Grade One-winning hurdler Apple Away got off the mark over fences with a foot-perfect display in the opening race at Leicester on Wednesday.
The six-year-old won four of her seven starts over the smaller obstacles for trainer Lucinda Russell and owners Old Gold Racing, including a surprise top-level victory over the likes of Iroko and Stay Away Fay at Aintree in the spring.
Having been set a stiff task on her chasing debut when third behind Grey Dawning and Cheltenham Festival winner Gaillard Du Mesnil at Haydock last month, Apple Away was an even-money shot to dispatch of two rivals in the @leicesterraces Christmas Meeting 28th December Book Now Beginners’ Chase, and ultimately did so in some style.
Ridden by Derek Fox, the Scottish raider fenced fluently throughout the two-and-three-quarter-mile contest and pulled 31 lengths of a decent yardstick in Makin’yourmindup in the home straight.
The sponsors cut Apple Away to 14-1 from 20-1 for the Mrs Paddy Power Mares’ Chase at Cheltenham in March, while she is 20-1 from 25-1 to beat the boys in the Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase.
Michael Scudamore, assistant trainer to Russell, told Racing TV: “We’re thrilled to bits, the further she went the better she looked. It’s great to get her chasing career off and going.
“She ran a nice race at Haydock, it probably wasn’t ideal to run her in a graduation chase first time over fences but such is the weather and the options at the moment you just have to go where you can.
“She learned plenty that day, she jumped well, she was careful and then today she was better again.
“She’s proven before what a good mare she is, but you could see her being really intelligent and enjoying it today.
“She’s got plenty of options and being a mare that opens up other options so we’ll have to see what the future holds for her.”