09 March 2024

Champagne sparks Sandown celebration for Pauling

09 March 2024

Ben Pauling dominated the European Breeders’ Fund Betfair ‘National Hunt’ Novices’ Handicap Hurdle Final, saddling the first two horses home.

The winner Champagne Twist was ridden by Ben Jones at 11-2, whereas stablemate Pic Roc was the mount of Kielan Woods at a price of 10-1.

The latter horse made the running throughout, leading the 17-runner field over every obstacle and gaining himself a significant lead as the race progressed.

He was challenged by Champagne Twist in the home straight, however, who loomed up on the centre of the track to pass him just a few strides ahead of the post.

It was a special moment for Pauling who is enjoying a rich vein of form and he said: “It’s a brilliant result and I couldn’t split them beforehand. Woodsy wanted to ride one and Ben wanted to ride the other, so it kind of worked quite well.

“This is for a crew of my great mates so it’s pretty special, but Emma’s (Kendall, owner) horse Pic Roc ran a great race as well and probably just got a bit lonely having done plenty out in front and just got nabbed on the line. They both ran really well.”

He went on: “Neither of them deserved to lose and it was a shame to see Pic Roc collared on the line.

“I’m delighted they are both progressing and it has always been a nice race for that type of horse.

“I think they both could be chasers (next season), Champagne Twist is not the biggest but I think he will jump a fence. They were brave because it was hard work and not nice out there. I was really pleased to see that.”

Ben Jones has been one of the beneficiaries of Pauling’s fine string of results since joining the Naunton Downs handler and he was thrilled to have chosen the right mount.

He said: “I’ve been very lucky with the opportunities I’ve been given and luckily it’s paying off.

“There wasn’t much between them and obviously coming down to the last there still wasn’t much between them!

“I think Pic Roc will end up being a lovely horse and Champagne Twist is probably a bit more streetwise and that’s why he’s won today. He’s not short of a turn of foot either and I think on better ground, you would see a better horse.

“We both jumped the last really well and there were no hard luck stories. Kielan said well done pulling up and he’s a good sportsman. He thought he was on the best one, I thought I was on the best one and luckily it worked out my way.”

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