Beau Bay is set to take another step up in trip and go for the Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Handicap Chase at Cheltenham.
Trainer Richard Newland believes the three and a quarter miles will suit the 10-year-old, after he stayed three miles well to score at Doncaster.
Beau Bay also holds an entry in the Randox Grand National, but it is highly unlikely he will make the cut because he was rated only 136 until after his win on Town Moor last month.
He was raised 6lb to 142 following that success, but it came after the weights for the Aintree spectacular were published.
He won the two-mile-five-furlong Grand Sefton Handicap Chase over the National fences in December, and it is possible Beau Bay could still be back in action there for the Topham Chase if conditions are suitable.
“The handicapper put him up 6lb for his latest win, but it was too late for the National. I’m sure he won’t get in so I’m not expecting to get a run there,” said Newland.
“He might run in the Topham, but the plan is to go to the Kim Muir at Cheltenham – and we’ll take a view after that. He’s had quite a busy season.
“If he runs respectably in the Kim Muir, I might say there’s a chance we’ll keep going to Aintree in case he got in the National -and the ground would have to be soft in the Topham. I think they will be a bit too fast for him in that race if it wasn’t.
“We’re going for the Kim Muir. I think stepping up in trip is the way to go, and we’ll see how he gets on.”
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Alex Edwards’ Doncaster victory on the promising Osprey Call was further vindication of his decision to turn professional just three weeks ago – a move which means he can seek more Cheltenham glory next month.
On the day it was confirmed all Edwards’ former amateur colleagues will remain out of action until after the Festival, because of coronavirus restrictions, even in the moment of victory he had inevitably mixed feelings.
The 30-year-old will be able to bid for his second success in the St. James’s Place Festival Hunters’ Chase – be it on 2019 winner Hazel Hill or one of the 13-year-old’s younger stablemates Wishing And Hoping or Salvatore.
Ex British point-to-point champion Edwards was due to complete this campaign as an amateur for trainer Phil Rowley, until the season was put on hold last month – and subsequently amateurs were suspended from riding under rules.
Against that backdrop, he made the switch early.
“It was always my plan to turn at the end of the point-to-point season – because I could ride a lot of point-to-pointing for my boss,” he said.
“That’s always been my main job. But with my boss (Rowley’s wife, Mel) now training under rules, it made sense for me – now or never to go professional.
“With the stopping of the amateurs riding, it spurred me on to do it quicker. I’d been speaking to the BHA beforehand, and it pushed me into making a decision there and then.”
Edwards may face a tough choice over which horse to ride at Cheltenham.
He said: “We’re very lucky – we’ve got a selection of two or three I could possibly ride.
“I can keep the ride. That’s great for me, but obviously there’s not great news for the whole amateur side.
“A lot of good friends of mine work very, very hard (as amateur jockeys) – so it’s just frustrating for them. Let’s hope, in a month’s time, we’re all back up and running and this is all forgotten about.”
Edwards should have more to smile about with the Alastair Ralph-trained Osprey Call, who overcame a significant mistake and awkward landing at the last for a near four-length win from Across The Line in the opening Virgin Bet Novices’ Hurdle.
“He’s a very green horse,” he said of the 7-1 winner.
“One minute he’s hanging right, then he’s hanging left, so it’s just trying to keep him on the straight and narrow.
“He’s got plenty of ability, and I think he could be going places.
“He was fairly keen early on. He’s a baby, and has to learn to settle and to breathe and to get into a rhythm jumping.
“It’s all a bit of a rush for him at the moment. But to go out and still win like that is quite nice – really impressive.”
Beau Bay produced an exemplary round of jumping from the front, apart from a blip at the second-last, to take the feature Virgin Bet Veterans’ Handicap Chase by almost four lengths from Ami Desbois.
The back-to-form Grand Sefton winner proved three miles is his bag these days – and after his 8-1 victory under Charlie Hammond, trainer Dr Richard Newland will be making future plans on that basis.
Among them the 2022 Grand National may even enter the equation – because although Beau Bay has an entry back at Aintree this year too, at 98th in the list he has no realistic chance of making the cut.
Newland said: “I was a bit gutted – because I thought he had a chance of winning the veterans’ race at Exeter (last week), and they called off the chases at the last minute (because of frost) and just ran the hurdles.
“That would have put him in the National – which is what we’d love to do.
“But he’s in the Kim Muir, and we might have a go.
“Then maybe, if he’s high enough rated, next year the National.”
Beau Bay, a bargain buy for the yard out of a Worcester claimer four years ago, has exceeded all expectations.
Newland added: “”He’s quite a small horse – but for whatever reason, he just loves the chasing.
“He tends to get a bit forgotten about in these races – people think he’s been around the block a bit, and is exposed.
