By Jon Lees
The owner of the Racing Post Arkle Trophy favourite Lalor has turned down a big offer for the horse.
But David Staddon said he had no interest in parting with a horse who has given the small-budget owner a rare chance to have a major contender at next week’s Cheltenham Festival.
“I had a substantial offer for him, but I wasn’t interested in selling,” said Staddon.
“I am only in it for fun and if he is worth that to them, he must be worth it to me.
“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for me. Do you know the percentage chance of getting a good horse is one per cent? You need to buy a hundred to get a good one. If you’re lucky it may be somewhere in between, which is what has happened to me.”
Staddon, 82, a retired insurance broker from Braunton, Devon has three horses in training of which Lalor, trained by Kayley Woollacott, is the best by some margin.
The winner of the Grade One Top Novices’ Hurdle at Aintree last year, Lalor made a huge statement on his chasing debut when defeating Dynamite Dollars, winner of his next three starts, by seven lengths in a Grade Two at Cheltenham in November.
Despite finishing third in the Henry VIII Novices’ Chase, won by Dynamite Dollars, at Sandown on his next start the following month he reclaimed Arkle favouritism last week after the ruling out of Le Richebourg.
“For me as a small owner it is a very anxious time,” said Staddon. “Richard Johnson was injured on Saturday at Newbury and he is an important cog in the wheel.
“I don’t think it’s too bad, but that is a source of a little bit of anxiety. Plus there is also the thought that someone like myself would ever have a horse good enough to run in the Arkle Trophy and furthermore be favourite.”
Nevertheless confidence is high in the wake of positive bulletins from Woollacott, whose late husband Richard had found Lalor, purchased by Tom Malone for €16,000. However excessive rain could force a rethink.
“Provided the ground is right, I’m not afraid of them,” Staddon said. “If we get a deluge of rain I would expect we would look at it, but provided it is good, good to soft, we will run him.
“Kayleigh is doing the business and the horse is fit and well.”
Woollacott had hoped to get another race into Lalor but decided conditions were not right for him to contest the Lightning Novices’ Chase at Doncaster so the horse will line up at Cheltenham off a 94-day absence.
“When he won at Cheltenham he hadn’t run for a considerable while,” said Staddon. “It was a big ask first time over fences but he won well.
“Sandown was a different story. It rained all the previous night. It rained for all the journey from where I am to Sandown, which is 200 miles. It was raining when we got there. It was raining so hard at the time of the race that from the stands you could barely see the far side of the course.
“He really confirmed what we already knew. He doesn’t like those conditions. He made a bit of a mistake down the far side and that frightened him. Richard got him back and he was closing in the end. I have put a pencil through that. That was purely the going.
“We then had him entered at Doncaster at the end of January. The conditions were not good. Dynamite Dollars ran there. I don’t know what happened, but he is not going in the Arkle.”
If Lalor does make a name for himself at Cheltenham, Staddon hopes commentators get his name right. Successive commentators have called him ‘Law-lor’.
“If he is Law-lor he would be spelt L-a-w-l-o-r, he is Lalor and Lay-lor to me,” he said.
“He is German bred and may be Law-lor in German but I haven’t researched it any more. To me he is Lay-lor.”