Lady Buttons landed the Napoleons Casino Restaurant Owlerton Sheffield Yorkshire Rose Mares’ Hurdle at Doncaster for the second successive year in fine style.
It looked like Phil Kirby’s popular 10-year-old faced a much tougher test on paper than 12 months ago and she was not even sent off clear favourite – despite winning a Listed heat over fences last time out.
The honour of 6-4 joint-favouritism went to Nicky Henderson’s improving novice Floressa, who travelled well for much of the contest but was found wanting in the sprint to the line after the final flight.
Timetochill was allowed an easy lead but Irish Roe, Fleur Irlandaise, Litterale Ci and the two market leaders were all queuing up behind at the second last.
Lady Buttons was last to challenge under Sean Quinlan, who was riding her for the first time, and despite causing slight interference when lugging to her right, she quickened clear impressively to the delight of the crowd.
Irish Roe was two and three-quarter lengths back in second with Floressa third.
Kirby said: “That was probably her best run. Things probably didn’t pan out in her favour because they went slow and it turned into a sprint.
“She won over nearly two-miles-five last time so I suppose it wasn’t going to be in her favour, but she was just quicker than them.
“I didn’t feel any pressure today because I felt she’d win. I thought she was as well as I’ve had her for a long time.
“I thought she would win everywhere today. She was bouncing.
“I don’t now how many times you can keep doing it, maybe too long. She’s 10 now. She flicks over these hurdles. It’s good.
“We won’t do anything now. We’ll decide later if we go to Cheltenham or Aintree. We’ll worry about that after a few days.
“The owners would like to run her in the Champion Chase – the mares’ race looks particularly hot. We may be better off going to Aintree and running in the race she was second in last year.
“Her last two runs have been as good as any she’s done.”
Quinlan was banned for four days after the stewards found he had allowed Lady Buttons to drift across the track in the finish.