Warren Greatrex nearly let his emotions get the better of him as talented mare La Bague Au Roi made a winning debut over fences at Newbury on Thursday.
Having scored in Grade Two company over hurdles, hopes are high that the seven-year-old can scale even greater heights over the bigger obstacles after putting in a near foot perfect round of jumping to land the KKA-Highpoint Beginners’ Chase by a length and a half.
Greatrex said of the 15-8 winner: “You won’t get many better than her. I’ve said it all along, she is very good. We can go anywhere. She has beaten 150-rated horses there.
“Today was the plan and to take on the boys was a brave shout. Her jumping late on was brilliant. The size of her, I thought she was always going to be a better chaser.
“I was nervous the whole way round. I know how she good is and you want it to go right. It was pretty much the most nervous I’ve been before a race.
“The Kauto Star at Kempton on Boxing Day could be a race to suit her as she has won over three miles round there.”
Lust For Glory (9-2) may have cost connections £240,000 but it could prove to be money well spent after the five-year-old completed a double for trainer Nicky Henderson with a stylish three-and-three-quarter-length victory in the CSP Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle.
Henderson said: “She was in all sorts of mares’ maidens last week though we got brave, but it is only a novice hurdle just a £20,000 one. We will have to go upstairs now. She is one of the better mares you will see.”
French Crusader (5-1) may make a swift return to action at Sandown on Sunday after initiating Henderson’s brace when running out an eight-length winner of the Fuller’s Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle.
Henderson said: “He is in at Sandown on Sunday and you would have to think about it as I don’t know what they will do with him and he will have no penalty.”
Owner Tony Taylor saw his day trip from the Channel Islands made worthwhile after Jersey Bean (9-1) completed a hat-trick when taking a step up to three miles in his stride to run out a four-length winner of the Pertemps Network Handicap Hurdle.
Oliver Sherwood, winning trainer, said: “He is a cracking little horse and Tony Taylor his owner lives in Jersey, hence why he is called Jersey Bean.
“He only won one novice last season, but he got an infection in his hind leg. He is going the right way now.”
Amateur rider David Maxwell showed he can mix it with the best after getting the Philip Hobbs-trained Ecu De La Noverie (33-1) home in the Agetur UK Novices’ Hurdle.
The winning rider said: “Sarah (Hobbs) said this (James) Bowen fellow is up and coming, but what about the up-and-coming 5lb claimer David Maxwell that is 40 years old.
“That is the lightest I’ve ever done by 7lb. It was a bit of a struggle. I’m now going to eat the horse I’m that hungry!”
Noel Williams may have to re-think his plans for Drunken Pirate (10-1) after the five-year-old claimed the concluding bumper by a length and a half.
He said: “I was delighted with his bumper run at Wincanton in the spring. The idea was to go hurdling, but we might have to put our heads together and go for a better bumper.”