Siruh Du Lac maintained his rapid improvement with a gutsy front-running display under Lizzie Kelly to win the Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Stable Plate Handicap Chase at Cheltenham.
Having enjoyed a perfect season to date with three wins to his credit, Nick Williams’ charge was sent off the 9-2 second-favourite.
Despite beating Nicky Henderson’s Janika last time out it was his old rival who was the choice of the punters – and when he loomed up on Siruh Du Lac’s outside at the second-last it seemed he might gain his revenge.
With Eamon An Cnoic and Spiritofthegames also snapping at his heels, the Nick Williams-trained six-year-old was being challenged on all sides.
However, just as he had done on Trials Day in January, Siruh Du Lac found plenty for pressure to beat Janika by three-quarters of a length and give Kelly a second Festival winner after Coo Star Sivola 12 months ago.
Kelly said: “They didn’t give me any instructions they just said go out and do what you do. It is always lovely when you ride for people that allow you to make the decisions you want to.
“I wasn’t going to make it, I was going to sit second behind Tom Bellamy, but his folded quite easily after the first couple, so I thought I would go.
“I thought he was very impressive, especially after doing that for two miles.”
She added: “Last year there was so much subtext. I was so emotional. This time I just turned in and thought, ‘dear god we are going to do it again’.
“I was nervous today as I didn’t want to muck it up myself. I definitely could get used to this for sure.”
Williams said: “It was fantastic. He didn’t miss a fence, but he he needed to be spot on. It was a brilliant ride from Lizzie. It was really positive. He dictated from the front, but not with the choke out.
“I was feeling nervous as I jump every fence with them. His form with Janika was very close and I thought they would finish first and second, but I didn’t know in which order.
“The six-week gap from his last race was perfect. We thought about going to Newbury two weeks ago, but he was not quite on top of his game and he needed those extra couple of weeks.
“This was last-chance saloon at this year’s Festival. He has just crept up and has been creeping up the handicap. He had the perfect racing weight today.
“That is it for season. He is a nice horse, but he doesn’t take a lot of racing.”