Value at Risk finishes strong to take Keelings Irish Strawberry Hurdle
British challenger Value At Risk showed admirable courage to claim victory in the Keelings Irish Strawberry Hurdle.
Formerly a smart bumper performer in Ireland when trained by Philip Fenton and successful in a valuable event at this track, the seven-year-old endured a difficult start to the current campaign after falling at Newbury and Huntingdon on his first two starts over fences.
Those exits led to trainer Dan Skelton sending his charge back over the smaller obstacles and having run with credit when runner-up at Huntingdon last month, he was an 11-4 chance for this Grade Two.
As is his wont, Value At Risk was ridden positively by the trainer's brother, Harry, and took over the running from Gwencily Berbas on the second circuit.
Marchese Marconi loomed up as a big threat in the home straight, but Skelton's charge fought him off and passed the post a length and a half to the good.
Having initially looked outpaced on the drying ground, 5-2 favourite Dedigout got rolling late to finish third.
The delighted winning trainer said: "The owner has been very patient. I knew at the start of the season I had a top-quality horse.
"He might not be a Gold Cup horse, he might just be behind that grade, but he's very, very good. The fall at Newbury just knocked him back so much and I really struggled to get him right all season.
"I got it wrong early in the season and this is a little bit of payback. I had no excuses coming here and I'm glad he was able to start to show what we think he's capable of.
"It's only in the last few weeks I've had him anywhere near ready to win. In fairness it was Mark (Huglin) who spotted this race and we decided to give it a try. I've been travelling with a few horses recently and I prefer coming here than taking on 20 runners in a handicap at Aintree.
"He's very tough. I thought Barry (Geraghty on Marchese Marconi) had him covered to be honest but in fairness he picked up."
Skelton went on: "He'll go chasing next season - he's a chaser really. Harry has been riding brilliantly and the horses are in good form, doing everything they should.
"I'll have a look at Punchestown. We're not guaranteed to bring horses over then, but Superb Story will definitely go for the Galway Hurdle and Long House Hall will go for the Galway Plate."