West Approach emerged as a potential Grand National contender after gaining the most notable victory of his career in the BetVictor Smartcards Handicap Chase.
Benefitting from an ice cool ride by Robbie Power, the Colin Tizzard-trained nine-year-old ended his losing streak – which stretched back to December 2017 – in the Grade Three contest.
Anchored at the rear of the field for much of the extended three-mile-three-furlong prize, the 11-4 joint favourite was produced to hit the front after the last by Power before quickening away to defeat Achille by three lengths.
Tizzard said: “Robbie said that is what he was going to do – sit last then the go after the last. That takes a bit of nerve.
“He said he would sooner get beat going later than early and don’t expect to see him until the end. It made me nervous watching it.
“He has been knocking on the door and he shook Paisley Park up last season. I hope it has not taken us four years to find out this is the right way to ride him.”
Although West Approach was cut to 16-1 for the Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury later this month by the race sponsors, Tizzard warned he was far from certain to make a quick reappearance.
He added: “He came fifth in the Ladbrokes Trophy (at Newbury) last year (and) if you ever knew (owner) John Snook, you’d have a job to stop him having a go at that. That’s a fortnight’s time, which is probably a bit quick.
“I didn’t think he was good enough for the Grand National, but riding him like that, he might be and if the entries closed tomorrow, you would put him in.”
Amateur jockey Sam Lee went from milking cows to celebrating his first Cheltenham victory within the space of a few hours after the Phil Middleton-trained Golan Fortune prevailed by two and a half lengths in the Listed Spinal Injuries Association Big Buck’s Handicap Hurdle.
Lee said after his 14-1 triumph: “I was milking the cows this morning and I told my dad I might win and he laughed at me. I thought I might scrape a hunter chase here at the end of the season.
“Winning a big handicap after the BetVictor Gold Cup – if I had told people that this morning, they would have never believed and I never believed it. It’s been my dream to be a Cheltenham-winning jockey.
“It worked out how I wanted it to. Working out in big races never usually happens.”
David Maxwell was another to celebrate his first winner at the track after Jatiluwih formed the second leg of a double for trainer Philip Hobbs when completing a five-timer in the BetVictor Intermediate Handicap Hurdle.
The winning rider said: “This is different class. This is what the whole sport is about.
“It does revolve around it whether you want it to or not. To have a winner here is just something else.
Of the 11-4 winner, he added: “He was foot perfect and never missed a hurdle. He was very easy to ride. He took a bit of grip down the back, but he is an absolute pro.”
Wholestone (13-8 favourite) held Rockpoint by a length and three-quarters to take the mallardjewellers.com Novices’ Chase for Nigel Twiston-Davies and Daryl Jacob.
The winning trainer said: “He is back on track now. It was a bit disappointing last time and it would have been nice to have had two wins with him here, but he’s a lovely horse.”
When asked if the Grade One Kauto Star Novices’ Chase at Kempton’s Christmas meeting was a possible target, Twiston-Davies added: “The Festival is the long-term aim, but Kempton could be on his agenda. We’ll look at it and have a word with the owners.”
Urban Artist was a 16-1 winner of the closing Karndean Designflooring Mares’ Standard Open NH Flat Race for Hughie Morrison and jockey Nico de Boinville.