Two For Gold edged out G1 winners Dashel Drasher and Bristol De Mai in a thrilling first running of the £150,000 Fleur De Lys Chase at Lingfield Park this afternoon, the final day of the Winter Million.
Barely a length separated the trio approaching the penultimate fence and all three battled resolutely, with Two For Gold (10/1) holding a slender advantage over the final obstacle.
Dashel Drasher fought his way to the front on the run-in but Two For Gold rallied as the line loomed to prevail by a short-head. The 11-year-old Bristol De Mai ran with credit in third, going down by less than a length. Sadly, Master Tommytucker incurred a fatal injury at the third last fence.
Winning trainer Kim Bailey said: “I said to my assistant Matt [Nicholls] this morning that we need a horse to rescue us this season. First Flow managed it last year and what are the chances of this happening today?
“We all thought that if Two For Gold was third, he would have run really well, but he did have a chance. He is a quirky individual who has given his owners a huge amount of fun.
“Ever since this race was announced, we said this is where we want to go. He loves soft ground and we were always very likely to get that here. He has done his job for the season!”
David Bass said: “I wanted to be really positive but when Two For Gold won at Doncaster last time, he was a bit cold early on, and it was exactly the same today.
“They went quick early and I wasn’t happy with how I was travelling or jumping, but then I passed Bristol De Mai going past the stands and he took hold of the bridle. He can pull himself up in front, but I know if the others are there, they will help him along.
“Great credit to the horse because he has now won 10 of his 19 races and knows how to win. This was his Gold Cup and we will enjoy this.”
Dashel Drasher’s trainer Jeremy Scott said: “That was a fantastic race with three very brave horses fighting it out.
“Rex [Dingle, jockey] said the winner was idling and we could have done with holding on a little bit longer before having one go at him, and we might have got him.
“Assuming our lad comes out of this OK, he will go to Ascot for the race he won last year.”
Brewin’upastorm (13/8jf) gained compensation for a last flight fall at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day in the £100,000 Weatherbys Cheltenham Festival Betting Guide Hurdle.
The Olly Murphy-trained nine-year-old, who looked to be producing a winning run at Cheltenham before coming down, failed to travel with his usual fluency but found generously for pressure in the straight.
He delivered a big jump at the last when asked by Aidan Coleman and stayed on strongly up the far rail to beat Darver Star and Goshen by a length and a quarter.
Murphy said: “I didn’t enjoy watching that at all and was never comfortable, but it is a great relief to win.
“Keith Donoghue on Darver Star had the run of the race on the inside, while Goshen was going to his right. You have to ride this lad with a bit of room but today Goshen was going everywhere we wanted to go and was a right inconvenience. But that’s horseracing and why we employ good jockeys, and thankfully I have one on my side.
“I left Cheltenham three weeks ago with my tail between my legs, but he is a good horse who has done me proud. It is nice he has turned up on the big day and well done to Lingfield for putting on fantastic prize money.
“Cheltenham hurt because he was coming to win the race. The way he found from the back of the last today should have put anyone’s mind at rest – I think he would have stayed going well had he not fallen. But that’s racing and you have to jump. He produced a magnificent jump at the last today when Aidan needed him and that was great to see.
“I would imagine we will freshen him up for Aintree now. We will keep the National Spirit at Fontwell in our minds, but he may have a penalty for his win in the race last year.”
Rest of the card
12.50pm £40,000 Winter Million Open National Hunt Flat Race 2m (AW)
Our Jester entered the reckoning for major honours with a dominant display in this All-Weather bumper, with connections now eyeing a trip to either Cheltenham or Aintree.
The giant six-year-old, who was a taking winner at Ascot in November, was ridden prominently by Tom O’Brien before lengthening away in the straight to score by three-and-a-quarter lengths.
Trainer Hughie Morrison knows the family well having trained Our Jester’s dam Cill Rialaig to win the 2010 Duke Of Edinburgh Handicap at Royal Ascot.
