Pink Legend caused a minor surprise when beating odds-on favourite Galia Des Liteaux in the Make Your Best Bet At BetVictor Mares’ Chase at Newbury.
Trained by Venetia Williams, the nine-year-old put a disappointing display at Aintree on her seasonal return well behind her with a fine round of jumping under the excellent Charlie Deutsch.
She looked to face a tall task against Dan Skelton’s 2-5 favourite, a good winner at Market Rasen last time out, but Deutsch took the race by the scruff of the neck at halfway and dictated matters thereafter.
She was there to be shot at over the final two fences but two more accurate leaps meant both the favourite and Rose Of Arcadia could never quite get on terms, with Pink Legend winning by a length and three-quarters.
Winning owner-breeder Francis Mahon explained he had planned to be breeding from her by now, but the intervention of his trainer meant she stayed in training.
“She shouldn’t really be in training but it’s down to Venetia that she’s won another four races,” said Mahon.
“About 18 months ago I started to think she was a nice breeding prospect, she’d been second in the Mares’ Chase at Cheltenham (to Elimay) but Venetia said ‘why would you want to retire a horse who is running as well as she ever has?’.
“She got her way and since then she’s won four races and been placed again in the Mares’ Chase (third to Impervious). I think we might go for the Lady Protectress (at Huntingdon) next, she’s won that before, and then Cheltenham again.
“With Charlie now, every time he rides something I think he’s going to win, especially on a steeplechaser.
“She’s won over two miles so when it turned into a bit of a sprint, I thought we were always going to win and she never touched a twig.”
Mahon is hoping for a notable double as Pink Legend’s full sister Eleanor Bob runs in the Tommy Whittle Chase at Haydock on Saturday.
He told Racing TV: “On Saturday Eleanor Bob has a nice, low weight at Haydock and she’ll love the heavy ground, she’s a full sister to Pink Legend.”
Gidleigh Park enhanced his growing reputation with a stylish performance in the BetVictor EBF Stallions ‘National Hunt’ Novices’ Hurdle.
Harry Fry’s imposing five-year-old arrived in Berkshire having won a bumper and a novice hurdle and was sent off the evens favourite, despite facing some similarly promising individuals.
A little keen in the early stages, Johnny Burke was eager to keep a lid on his mount before the race began in earnest, but he was always travelling strongly and won by nine lengths from Fire Flyer.
Paddy Power cut the winner to 14-1 from 25s for the Ballymore at Cheltenham in March.
Fry said: “This was a step up in trip and Johnny said he was a little bit keen and landed flat footed at a couple down the backm but as the race developed he got better.
“He’s a lovely young horse going the right way. His form keeps working out well and all being well we’ll go to Cheltenham on Trials Day for the Grade Two novice hurdle there.
“This was just his second start (over hurdles). The Challow is in 10 days but I just felt we needed to take it one step at a time.”
Burke doubled up on Anthony Honeyball’s Park Princess (2-1 favourite) in the bumper.
Brave Kingdom (15-8) took his record under rules to five wins from just six outings with a battling display in the JM Finn Novices’ Limited Handicap Chase.
Trained by Paul Nicholls, he lost his unbeaten record in a Grade Two novice hurdle at Sandown in December 2021 and while he regained the winning thread back in calmer waters, was forced to miss the whole of last season through injury.
He reappeared with a win at Plumpton and followed up when seeing off Pulling Stumps by a length and three-quarters.
Winning rider Harry Cobden said: “I was always confident I’d get there because it’s very tiring ground and a very long straight.
“Horses like him that have had such a lay off can bounce on their second run, but he was relaxed today and I feel like this could be quite a smart horse, when I pulled him out he picked up nicely and there’s a nice handicap in him somewhere.”
Dan Skelton’s Etalon (3-1 joint-favourite) and Jonjo O’Neill’s Fortunate Man (9-1) were other impressive winners on the card.
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