Bonnie Prince Charlie reached Derby before heading back to Scotland empty handed. Unperturbed by the tale of historical woe, Lucinda Russell led a successful Scottish raid as far south as Warwick, returning to Perth and Kinross duly crowned Queen of the Classic Chase.
Arthur once ruled Camelot, but this One For Arthur became King of the Scots, and promises to return in a bold bid to lift the main prize; the Grand National at Aintree in April. Under a wonderfully patient ride from Derek Fox, the handsome eight-year-old gelding cruised into contention turning for home, and with a huge leap at the last galloped clear for a six-length success.
He’d previously run a cracker in the Becher Chase over the National fences, when staying on strongly for a fifth-place finish. The trip and a sounder surface probably did for him that day, but over further on more testing ground, he ran-out a convincing winner.
Speaking after the victory, his thrilled jockey said: “The plan was to be a bit handier, but in those big fields he's a bit slow away from the start. He jumps so well and he's just jumped his way into it. We decided to put the tongue-tie on him and I think it's made a big difference. I think the Grand National is made for him.”
Celebrating her first success at the track, Russell added: “He's some horse, he really is. I'm so delighted and he jumped super. I'm delighted for Derek. He's such a great help in the yard and such a great horseman, he deserves all the credit. This was his first ride here, but he is a very level-headed jockey and he didn't panic when things didn't go right at the start.”
The trainer went on: “He was unfortunate in the Becher Chase. He got shuffled back that day, ended up out the back and stayed on for fifth place. When he got hampered at the second fence, I thought the same was going to happen again, but Derek took his time and let him get back in the race. If he goes up in the handicap, he might go for the Grand National. If not, he's definitely a National horse next year. He's got to be an Aintree horse.”
Kerry Lee followed last year’s success with the runner-up this time around. Goodtoknow travelled beautifully throughout, but had no answer when the winner set sail for home late-on. Having jumped slightly to his right on occasion, Lee hinted that the bet365 at Sandown would be a possible end-of-season target.
Shotgun Paddy again ran with great credit at Warwick. It was a gutsy performance from the 10-year-old, who appeared to be at full stretch for much of the race, yet battled on bravely for a third-place finish. Another tilt at Newcastle’s Eider Chase in February looks likely, and off his current mark he should again go close.
If One For Arthur was Warwick’s star over fences, then Willoughby Court took that honour over hurdles. The Leamington Novices’ has gone to a host of classy sorts over the years, including Inglis Drever and The New One. Ben Pauling’s six-year-old was given a positive ride by David Bass, who gradually turned the screw in the testing conditions. Turning for home he had the field on the stretch, and gradually pulled clear. By Court Cave, there’s little doubt that the ground was ideal for this sizeable gelding. He’s good over hurdles, and he should be even better over fences.
Though only third at the line, Peregrine Run had travelled powerfully through the race, before the testing conditions took their toll. He’d done his winning on a sound surface prior to this, including a Grade 2 at Cheltenham. He remains one to keep on side during the spring, and is capable of a huge run at the Festival in March, probably in the Neptune.