O’Brien said of the 5/2 chance: “I was keen to be prominent on Our Jester. He is huge and I was worried because of how tight it is around here.
“It looked to me like there were a lot of speed horses in the race whereas my lad is a jumper for the future. I wanted to be up there and luckily it was the right place to be.
“Hughie was confident coming here. The horse was beaten twice last season, but it has taken him time to strengthen up, and he has done that now.
“It is a great race to win and great from Lingfield to put it on.”
1.20pm £30,000 Winter Million Novices' Hurdle 2m 7f
Ballygrifincottage (7/4) was the form pick coming into the race and duly delivered under a well-executed ride from Harry Skelton for his brother Dan.
The champion jockey produced his mount in between the final two hurdles and the duo found plenty on the run-in to overhaul High Stakes, getting up close home to win by a length and a half.
A three-time victor in Irish point-to-points, Ballygrifincottage shaped well to finish third on his UK debut behind Blazing Khal in a G2 event at Cheltenham in December.
Harry Skelton said of the seven-year-old: “They went so quick early I couldn’t go with them. I was literally off the bridle going to the first and second, but three miles on that ground, I just let him warm into it.
“He came on the bridle with a circuit to go and is a good stayer as well. I am not tied down to do anything and I have the full confidence of my owners and my trainer, and I am given a free rein in how I want to ride them.
“Whatever he does over hurdles is a bonus. We would never normally start our novices off over this sort of trip, but he is an older horse with experience and knows how to cope with it. I think we have a lot to look forward to.”
1.50pm £50,000 Cazoo Novices’ Chase 2m
Joe Tizzard has set his sights on the Cheltenham Festival after 11/10 favourite War Lord made it three wins from four starts over fences this season.
Runner-up in the G1 Henry VIII Novices’ Chase on his previous start, War Lord jumped soundly under Brendan Powell before pulling clear in the closing stages for an authoritative three-and-a-quarter-length victory over Faivoir.
Tizzard, assistant to his father Colin, said: “That was lovely. War Lord has done nothing wrong this season and is a nice, progressive horse.
“We had Doncaster in mind next weekend, but we were always going to enter here and have a look. I wouldn’t say this race cut up but the front three were a much of a muchness on ratings. I thought he did it quite nicely and it looks like he is getting better.
“He earnt the right to run in a Grade 1 and was not disgraced that day. He has two novice options at Cheltenham and we will not be afraid to step him up in trip once the ground dries out, but I don’t think we need to just yet.
“The owners are keen to have a go at Cheltenham and so am I. He is three from four over fences and has been second in a Grade 1 as well – he deserves to be there.”
3.35pm £31,050 racehorselotto.com Surrey National Handicap Chase 3m 4f 178y
Unexposed chaser The Galloping Bear (12/1) provided trainer Ben Clarke with his biggest winner so far in this marathon contest over an extended three and a half miles.
A prolific winner in point-to-points and hunters’ chases, this was The Galloping Bear’s first run in a handicap and came on the back of a fall in a novices’ hurdle at Chepstow in early December.
Clarke said: “On pedigree, everything he has shown at home and his runs in point-to-points, we thought this trip would suit.
“We first realised he could be well above average when he won an intermediate point at Buckfastleigh. He went through the line quicker than anything else that day and I thought, ‘Christ, we might have something all right here’.
“His last run was meant to be a prep for the Welsh National and we ended up upside down. That wasn’t ideal, but we would have still run him at Chepstow but for scoping dirty a few days before because he had schooled well in the meantime.
“We had him in the Peter Marsh yesterday but, with Royal Pagaille running, he would have been out of the handicap, which made this race the obvious thing to do.
“The key to him is soft ground and he could go to Haydock next for the Grand National Trial if he comes out of this OK.”
4.08pm £20,750 Winter Million Novices' Handicap Hurdle 2m 3f 110y
The Tizzards completed a double in the final race of the Winter Million, with Triple Trade (7/2) overcoming 3/1 favourite Shearer by two lengths.