Having won the Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase on Itchy Feet in the Kate and Andrew Brooks colours last week, rider Gavin Sheehan arrived on the crest of a wave – but was in a rush to weigh in as he was dashing to Newbury to ride in the Betfair Hurdle.
Second at Kempton over Christmas behind Global Citizen, the Harry Whittington-trained Rouge Vif was sent off a 7-2 chance in a strong field for the Grade Two contest.
On drying ground for the two-mile affair, they went a decent clip, with Torpillo at the head of affairs, although down the back straight his jumping let him down.
That enabled Sheehan to take charge and while Harry Skelton looked happy to follow on the favourite Nube Negra, it soon became apparent he was not going as well as Rouge Vif.
The six-year-old pulled seven lengths clear after the last, to give his trainer a second win in the race in three years after Saint Calvados in 2018.
Whittington said: "I ride him every day. I love him to bits. I can't believe it - I'm lost for words. I thought he would win today. I was confident - the form of his Boxing Day run (at Kempton behind Global Citizen) is so solid.
"He's an excellent jumper and is such a natural. The slightly better ground has helped him, he can really operate on it. He was very good and is a smart horse. I think he gets a bit underestimated.
"He'll go for the Arkle now. We always felt he was an Arkle horse - his form is rock solid and he's tough. He always runs his race."
He added: "I'm delighted for Kate and Andrew. They are having the most amazing run and they deserve it."
Indefatigable secured her place at the Cheltenham Festival with an emphatic display to claim Listed honours in the Paddy Power 31 Sleeps To Cheltenham Mares’ Hurdle at Warwick.
Enjoying the drying conditions in the winter sunshine, Paul Webber’s seven-year-old now has connections choosing between the Cheltenham Festival Mares’ Hurdle, registered as the David Nicholson, and the Coral Cup as to her main target.
The 7-2 co-favourite took over the lead from Guardia Top on the run to the second-last.
A mistake there failed to halt her momentum and she showed a decisive foot to score by six lengths from Copper Gone West.
Webber said: “She got a bit lazy in front at the second-last, which is why she clattered that, but she jumped the last well.
“We’ll see what we need to do. She’s an entry in the David Nicholson and she’ll get an entry in the Coral Cup maybe, as long as she doesn’t go up too much for today. I don’t think she’ll go up a lot on ratings.
“She’s got course form at Cheltenham and she’s better on drier ground.
“I walked the course here with my wife and three dogs. We had 16 feet going round on Wednesday to get an opinion on it. Spring ground will help her a lot.”
Winning rider Richie McLernon said: “It was nice to get the ride. She’s a nice mare.
“The ground drying out helped a bit and the only mistake she made was at the second-last.
“The ground was too soft for her at Sandown, but she’s shown her true colours today.
“She’s entitled to go to Cheltenham.”
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