Page Fuller may be reaching for the stars at the Cheltenham Festival after landing her first Graded race success on Anythingforlove in the Jane Seymour Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle at Sandown.
Described by winning trainer Jamie Snowden as “an integral part of my team”, Fuller came in for the ride on the 18-1 shot only because Gavin Sheehan was in action at Fontwell.
She made the very best of the opportunity, though, as Anythingforlove beat Sandymount Rose by two and three-quarter lengths, for a Grade Two success which may extend their association in next month’s Dawn Run Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle.
Fuller, who is enjoying a stellar season after riding out her claim in October, said: “That meant so much to me – a first winner at this level and a lovely mare for her owners.
“I knew she had every chance and was delighted when Gavin had to go to Fontwell.
“It was really hard work, and I had to assume she was going to stay. She heard the others coming, and wasn’t going to be passed.
“Winners like her show we have the quality in the yard – and while Gavin’s the number one, I am so lucky to get chances like this.”
Snowden said of the winner: “She used to be a bit novicey, and we rode her wrong in the Rossington Main.
“Over this trip she found it easier, because they were going a tad slower. I would certainly take a look at the Dawn Run – and especially if it was heavy.”
Nick Gifford’s dream of winning the race run here in April in memory of his late father Josh came a step closer with the 5-1 success of Belargus, under Niall Houlihan.
The six-year-old’s resounding nine-length triumph over Grey Diamond in the Elmbridge Handicap Chase has teed him up for what Gifford sees as “limitless options”.
Some of those will be at Cheltenham, or possibly Aintree, but the Sussex trainer hopes owner JP McManus may consider the Josh Gifford Memorial Handicap Chase in April back at Sandown.
“I’ve always loved this horse,” said Gifford.
“He got done for toe at Warwick, and this is the first time he’s got his jumping together. I could see him going up in trip, and he’ll definitely get two and a half miles on good ground.
“He’s going to be under consideration with a whole lot of others (owned by McManus) for the Grand Annual and Brown Advisory Plate – while the Topham is a lovely race for him (as well).
“But the one I’d love to win is the Josh Gifford Memorial – which I came close to winning with Christopher Wren (for McManus seven years ago).
“Realistically we are a tiny cog in the wheel, but romantically I would dearly love to bring him back here.”
Emma Lavelle believes she has an exciting prospect for fences next season in Red Rookie, who cashed in on the final-flight mistake of market rival Pipesmoker to land the Telegraph Hill ‘National Hunt’ Novices’ Hurdle.
The 5-2 winner eventually prevailed by almost two lengths under Tom Bellamy, from outsider Mister Watson, with favourite Pipesmoker having to settle for third.
Lavelle said: “We love this horse and have felt that since he won two bumpers – but when I took the rug off him at Lingfield (in October) I could see he was fat.
“He came there two out only to weaken through lack of fitness, and then he was poorly.
“After that it took a long time to get him back, but he certainly is now. I was delighted at the way he jumped and travelled on that ground, and can’t wait to go chasing with him next season.”
Lavelle and Bellamy completed a quick double when 5-2 favourite Eclair Surf won the following Littleworth Handicap Chase by three lengths.
David Pipe’s team is in form – and following Umbrigado’s triumph at Wetherby the previous day, Eamon An Cnoic made no mistake in the opening Greenwich Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle.
The 100-30 chance came home 20 lengths clear of Will Sting under Fergus Gillard, who said: “My horse travelled really well. He got tired but at the same time won nicely.”
Dan and Harry Skelton combined to land the Kingston Handicap Chase with 11-4 shot No Getaway – who stretched nine-and-a-half lengths clear of Doitforthevillage, with favourite Mister Murchan back in third.