Emma Lavelle’s Le Bec lowered some lofty reputations by winning the Roy Blandford 65 Years At Cheltenham Novices’ Chase at Prestbury Park.
Shutthefrontdoor and African Gold were sent off the 9-4 joint-favourites, but Le Bec was not without his followers at 3-1 and Noel Fehily kept wide throughout as Bob Ford set the pace, before going into the lead at the top of the hill.
African Gold was one of the first beaten and approaching the third-last Sam Winner loomed up as a huge threat. Le Bec and Shutthefrontdoor joined him and all jumped the second-last in unison, but it was Le Bec who stayed on strongest of all to hold off Shutthefrontdoor by three-quarters of a length.
Paddy Power cut the winner to 20-1 from 33s for the RSA Chase back at Cheltenham in March.
Lavelle said: “He’s a very, very nice horse and his jumping was fantastic. All the credit has to go to Barry (Fenton, former jockey and partner) who has done all the work at home.
“I imagine he’ll get better as he gets a bit stronger. I wouldn’t think he’d do a lot during the winter as he wants decent ground, but I wanted to take him here to get some experience of the course. It was a strong race with some lovely horses, so it keeps you dreaming.”
Return Spring came from the clouds to deny Paul Nicholls a one-two in the Ultima Business Solutions Handicap Hurdle.
All the way up the home straight the Nicholls duo of Salubrious and Southfield Theatre were going at it hammer and tongs, with the Festival winner Salubrious just getting the upper hand. However, after jumping the last Return Spring sprouted wings under James Best and Philip Hobbs’ six-year-old got up in the final stride to spring a 20-1 surprise.
An emotional Best said: “This means so much. I’ve been at Mr Hobbs’ six years now and I must thank him and the owner Mr Jones for letting me ride. Mr Hobbs has been so good to me. I thought I was beat.”
Sarah Hobbs, wife of the winning trainer, added: “I’m thrilled for James, nobody works harder than him.
“We had three in it and they were all in a line at the second-last and we didn’t know which one to cheer. Return Spring only just got in the handicap and it was a last-minute thing whether he even ran. The owner’s thrilled to bits, he had �5 each-way on!”
The six-year-old runs in the colours of David Jones, the father of actress Catherine Zeta-Jones.Read the rest of the story British Horseracing Authority News Headlines