Friday 23 March 2018

Sempre Medici gets job done with plenty in hand

Charlie Poste riding Russe Blanc (right) clear the last to win The Betfred Classic Steeple Chase
Charlie Poste riding Russe Blanc (right) clear the last to win The Betfred Classic Steeple Chase

Ian McClean

Sempre Medici proved a class apart from his rivals in the Limestone Lad Hurdle at Naas yesterday. Willie Mullins' six-year-old was sent off the 1-8 favourite on the back of an excellent second in the International Hurdle at Cheltenham and raced in third of the four runners in this Grade Three.

He made his move when hitting the front approaching the final flight and although Massini's Trap tried to go with him, Sempre Medici had far too many gears and eased clear in the hands of Ruby Walsh to triumph by five lengths.

"He didn't jump great but did what he had to do at the ratings. I thought he jumped one hurdle in the whole race," said Mullins. "I don't know where we'll go next. The Red Mills Hurdle might be a good plan for him.

"That's plenty far enough for him against that opposition. Maybe over the longer trip he wasn't jumping as well. When he has to gallop, he jumps better." Boylesports make him 16-1 from 25-1 for the Betfair Hurdle.

On a day when only one of his seven runners either won or finished second to a stable companion, Mullins' Thomas Hobson led home a one-two in the Grade Two Neptune Investment Management Novices' Hurdle at Warwick.

The two-mile-five-furlong event, better known as the Leamington, was dominated by the winner, with Danny Mullins setting out his stall early on the ex-John Gosden-trained runner.

Thomas Hobson had won two of his four previous hurdles outings and he was well in control three flights from home, with only Open Eagle launching any kind of challenge. However, the 5-1 shot crashed through the last hurdle when still in the lead, losing valuable momentum and allowing Open Eagle to close right up.

Thomas Hobson dug deep though and found plenty for Mullins, clinging on to victory by two and a half lengths with Definite Outcome a further six lengths back in third. Black Hercules was the other half of a double for Danny Mullins from his only two rides on his first visit to Warwick.

Kerry Lee continued her amazing first season as a trainer by saddling Russe Blanc to win the Betfred Classic Chase at Warwick just a week after taking the Coral Welsh Grand National with Mountainous.

Russe Blanc (20-1), the only horse in training officially described as white, followed his stablemate's example as he outbattled Midnight Prayer in the three mile, five furlong event.

Favourite Sego Success crashed out at the second fence while previous winner Rigadin De Beauchene was another notable casualty in very testing conditions, but they brought the best out of Russe Blanc.

Jockey Charlie Poste had a few hairy moments as his saddle slipped at one point during the race, but he got back on an even keel and his mount sealed victory at the final fence to score by three and three-quarter lengths.

"I think we will have to see what happens when he is reassessed by the handicapper on Tuesday, but I'd say we're going to stick to this step up in trip and three and a half miles will be his minimum," said Lee, who took over the reins at the family stable at Presteigne from her father Richard in July.

"We tried not to come here expectant, just hopeful, and this horse has really enjoyed jumping. He won his bumper here on heavy ground and is clearly at his best on softer ground. Every time he saw a fence, he locked on and said 'let me at it'.

"He won off 127 today, I doubt he'd get in the Grand National, but we might have a look," added Lee.

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