s had two wind ops and might have been lucky to win. With a mare like that it’s just great to get a win into her.”
The almost-white Volcano galloped and jumped his rivals into submission in the Watch On Racing TV Handicap Chase under Ben Jones.
His trainer Sheila Lewis said: “He’s neat and nimble, and Ben said he’s one of the best jumpers he’s ever sat on.”
There was a big upset in the Willougby De Broke Open Hunters’ Chase when 40-1 chance Latenightpass held the rally of Highway Jewel by three-quarters of a length under Bridget Andrews. The Worlds End went off the 5-4 favourite, but was another length back in third.