23 December 2023

Luccia leads Trophy one-two for Seven Barrows

23 December 2023

Luccia made her excellent late hurdling count when collecting a valuable victory in the Betfair Exchange Trophy at Ascot.

Nicky Henderson’s mare was pressed all the way up the home straight by stablemate Impose Toi at the end of the £150,000 contest.

But while the latter clouted the last couple of obstacles, Luccia negotiated them in a swift and clean manner under Paul O’Brien to gain the upper hand.

Impose Toi tried his best to claw back the deficit on the run-in, but 9-2 chance Luccia was still a neck in front at the finishing line, securing a first prize of over £85,000.

“If a race like that is going to put up prize-money like that, then we are going to throw everything at it – we ran three,” said Henderson, who also saddled 11-4 favourite Iberico Lord in seventh. “It’s a huge pot and you’ve got to have a go.

“Luccia had every right to be there (at the finish), Iberico Lord beat her the time before at Cheltenham but she had an 8lb swing and she was right there at the last in Cheltenham.

“That is probably as good a way to ride her as you can find. There was no pace and Paul was only trying to dictate it. He was controlling the race actually.

“To get her back is an amazing thing, because we nearly lost her. A tendon in her hind leg locked and she did the splits and couldn’t get up.

“She’s homebred and it’s great. She was top-class last year and she is deserving of a race like this, to be fair. She was heading to the top and things didn’t quite work out, but she was good today.

“I suppose we will have to go (to the Betfair Hurdle), you have to don’t you. But I have always wanted to try her over two and a half to see if she is up for the Mares’ Hurdle.

“To be fair, if you are making the running in a race like that at that pace and getting home, then I would like to try her up in trip and see if she’s game for the Mares’. She deserves a shot at something like that.”

Victtorino continued the excellent run of Venetia Williams and Charlie Deutsch by landing the Howden Silver Cup Handicap Chase over three miles.

Flash Collonges and Git Maker locked horns up front for a long time but paid the price for going too hard and cried enough before the home turn.

There was then four in a line jumping the second-last, but Deutsch had been biding his time in behind on Victtorino and was clearly travelling the best, despite carrying 12st at the age of five in such a competitive contest.

Two beautiful jumps put the 4-1 shot in control and he was always doing enough to fend off the late surge of Yeah Man by three-quarters of a length.

“He’s remarkably grown up for a five-year-old and is really exciting,” said Williams.

“It looked like it wasn’t going to go for us today, there was a strong pace and he wanted to go on the outside, but Blackjack Magic was holding that position and he couldn’t really get by into the position he wanted.

“From Swinley Bottom up, it was pedal to the metal and he met a few of those on an awkward stride, which made things difficult for him, but he dealt with it.

“To see him then go on to the line, and obviously he was being caught, but Charlie felt when the other horse got to his quarters, he felt him pick up a little bit.”

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