Daryl Jacob made his fleeting visit to Leicester a triumphant one aboard Zambella, who maintained her unbeaten record over fences with a tenacious success in the Pertemps Network Mares’ Chase.
After riding the first five-timer of his career at Wincanton on Saturday, Grand National-winning jockey Jacob took centre stage once again with victory in the Listed feature on the Nigel Twiston-Davies-trained six-year-old.
The 8-13 favourite dug deep after the last to defeat Cut The Mustard by two and a half lengths and add to her previous Listed victories this season at Bangor and Warwick.
Jacob said: “She is very game. She is tough, and three from three over fences, and is getting better.
“Two and a half is a good trip for her, but two miles on heavy ground is just as good. You’ve just got to find your feet a bit and find nice opportunities.
“She has won three Listed chases now, and there was no hiding place out there today.
“The ear plugs just keep her relaxed, because when she came over she was very keen and an excitable filly, but they seem to be working at the moment.”
Trainer Venetia Williams and jockey Charlie Deutsch took the plaudits with a near 44-1 treble, completed by the victory of Fontaine Collonges in the Pertemps Network Novices’ Hurdle, which the 5-6 favourite landed by a neck.
Williams said: “I must admit a couple of days ago, after declarations, I thought she was our strongest chance of the day.
“I was going to step her up in trip – but with testing conditions here and that long uphill finish, I thought it might compensate a bit.
“Half way up the run-in, I was cursing myself for not stepping up in trip – but bless her, she got back up.”
Jack Valentine (5-2) got the ball rolling for Williams and Deutsch, making his debut over fences a winning one by four lengths in the Pertemps Network Novices’ Handicap Chase.
Williams said: “We thought we still had unfinished business over hurdles, so we kind of delayed chasing a little bit, but clearly this is the way forward.
“I know Charlie has ridden one or two winners lately where people have said it is perfectly judged – but in those cases it has been the horses’ inability to go quicker earlier. In this case, though, it was very well judged.
The Crooner (6-1) formed the middle leg of the haul, prevailing by three-quarters of a length in the Pertemps Network Handicap Chase to make it two wins from as many starts at the track.
Williams said: “He had been a little bit disappointing, and I was actually scratching my head a bit.
“He needed every yard to get there. This is the only place he has won at, because he won a hurdle here last season.”
Jonjo O’Neill junior carried the silks his father, and namesake, wore to glory in the 1980 Champion Hurdle aboard Sea Pigeon – steering When You’re Ready to glory by a head in the Pertemps Network Handicap Hurdle.
O’Neill junior said: “The silks were great for dad, and I used them for pony racing, and it is nice to be back in them. They’ve been in the family a good while.
On the 3-1 shot trained by his dad, he added: “He ran over two and a half the last day – and he didn’t run too badly – but two miles in this ground up the hill at Leicester, we thought wouldn’t be too bad for him.
“All mine did was stay, and I was hoping the line was far enough away so he could get back up – luckily we just got back up.”