Chef D’Oeuvre provided Sam England with the most notable success of her training career to date with a tough-as-teak performance in The Last Fling Handicap Chase at Haydock.
Named after the popular Sue Smith-trained course specialist of the late 1990s, this three-mile-three-furlong contest carried a total prize fund of £25,000 and a field of 10 staying chasers went to post.
Formerly trained by Warren Greatrex, Chef D’Oeuvre joined England earlier this year and had finished fourth at Uttoxeter and third at Carlisle on his first two starts for the yard.
With the trainer’s husband Jonathan England in the saddle, the seven-year-old travelled powerfully into the home straight to challenge 2-1 favourite Back To The Thatch and Ami Desbois, and in the end Chef D’Oeuvre and Back To The Thatch pulled clear to fight it out.
There was little to choose between the pair jumping the final fence, but it was England’s charge who saw out the marathon distance best to prevail by two and three-quarter lengths.
Dell’ Arca beat the tiring Ami Desbois to third place.
“I’m delighted. I was more hopeful than confident,” said the winning trainer.
“He’s a horse with plenty of ability. We’ve been making the running on him and decided to change tactics today and drop him in. It seemed to work.
“We could look at something like the Eider Chase (at Newcastle).
“He obviously wants an extreme test and extreme ground – last man standing sort of thing.”
There was drama in the preceding Billinge “National Hunt” Novices’ Hurdle, with the race having to be stopped and declared void.
Not Normal sadly suffered what turned out to be a fatal leg injury after jumping the first obstacle, following which Keep Rolling made much of the running under champion jockey Richard Johnson.
He remained in a commanding lead rounding the turn for home, but with the stricken horse still on the track, the yellow flag was raised and Johnson swiftly pulled up his mount.
Some of the other horses in behind jumped the obstacle, but it was clear the race was over and it was inevitably declared void.