Rene's Girl in line for Grade One chance following Huntingdon success

Thu 22 Feb 2018

Rene's Girl can now look forward to a first outing at Grade One level after claiming the most lucrative victory of her career in the Smarkets Lady Protectress Mares' Chase at Huntingdon.

After running out an impressive winner of a Listed chase at Doncaster, the eight-year-old struck at the same level for the second race in succession when taking the two-and-a-half-mile contest by two lengths to complete doubles for Dan and Harry Skelton.

Assistant trainer Tom Messenger said of the 4-1 winner: "Her jumping today was not a foot-perfect round but I don't think anybody was. She was a bit brave early on which is her way, having run from the front before, but on the whole she jumped well. She knuckled down nicely in the end. She idled in front after the last, but she picked up when Harry asked her."

He added: "I think the plan is to go for the two-and-a-half-mile Grade One novice chase at Aintree. She has won two Listed races and got black type so she deserves to take her chance in a race like that."

Starcrossed (16-1) got the ball rolling for the Skelton brothers when building on his debut effort earlier in the month to claim a surprise length success in the Smarkets Novices' Hurdle.

Messenger said: "He was a two-miler on the Flat and we thought he would be better when he was upped to two and three-quarter or three miles. That was a nice surprise.

"Obviously he has sharpened up from his first run. He has got a lovely attitude and jumps well. Hopefully he will progress when we step him up in trip."

Shining Romeo (13-2) completed a remarkable transformation after ending a recent spell in the doldrums when taking division one of the Smarkets Handicap Hurdle by a length.

Trainer Denis Quinn said: "He will be better on better ground, as he hated that. His confidence is coming back after he had a bit of an experience at Sedgefield last summer.

"His spleen swelled up and it didn't go back down for a while. He was distressed in the lorry and we were lucky we didn't lose him."

Dual champion jockey Richard Johnson continued his good relationship with Birch Hill (16-1) by making it three from three aboard the Sophie Leech-trained eight-year-old in the second division.

Johnson said: "I was lucky to be on him at the end of last season. He won a couple of races, then he got a problem at Chepstow at the end of the season. He had a run at Cheltenham a few weeks ago and he improved for that.

"He is probably more of a stayer than a speed horse. The ground is very testing and you need to get two and a half miles on that ground."

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