Professor Caroline Tisdall enjoyed a fairytale success when Vieux Lion Rouge carried her colours to victory in the veterans’ handicap chase she sponsored at Chepstow.
Tisdall was doubly represented in leg seven of the veterans’ series with Dell’ Arca, also trained by David Pipe, and it was Vieux Lion Rouge, who landed the spoils.
The 10-year-old’s stamina came into play in the closing stages, with Conor O’Farrell getting a fine tune out of the 9-2 shot to beat On Tour by a neck with Joe Farrell a close third.
“It was the best £35,000 I’ve ever spent when I bought him,” Tisdall told Sky Sports Racing.
“These veterans’ races are so important, we show the public how beautifully these horses are looked after – 10-year-olds, 11-year-olds and 12-year-olds enjoying it. It’s wonderful.
“It wasn’t planned. We came in with open minds. To participate is to qualify.”
Vieux Lion Rouge is likely to head for the Becher Chase at Aintree, which he won in 2016.
“What a horse. He’s been in quite a few battles – four Grand Nationals, Becher Chases – and he keeps coming back for more,” said Pipe.
“It just goes to show what great races these veterans’ chases are.
“I expect he’ll probably go back for the Becher now.”
Ardlethen (15-2) could have a bright future over fences judged on a successful start to his first campaign over fences in the Dunraven Windows Novices’ Chase.
Ridden to challenge evens favourite Lisnagar Oscar by Harry Skelton, the Dan Skelton-trained six-year-old stayed on well to score by a neck.
“There’s a lot more to come and a lot more good horses to face, but I think that was a good performance for his first run of the season,” said the winning trainer.
“I’m really happy with that.”
Thyme Hill (9-4 favourite) looked an exciting prospect when making a winning debut over obstacles in the Unibet Persian War Novices’ Hurdle.
Last season’s Cheltenham champion bumper third justified trainer Philip Hobbs’ high opinion with an impressive display to take the Grade Two honours.
“The great thing was right from the start he jumped beautifully. It all went very well,” said Hobbs.
“It’s a very good start. We’re all chuffed.”
Thyme Hill was cut to 20-1 from 33-1 with both Betfair and Paddy Power for the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival.
Point-to-point winner Ofalltheginjoints (9-2) got off the mark first time under rules in the Canter Carpet High Performance Equestrian Surface Novices’ Hurdle.
Colin Tizzard’s charge, a 75,000 euro purchase at Punchestown in May, stuck on well from the final flight to beat long-time leader Flic Ou Voyou by a neck.
“He’s a proper horse and stayed on well. It looks like he might want longer, but as the ground gets softer perhaps he won’t,” said Tizzard.
Torpillo (3-1) made light of top-weight of 11st 10lb to take the Paul Ferguson’s Jumpers To Follow 4-Y-O Limited Handicap Hurdle in the hands of Daryl Jacob.
Trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies said: “We were going to go novice chasing, but things might change a bit. There is a four-year-old hurdle at Cheltenham. Maybe we’ll look at that as well.”