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Wakanda proves poignant Sky Bet Chase hero at Doncaster

Sat 27 Jan 2018

There were emotional scenes in the Doncaster winner's enclosure after Wakanda claimed a last-gasp success in a thrilling renewal of the Sky Bet Chase.

The Sue Smith-trained nine-year-old sports the colours of Margaret Scholey and her late husband Ray, who died earlier this week.

It is 14 years since Truckers Tavern carried the same silks to runner-up spot in the Cheltenham Gold Cup behind Best Mate and while Wakanda might not be at that level, he has been a fine servant to his connections and was an 8-1 shot to snap a long losing streak dating back over two years in the hands of Henry Brooke.

Runner-up in the Rowland Meyrick Chase at Wetherby on Boxing Day, he looked booked for minor honours again jumping the final fence, but lunged late to get up and beat Warriors Tale by a head, with 13-8 favourite L'Ami Serge and the long-absent Long House Hall close up in third and fourth respectively.

Harvey Smith, assistant to his wife, said: "It's a fitting tribute to Ray. He's been a great supporter of National Hunt racing in north and we could do with a few more people like him."

Asked whether he felt Wakanda could be a Grand National contender, he said: "I don't think so. He's not big enough."

Brooke said: "He's getting a bit lairy in his old age and he was backing off his fences.

"After jumping the last I knew I'd finish well but I didn't know if I'd get there. Thankfully he got up in the dying strides.

"That's the first time the horse has won in over two years so it definitely won't do him any harm.

"His owner passed away earlier this week, so it's sad circumstances. It's a shame he couldn't be here to see this but I'm sure he's looking down on us."

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