“But he’s just in rude health. He’s an incredible horse – extraordinary. You can pay thousands and thousands, and you won’t get one as good as that.”
At £150,000, Patroclus was a little more expensive – but after Nicky Henderson’s five-year-old had doubled his career tally in his just his third race under rules, jockey Nico de Boinville was in no doubt he has potential.
Following the evens favourite’s three-quarter-length success from market rival Riggs in the Virgin Bet EBF “National Hunt” Novices’ Hurdle, he could chase a high-profile hat-trick if taking up next month’s Ballymore entry at Cheltenham.
A patient approach may be more likely, however.
De Boinville said: “He’s a smashing horse – a really solid National Hunt type.
“He probably got a bit lonely but stayed all the way, and I think he’ll want three miles in time.
“I wouldn’t know where we’re going to go after that, but he’s very much a long-term project.”
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Beau Bay improved on his third place from 12 months ago to win the William Hill Grand Sefton Handicap Chase at Aintree.
Ridden by 3lb claiming conditional jockey Charlie Hammond, Beau Bay (20-1) jumped brilliantly throughout to see off the opposition and give 2014 Grand National-winning trainer Dr Richard Newland another winner over the famous fences.
Sir Jack Yeats made a brave bid to make all the running and he proved a tough nut to crack, but he was unable to hold the winner on the long run for home and was beaten five lengths at the line.
Modus was a length and three-quarters away in third place, with Flying Angel a further half-length back in fourth.
Newland said: “It’s a huge thrill. We absolutely love it here – it’s no secret. With Pineau De Re winning the National and Silver Adonis winning the Foxhunters’, it’s just about our favourite place.
“This lad is a stable star. He’s not getting any younger, but he was third in this race last year and seems to love these fences – it brings him alive and gives him that bit of improvement.
“We’ve seen other Grand National fence specialists do well today (Vieux Lion Rouge winning Becher Chase) and I’m so thrilled for the horse and so thrilled for Charlie Hammond, who has been with me since he had his first winner. He’s paid us back in spades.
“We had a question mark over the trip because he was walking on the run-in last year, but he’s actually finished strongly today.
“I think we’ve just caught him right as he’s in fabulous form and it’s all come off on the day.”
He added: “We could look at coming back here in April for the Topham, but realistically, that is another step up.”
Talking About You claimed a surprise victory in the williamhill.com Best Odds Guaranteed Fillies’ Juvenile Hurdle.
Twice a winner from seven previous outings over obstacles, Sean Curran’s youngster produced a career-best performance in the hands of Harry Bannister to score by seven and a half lengths from Her Indoors.
“I didn’t think she’d handle the ground as well as she did, but she’s a hard one to get past,” said Bannister.
“The lads said she would hate this ground, but Sean just told me to try to get in as many breathers as I could and see how we get on.
“It’s great for a small team like that to get a good winner here.”
Straw Fan Jack proved far too strong for hot favourite Dargiannini in the opening William Hill Extra Place Races Daily Novices’ Hurdle.
The latter was an 8-11 chance to follow up a runaway victory in a Sedgefield bumper in October, but Straw Fan Jack (15-2) made much of the running under Richard Johnson and passed the post with 30 lengths in hand.
The success continues an excellent run of form for Brecon-based trainer Sheila Lewis, who said: “I’ve been a small trainer for the last four or five years, getting between two and three winners a season – this is my ninth winner of the season, with six horses in training.
“This horse is my stable star. Richard said there wasn’t going to be much pace in the race, so he said he’d go out and make the running.
“I don’t really have any plans. Richard mentioned the Sandown final, so we might aim for that.”
The Nick Alexander-trained Clan Legend was a 12-1 winner of the Follow @willhillracing On Twitter Handicap Chase, with Danny McMenamin taking over in the saddle from the trainer’s daughter Lucy, who suffered a serious back injury in a fall at Newcastle last month.
“I’m absolutely delighted. He’s a fourth or fifth generation home-bred, that’s his 10th win and it’s a very special place to do it,” said the Kinross handler.
“Danny gave him a brilliant ride, but it would have been lovely if Lucy had been riding him, as she should have been. She’s had an operation on her back and is getting better, but if she had a sense of humour it would be stretched a bit.
“It’s lovely to see the horse still progressing at the age of 10. I did think about running him over the National fences in the Grand Sefton, maybe I should have!”
Tom Lacey’s Kateson (5-1) dug deep to see off Eternally Yours by a nose in a thrilling climax to the William Hill Play Responsibly Handicap Hurdle.
Winning jockey Tom Scudamore said: “He had some very good form over hurdles a couple of years ago – he was only beaten by Champ and Getaway Trump in the Challow Hurdle at Newbury.
“Things haven’t worked out for him since then, but he showed a great attitude today and the cheek pieces have helped.”
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