Jockey Richard Patrick celebrated the biggest winner of his career at Huntingdon as Happy Diva went one better than 12 months ago in the Pertemps Lady Protectress Mares’ Chase.
After breaking his collarbone aboard the Kerry Lee-trained mare in the BetVictor Gold Cup at Cheltenham in November, the 23-year-old gained a bittersweet success aboard the 9-2 shot in the Listed contest.
Taking it up after the second-last, the eight-year-old, who finished third at Ascot on Saturday, repelled the late fightback from long-time leader and even-money favourite Magic Of Light to take the two-and-a-half-mile contest by a length.
Patrick said: “It has been a frustrating season for myself and Kerry, but we have been knocking on the door. I’ve been on the cold list for a while. Since I’ve come back from injury I’ve had something like 25 rides and about eight seconds.
“Jessica Harrington’s horse (Magic Of Light) ran the same day as us so we both had the same issue. She is as tough as nails.
“She does nothing flashy at home. She deserved to win one like that. She has a hard run every time and always bumps into one. All credit to Kerry and Happy Diva. It was a big call to bring her here.
Following the race the winner was introduced at 16-1 for the Brown Advisory Merriebelle Stable Plate at the Cheltenham Festival, which will be her next target, according to connections.
Richard Lee, father of the winning trainer, said: “She deserved to win a good race like that.
“Kerry was in two minds if she was going to run, as she only ran on Saturday, but it looked like cutting up and when we knew Lady Buttons wasn’t going to run we decided to have a crack.
“There is nothing for her for a while and she will go for the two-mile-five handicap at the Festival. This is great for the owner, as he has been a big supporter of the yard.”
Luck may have deserted Jessica Harrington and Robbie Power in the feature race – but the pair gained compensation after Not Many Left claimed victory in the Pertemps Network Group Handicap Hurdle.
The pair teamed up to celebrate a winner on their first visit to the Cambridgeshire track, with the six-year-old booking his Cheltenham Festival ticket when taking the three-mile-one-furlong contest by a neck.
Harrington said of the 9-2 winner: “He was really good and that was his first handicap. It was probably a big ask for him in a handicap, but it was nice there was a small field.
“We were going to take him to Carlisle and run in a qualifier there before Christmas, but the wind was too bad.
“He will head to Cheltenham. If I can find a race in Ireland for him I will as he will probably need the experience.”
A switch back to the Flat for next month’s Betway Winter Derby is likely to be next up for Scarlet Dragon following what was his first victory in more than two years in the Pertemps Network Commercial Novices’ Hurdle.
Not sighted over hurdles since finishing down the field in a Grade One contest at Aintree in April, the Alan King-trained six-year-old made his class count to claim victory by four and a half lengths.
Syndicate spokesman Henry Ponsonby said of the 2-1 scorer: “It was just bad ground at Aintree. He has been doing very well on the Flat without winning.
“He is in the Winter Derby and will almost certainly run in that. That race qualifies us for a nice final at Sandown on the last day of the season and that’s a big option.
“He could be an Ebor horse on the Flat. He ran it last season, but he didn’t get the trip. I think he will now, though, the way he won that.”
Daydream Aulmes brought up the hat-trick when pulling out just enough to hold Discay by three-quarters of a length in the Pertemps Commercial Handicap Hurdle.
Trainer Graeme McPherson said of the 11-2 chance: “He has been a bit of a slow learner, and in a way he has helped handicap himself. As he is learning, he is getting better with every run.
“He has never won by more than a length and a quarter. He gets there and that’s it.
“This is the first horse we have ever run up a hat-trick with.”
Sammylou (20-1)lost his maiden tag when striking at the 10th time of asking in the Pertemps “National Hunt” Novices’ Handicap Hurdle to get the balling rolling for McPherson and jockey Kielan Woods.
McPherson added: “We thought he would run nicely, but he has been a bit unlucky. He was travelling well when he was brought down at Warwick. The race was run to suit today.”
Sam Twiston-Davies made his dash down from Doncaster count as he got debutant Rootless Tree (11-10 favourite) home by a head in the bumper.
Winning trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies said: “He is a nice young horse. He breezed into it nicely and was just a bit green in front. So far he is the nicest bumper one we’ve got.”