Zambella makes most of Aintree opportunity

Zambella was given a canny front-running ride by Daryl Jacob to run out an easy winner of the rescheduled Unibet Houghton Mares’ Chase at Aintree.

Saved over from Carlisle’s abandoned meeting last weekend, the Nigel Twiston-Davies-trained six-year-old jumped for fun at the head of affairs and even heading down the back straight Willie Mullins’ odds-on favourite Elimay looked in trouble.

Jonjo O’Neill jnr looked to be confident on Annie Mc, taking a look over his shoulder at one stage, but Jacob had saved plenty and Zambella shot clear to win by four and three-quarter lengths at 5-1.

The Listed race was run in driving rain and gale force winds, and Jacob said: “It was attritional out there, but she is attritional herself. She gives everything in every race she runs in. She’s a lovely mare who is very likeable.”

Twiston-Davies said: “It was a tactically astute ride. Thank goodness it’s still on, after Sunday. That was quite hard work for them out there.

“She jumps well, she stays and she’d had the benefit of a run which the others hadn’t. I think that was the difference.

“All these mares’ races will be the plan, we’ll just follow the pattern.”

North Lodge (14-1) could have a bright future ahead of him based on the tenacity he showed to beat two previous winners in the Unibet-sponsored novice hurdle over two miles.

North Lodge (left) arrives on the scene late to win the opener
North Lodge (left) arrives on the scene late to win the opener (PA Wire)

Trained by Alan King, Adrian Heskin arrived on the scene halfway up the home straight going best – but he was made to battle by Olly Murphy’s Bombs Away and Donald McCain’s Richmond Lake.

Part-owner Max McNeill said: “I didn’t expect him to beat the other two as I knew what both Olly and Donald thought of them, but I did think he’d run well.

“We bought him from Sean Doyle, who we get a lot of our horses from. He’d done a lot of schooling before joining Kingy and has done plenty since. He works a lot with Clifton Bridge who won on Friday, so once he won I thought he’d run well.

“I don’t think we’ll rush him, he’s lost his novice status now so it might be one more run then we’ll see where we end up in the spring. Sean said he was a Grade One horse, who knows now.”

My Bobby Dazzler kept up Mel Rowley’s incredible record at Aintree when winning the Unibet three-mile novice handicap hurdle.

Sent off the 7-2 joint-favourite going up in trip, Rowley has now won with all her five runners at the track.

The Irish domination of big races shows no signs of abating as four made the journey over for the Listed Unibet Proudly Supports “Racing Is Everyone’s Sport” Fillies’ Juvenile Hurdle – and filled the first four places.

Leading them home was Ross O’Sullivan’s Sea Sessions (8-1) who stayed on strongly under Johnny Burke to beat Calvados by two and a quarter lengths.

“That’s my first Aintree winner. We had Call It Magic run a cracker in the Becher and Katie (Walsh, O’Sullivan’s wife) rode Baie Des Iles in the National for us,” said O’Sullivan.

“This filly is tough. She’d finished second in two goodish races in Ireland and conditions weren’t going to be a problem to her.

“We came over looking to nick third to get some black type, so to win is a dream. The owners are from around here so love coming over and it would be great to be back over here in March or April.”

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