Tag Archive for: West Balboa

Gesskille sparkles with Grand Sefton success

Gesskille finally got his moment in the spotlight over Aintree’s Grand National fences with a brilliant performance in the BoyleSports Grand Sefton Handicap Chase.

Trained by Oliver Greenall and Josh Guerriero, he was beaten a nose by Al Dancer in this race 12 months ago before again having to settle for second in the Becher Chase a month later.

However, there was nothing left to chance this time as Henry Brooke bounced out the seven-year-old and never missed a beat as he once again showed his love for the unique test the famous spruce presents.

At the elbow Gesskille held a narrow advantage over last year’s third Percussion and Laura Morgan’s charge was unable to reel in the 100-30 favourite, who kept on stoutly for a two-length victory.

Greenall said: “Courses like here and Auteuil seem to suit him – just the once round; he seems to get a bit sick of a tighter track and not enjoy it so much.

“He was quite sour when we first got him – he’s by Network and they can be a bit tricky, and they start racing quite young in France, and he likes something to brighten him up, like these fences.

“After finishing agonisingly close last year, winning this is more like a relief, really. The blinkers have definitely improved him. He needs to go up a bit more in the handicap to get into the Grand National, but he could be a contender.”

West Balboa has a great record at Aintree
West Balboa has a great record at Aintree (Tim Goode/PA)

Another who thrives on Merseyside is Dan Skelton’s West Balboa (8-11 favourite), who claimed a competitive handicap at Aintree during the Grand National Festival and returned to win the BoyleSports Acca Boost On Horse Racing Hurdle.

It was a third-straight success for the improving seven-year-old, who also won the Lanzarote Hurdle last season, and her handler has big ambitions for later in the campaign.

Skelton said: “We needed to see she had stepped forward and to beat a horse like him (Brewin’upastorm) in what was effectively a graded race makes me very happy.

“This time of year horses are going to need a run and Harry said she took a blow. She had been working nicely at home, although as a stayer they are never going to burn the gallop up. Last year she improved a great deal from her first run and I hope she can from this.

“I’m not sure where we’ll go next. She’ll get an entry in the Long Walk (at Ascot) and see what the opposition looks like and also the Relkeel on New Year’s Day (at Cheltenham).

“We’d like to get her to Cheltenham this year and I’m confident she’ll be a more comfortable horse at three miles in the spring.”

Gentleman At Arms (9-1) was runner-up here in the Grade One Sefton Novices’ Hurdle in 2022 and made a welcome return to the winner’s enclosure in the Pertemps Network Handicap Hurdle.

The victory secures Stuart Edmunds’ charge a potential spot in the series final at Cheltenham in March, but the handler is unsure if he will make the final line-up for that contest.

“He was second here in the Sefton Novices’ Hurdle and he probably overachieved there,” said Edmunds.

“He was a fresh horse against tired horses from Cheltenham and it’s taken a while for him to get back to where he can be competitive again. I ran him over fences and probably scared him a bit – he’s not overly big and it might have just frightened him a little bit.

“I doubt he’d get into the Pertemps Final at Cheltenham, but there’ll be some nice handicaps for him. He can go on better ground than this as well. He’s a very versatile horse. He’s done us well.”

Lucinda Russell’s Giovinco (5-6 favourite) gave away a golden opportunity at Carlisle last time when making a mishap at the third last, but made amends by taking the BoyleSports Best Odds Guaranteed Novices’ Limited Handicap Chase.

Lucinda Russell enjoyed a double at Aintree
Lucinda Russell enjoyed a double at Aintree (Andrew Milligan/PA)

Assistant trainer Michael Scudamore said: “Back on track. What happened the other day was frustrating, rather than anything else.

“He showed the engine was still there today, and with that weight (11st 10lb) and those conditions, it looked a good performance. He’s certainly put any questions in our heads to bed.

“He’s a beautiful-looking horse, very athletic, owned by a great bunch of people and has got plenty of nice targets to look forward to off the back of that. He obviously stays very well.”

There was a double on the card for Russell when Rocheval scored at 15-2 in the concluding BoyleSports Extra Place Races “Junior” National Hunt Flat Race.

Lanzarote hero West Balboa gives Bridget Andrews a winner to savour

West Balboa just pipped Red Risk in a thrilling finish to the Coral Lanzarote Handicap Hurdle at Kempton – capping a memorable afternoon for trainer Dan Skelton and providing Bridget Andrews with one of the most valuable winners of her career.

Skelton had stayed closer to home at Warwick where he was on hand to witness a Grade Two double courtesy of Galia Des Liteaux and Grey Dawning, both ridden by his brother, Harry.

It was Harry’s wife Andrews who was on board West Balboa, and the pair cruised into contention as one by one the field thinned out.

Still in it was Charles Byrnes’ ante-post favourite Green Glory, Up For Parol and Red Risk, ridden by 7lb conditional Freddie Gingell.

West Balboa (12-1) held a slight advantage on the run to the final flight but met it all wrong, seemingly handing the initiative to Red Risk, as Up For Parol weakened.

Bridget Andrew won the Lanzarote
Bridget Andrew won the Lanzarote (PA)

To the mare’s credit, though, she battled back gamely and while a photograph was needed to separate the pair, there was a short head in it.

“She gave me a dream ride and I couldn’t believe the race went so smoothly. I travelled into the race so well and ended up getting there too soon and was left on my own,” said Andrews, who has bounced back from a serious injury suffered in a fall at Warwick last year.

“I’ve always known she was good. After the Challow (second) last year we put her away and she’s come back better than ever, so much so that I think she can step forward again.”

She added: “It’s races like this that you come back for. I had a broken neck which resulted in a long break, but I was lucky it happened in the summer.

“I get as much joy watching Harry ride big winners and everyone at the yard were so incredibly supportive.”

It was a great day for Dan Skelton
It was a great day for Dan Skelton (Simon Marper/PA)

Speaking from Warwick Skelton said: “She was gutsy when she needed to be.

“She probably made life harder than she needed to at the last two hurdles, she just got under them. If she had pinged either of the last two life would have been easier.

“But I’m very happy, she’s obviously stepped forward from her last run and that Stage Star form from last year is top form so she was entitled to go and do that.

“She could come here for the Listed race on February 11- the race Marie’s Rock won last year. But I would be very respectful of the fact she has just put in a big effort so if she needed a bit more time then we would have to have a think.”

Skelton’s yard went quiet over the busy Christmas period but are well and truly back in form now.

“There was never any question in my mind there was a bug,” he said.

“But what they did, two weeks before Christmas when we went down to minus 8C, a few of them got a cold. That’s all it was, I was never ever concerned there was a bug, because they weren’t going round bleeding or all the other things when you get a proper bug.

“I just knew they were under par as an overall and a few individuals were well, well below where they should be. But we give them 14 days off and their flu vaccinations and they can come out of it well.

“Results are the most important part of it and they have gone our way. No grumbling.”