Rouge Vif produced an impressive display to land the Agetur UK Kingmaker Novices’ Chase at Warwick.
Having won the Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase on Itchy Feet in the Kate and Andrew Brooks colours last week, rider Gavin Sheehan arrived on the crest of a wave – but was in a rush to weigh in as he was dashing to Newbury to ride in the Betfair Hurdle.
Second at Kempton over Christmas behind Global Citizen, the Harry Whittington-trained Rouge Vif was sent off a 7-2 chance in a strong field for the Grade Two contest.
On drying ground for the two-mile affair, they went a decent clip, with Torpillo at the head of affairs, although down the back straight his jumping let him down.
That enabled Sheehan to take charge and while Harry Skelton looked happy to follow on the favourite Nube Negra, it soon became apparent he was not going as well as Rouge Vif.
The six-year-old pulled seven lengths clear after the last, to give his trainer a second win in the race in three years after Saint Calvados in 2018.
Whittington said: “I ride him every day. I love him to bits. I can’t believe it – I’m lost for words. I thought he would win today. I was confident – the form of his Boxing Day run (at Kempton behind Global Citizen) is so solid.
“He’s an excellent jumper and is such a natural. The slightly better ground has helped him, he can really operate on it. He was very good and is a smart horse. I think he gets a bit underestimated.
“He’ll go for the Arkle now. We always felt he was an Arkle horse – his form is rock solid and he’s tough. He always runs his race.”
He added: “I’m delighted for Kate and Andrew. They are having the most amazing run and they deserve it.”
Andrew Brooks said: “It’s amazing. His jumping was incredible. Saint Calvados won here and his jumping was good, but this lad was better today.
“He travelled so well into the race and credit to Gavin and to Harry for getting him here.
“He had a tongue tie today and has had a wind op. It’s onwards and upwards.
“We’re going to enjoy the good moments. We’ve waited a long time for these young horses to come through. It means a lot.
“We all try to get horses to Cheltenham and it means everything.
“I think he’s got a good chance (in the Arkle).”