L’Homme Presse completed a five-timer over fences to remain unbeaten when cruising to success in the Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase at Cheltenham.
There was drama 20 minutes before the race as ante-post favourite Bravemansgame was pulled out by Paul Nicholls, owing to the increasingly soft ground, along with Irish challenger Fury Road.
That left the Venetia Williams-trained L’Homme Presse, who had won the Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase by 21 lengths at Sandown, facing eight rivals under Charlie Deutsch and he duly put them to the sword.
Ahoy Senor made the running in the early stages, tracked by L’Homme Presse, who took it up at the seventh of the 19th fences and jumped his rivals into submission.
Though Farouk D’alene threw down a challenge turning in, he came down after jumping the penultimate fence, but it never looked like the winner would be beaten.
To his credit, Ahoy Senor, whose jumping at times was still a little novicey, continued to stay on but in the end was still three and a half lengths adrift, with Gaillard Du Mesnil sticking on for third, a further length and three-quarters back.
Williams said: “I don’t think I’ve felt so sick during a race, which is rare, but I’m really looking forward to watching it again. I couldn’t be more thrilled.
“He’s such a spectacular jumper and even though he was favourite, it was lovely to hear the crowd cheer every time he put in a big leap.
“I think this race was always the most likely, but the only thing which would have changed our minds was if it was going to be heavy ground and even this rain has made it just soft ground.
“The horse was recommended to Andy (Edwards) after two runs in France, but then he picked up a tendon injury so he had to be very patient.
“He didn’t show a lot at home at first, it wasn’t until about three weeks before his first run for us that he showed us anything but he’s gone on and improved with every run.”
Deutsch said: “He just travels easily, jumps well and he was just having a look around going to the line.
“It was the first time over the trip on the ground, but he just felt comfortable the whole way.
“It’s just wonderful to have such a good season and then get a winner at Cheltenham. Venetia’s done such a good job of just handling this horse and Andy, the owner, is so easy. He’s very laid back and just leaves it to you.
“It’s a huge moment for me, it’s just wonderful and I’d like to thank anyone who has helped me.”
L’Homme Presse earned a 16-1 quote for next year’s Gold Cup, and Edwards added: “I burst into tears when he went over the line, that’s for sure! I was very calm all the way through and as soon as he jumped the last, that’s when the emotions came out. We’ve always believed in him so it’s just fabulous.”
Lucinda Russell, meanwhile, was thrilled with the effort of Ahoy Senor in defeat.
She said: “I’m totally proud of him. He’s grown up today. He’s always won his races by jumping better than everyone else, but today he had to knuckle down and be a racehorse.
“He made a mistake along the way and the ground is probably not perfect for him, but there were no excuses.
“He’s a good horse L’Homme Presse and well done to Venetia. She’s a good mate, so it’s nice she’s won.
“Ahoy Senor is a lovely, lovely horse and I can’t wait for next year.”