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Demachine delighting ahead of Ladbrokes Trophy test

Kerry Lee is delighted with Demachine’s preparation as he takes on the best the top English and Irish trainers can muster in Saturday’s Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury.

The Presteigne trainer reports the lightly-raced seven-year-old to be ready for the big test this prestigious staying handicap chase presents.

Demachine may not have run since finishing second to Remastered in the Reynoldstown Novices’ Chase at Ascot in February but Lee points out he won on his chasing debut at Uttoxeter in October, 2020, on his first start for 214 days.

“He’s really good. Everything he’s doing has pleased us. His last piece of work was very good and I’m hopeful the ground will really suit him,” she said.

“Obviously, he’s untried at three-miles-two (furlongs). That has to be a question mark but we take it he’ll stay. He gives no reason to say he won’t and I think he’s bred to stay and he’s a second-season chaser.

“It’s a very competitive renewal with the Irish horses in it and the best from this country too.

“We have a competitive chance and I think we are entitled to be there and you could argue he is best fresh as he won first time out last season. He beat some decent novice chasers at Uttoxeter, so it’s fingers crossed.

“He’s rated 142. I think that’s fair on the evidence he has shown so far. Do I think he’s well in? How can I possibly know? We’ll find out on Saturday.

“I could do with this with Messrs De Bromhead, Mullins and Nicholls and so on in there. They don’t make it easy for the smaller trainers like us. If Sue Smith can do it (with Midnight Shadow in the Paddy Power Gold Cup), let’s hope I can too.”

Happy Diva heading for Houghton date

Happy Diva heads to Carlisle on Sunday for the Listed Houghton Mares’ Chase.

Kerry Lee’s stable star was in the process of running another good race in the Paddy Power Gold Cup last time out when she fell at the second last.

Happy Diva is one of eight entries for Sunday’s two-and-a-half-mile contest and while she is the highest rated in the field, Lee is wary of the potential opposition.

“It looks a good opportunity, but it’s not without dangers,” she said.

Kerry Lee (right) after Happy Diva won last year's Bet Victor (now Paddy Power)
Kerry Lee (right) after Happy Diva won last year’s Bet Victor (now Paddy Power) Gold Cup (Nigel French/PA)

“There are a couple of other really nice mares in Chilli Filli and My Old Gold. They definitely have to be respected and we won’t be going there not expecting a fight.

“It was frustrating in the Paddy Power, she was still right in contention when coming down.

“I was just relieved to see her get up in one piece and she should have every chance this weekend. Her ultimate target is the mares’ chase at the Festival.

“I’d pretty much think that this is her last season.”

Lee looks to have the perfect candidate to step in to her shoes as a Saturday horse in Demachine, who impressed again at Ascot last weekend to remain unbeaten over fences.

When asked how he had come out the race Lee replied: “He came out of it 8lb higher!

“We’ll see how we go, nothing is set in stone at the moment and he’s still only a 140 horse – the big guns are out at Newbury this weekend.

“I daren’t wax lyrical about him just yet, that was only the sixth run of his life and he’s still only six. We minded him last year and we probably will do again this year.

“He’ll be out again at the end of December at either Chepstow or Newbury in another novice handicap.

“I’m not in any desperate rush with him this season. I’m not going to make any bold plans, I’d rather build up his confidence ahead of next season when he might be a Ladbrokes Trophy horse.”

Highly-promising Demachine motors to Ascot victory

Kerry Lee is refusing to get carried away with Demachine despite the promising six-year-old maintaining his unbeaten record over fences at Ascot.

The 11-4 chance ran out a three-and-three-quarter-length victor in the Play The Coral “Racing Super Series” Novices’ Limited Handicap Chase – and the hope is that one day he will be taking his chance in much loftier company.

Lee said: “Fences have really been the making of him. I minded him last year and I called him the big green machine at home last season. Lovely Herefordshire grass has done him the world of good over the summer.

“He has grown and matured and we have a right nice novice chaser on our hands. Richard (Patrick) said he did make a mistake at the first one down the hill second time round, but it made him stop and think about things – it did him the world of good.

“We will keep him in novice company this season and maybe a Welsh National or Ladbrokes Trophy next year.

“For now we will enjoy the moment.”

Bridget Andrews demonstrated nerves of steel after delivering the Dan Skelton-trained Robin Gold (4-1) with a well-timed run to get up almost on the line and claim the Veolia Mares’ Handicap Hurdle by half a length.

Assistant trainer Tom Messenger said: “Bridget gave her an unbelievable ride. She won on her a couple of starts ago at Lingfield and knows that she doesn’t do a lot in front and that was the case the last day when she got beat.

“Dan and Bridget were adamant about not getting there too soon, but to ride a mare like that takes a lot of confidence. She is progressing nicely and obviously handles that ground as well.

“The tongue tie has helped and we’ve done a few different things at home. Sometimes these fillies take a little bit of working out.”

Shang Tang enjoyed a confidence-boosting success
Shang Tang enjoyed a confidence-boosting success (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Shang Tang (9-4) opened his account at the ninth time of asking when taking a step up in trip in his stride.

Out of luck in his three bumpers and five previous hurdle starts, the Emma Lavelle-trained six-year-old finally struck gold on his first attempt over the extended two-mile-five-furlong trip of the Coral “Fail To Finish” Free Bet Novices’ Hurdle.

Lavelle said: “He has always been a bit immature. He left home in the horse box facing forwards and he arrived at the racecourse facing backwards. That’s kind of him.

“He was jumping the hurdles so fast I was thinking maybe I should have gone back to two miles, but actually he is a strong-travelling, great-jumping horse that seems to stay and that opens up a world of opportunity for him.

“He had run some really nice races and if you look at his form there are bits of it that are decent, but it just hasn’t happened for him. I think everyone will have gained confidence today.”

James Bowen guides Wonderwall to victory
James Bowen guides Wonderwall to victory (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

The Richard Spencer-trained Wonderwall earned Champion Bumper quotes in taking the Coral-sponsored finale as the 3-1 joint-favourite.

Winning rider James Bowen said: “We think a bit of him and he showed it today, Richard has done a great job with him.

“He’s been smart since the day he came. I’ve sat on him at home and he gives me a lovely feel.”

Spencer added: “There’s a Listed race back here, but we’ll just see how he comes out of it. There’s one date in March we want to get to if we can.”