Edwardstone stormed home to record an emphatic victory in the Close Brothers Henry VIII Novices’ Chase at Sandown.
Starting at 3-1, the seven-year-old provided jockey Tom Cannon with a first success at the highest level with a 16-length win from 9-5 favourite Third Time Lucki.
The market leader jumped erratically at time in front, whereas Alan King’s runner was invariably fluent in his slipstream and broke away after the penultimate fence to stride on into a comfortable lead as the line approached.
Edwardstone is now broadly a 10-1 chance for the Sporting Life Arkle Chase at the Cheltenham Festival.
A jubilant Cannon said: “The horse did all the talking for me really.
“He was a bit novicey at one or two (fences), but he’s only ever had one completed chase start so he was going to be.
“It was a good jump two out, I gave him a squeeze down to the last and he put it to bed well.
“I’m just delighted for the horse really, more than anything, he hasn’t had much luck in his career but he was lucky today. I was just a passenger really.”
King – winning the race for the third time – said: “He does settle a bit over fences, but we were lucky enough that they have gone a right gallop. He has a great cruising speed and we were thrilled.
“We couldn’t win a bumper. We bumped into some superstars along the way. Over hurdles he was just very progressive. We tried him over fences last year and I think he was unseated in January at Doncaster and I thought it was way too late to keep going, so we went back over hurdles.
“His form at the back end last season was as good as ever – he was fifth in a County Hurdle and placed at Aintree. But he was always hopefully going to make a chaser.
“We got a nice confidence booster last time and I didn’t really want to come here. To be honest, if I could have found a two-miler with a penalty, I would have gone somewhere, but they were not around and I did want to stay at two (miles).
“Although he is bred to get a trip, to me, he doesn’t need any further than two miles.
“I could not find anything else – unless you wait for Kempton at Christmas and I didn’t want to wait that long.
“He has had three quick runs and it is a nice problem to have where he goes.”
He went on: “It is a while since we had a Grade One winner – Sceau Royal four years ago in this race.
“It doesn’t get any easier. I went to Cheltenham the other week and we had three runners. I didn’t really fancy any of them and I have never been so bored at a day’s racing.
“It means you have to appreciate it when you have a good horse to run, because it means everything. You do get wound up beforehand, but when it comes off, it is a wonderful feeling.
“I hope and think he is an Arkle horse, so we will work back. He has had three fairly quick races. I will probably give him two races. The Kingmaker (at Warwick) would be the ideal one, but he may want somewhere in between. Whether we went to Kempton at Christmas, I don’t know.”
Reflecting further on his landmark triumph, Cannon said: “I have been a slow burner. It took me about four years to ride a winner under rules, so no surprise it has taken me another decade to ride a Grade One winner.
“The game plan was to do it how it worked out. We went a good gallop. He settled nicely, settled well and was in top gear the whole way down the back just trying to hold him together. He got in close to one of the Railway fences and it was a case of being patient and hoping Harry (Skelton, on Third Time Lucki) would come back to me. I couldn’t really go forcing it and he came back to me sooner than I thought he would.
“It worked out perfectly and he did it easily in the end.”
He added: “It is brilliant – a dream come true. It is nice to cement it further. I won the Whitbread around here last year in somewhat fortuitous circumstances, but to do it properly like that is brilliant.”