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Gwennie May Boy continues Skelton march at Aintree

Gwennie May Boy and Charlie Todd win for trainer Dan SkeltonGwennie May Boy and Charlie Todd win for trainer Dan Skelton
© Photo Healy Racing

Dan Skelton improved his already impressive record in handicaps at the major meetings when Gwennie May Boy continued his rapid improvement in the William Hill Handicap Hurdle at Aintree.

Having won the Grand Annual and Coral Cup at Cheltenham with Unexpected Party and Langer Dan respectively, Skelton plundered another valuable prize on Merseyside with Kateira on Friday.

Last year’s winner West Balboa appeared the stable’s first string in the Grand National day curtain-raiser, going off a well-backed 11-4 favourite under the trainer’s brother, Harry, but this time around had to make do with minor honours behind a stablemate on a steep upward trajectory.

Gwennie May Boy, who had won both of his first two races since moving to Skelton from Jonjo O’Neill’s yard, looked like he had just joined in at the second-last under Charlie Todd and the 9-2 shot scooted clear from the final obstacle to score by seven and a half lengths from Lord Snootie

“I have to say, I genuinely thought West Balboa would win, especially after Kateira won yesterday as there was nothing separating them when they last ran together at Kempton,” said Skelton.

“I am astounded at the improvement in this horse (Gwennie May Boy). He’s only a six-year-old and walking round beforehand I thought he looked a bit light and might be over the top, but what do I know – it’s clearly how he likes to be.

“I’ve not had him all that long and I hadn’t even worked him out before I ran him at Bangor, I just ran him. He won so well there I thought there’s a £100,000 race at Uttoxeter so we better go for that and then there was this here, it was just obvious.

“He has taken me by surprise as he works terrible at home, but he saves it all for the track and he’s just got on a roll. He’s been a remarkable little horse.” Cruz Control (9-1) produced a tremendous front-running display in the William Hill Handicap Chase.

Trained by Tom Lacey, the seven-year-old was bidding to follow up victory at Newcastle last month and received a buccaneering ride from Stan Sheppard.

The 12-year-old Sam Brown winner of this prize in 2022, briefly threatened to regain his title with a strong finishing effort, but Cruz Control had enough in reserve to keep him at bay by a length.

Lacey said: “He missed the ditch up the home straight the second time, but otherwise he jumped pretty economically. I stood where I stood to watch Thomas Patrick win the same race in 2018, funnily enough.

“He’s progressing. He’s unexposed over three miles and he hasn’t done much wrong all year. He’s seven, but he’s a huge horse and still a frame.

“Potentially he could be a National horse, but you’d want to be looking after his handicap mark to be doing that. We’ve always joked at home he’s a National horse, but he must have slow ground.”

Fergal O’Brien saddled the first two home in the concluding Weatherbys nhstallions.co.uk Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race, with 14-1 shot Horaces Pearl outshining his better-fancied stablemate Tripoli Flyer

The latter looked likely to emerge victorious after cruising to the front end under a motionless Paddy Brennan, but Connor Brace delivered the unbeaten Horaces Pearl with a well-timed challenge in the final furlong and he edged a length in front where it mattered.

O’Brien said: “It’s a great result, or a great result for one owner at least. They’re two very good owners and they’re two very nice horses.

“I thought on softer ground Horaces Pearl would go very well. His two Wincanton bumpers were good.

“I was actually screaming Paddy home and I said to my daughter Daisy ‘oh no we’ve been done, what beat us?’, and she said ‘your other one’!

“They’re two totally different horses. Horaces Pearl is six now whereas the other lad is five, so Horaces can probably step up in trip over hurdles whereas Tripoli will be fine over two miles.”

There has been some suggestion that Brennan may be closing in on retirement, but O’Brien added: “I said to Paddy coming back in ‘sorry about that, if you’d have won would that have been it’ and he said ‘definitely not’.

“He’ll keep going for as long as he wants to keep going.”