Endless Escape has earned herself a rise in class next month by bringing up a hat-trick at Ffos Las as jump racing returned on Monday following the big freeze.
A winner of both starts since joining Ben Clarke, the 5-2 shot had to concede 5lb to the 8-15 favourite Vicki Vale in the Download The Vickers.Bet App Novices’ Hurdle and it was the market principles who fought out the finish with the winner keeping on well to strike by two lengths.
She will now be stepped up in trip for a Sandown Grade Two on February 16, with her handler believing there will be plenty more improvement to be seen at two and a half miles.
“We were delighted with her,” said Clarke. “We were hoping she would run nicely today to earn herself a crack at the Sandown Grade Two (Weatherbys Cheltenham Festival Betting Guide Jane Seymour Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle) next month.
“The Skelton horse (Vicki Vale) in the race was clearly a smart horse judged on her Hereford run and we’re absolutely delighted, especially giving the runner-up 5lb as well.
“She will only ever do as much as she has to, she’s quite workmanlike. There is certainly more to come and she will be better for a step up in trip as well.”
He went on: “She has proven herself on three very different tracks the last three times and in different ground as well.
“She’s a proper staying two-miler in stiff conditions, but really she wants two and a half and I think that’ll bring out more improvement which will obviously be needed stepping up in Grade. She’s a smart mare going in the right direction.”
Hercules Morse (100-30) opened his account at the third attempt to win division one of the Best Odds Guaranteed At Vickers.Bet Everyday Maiden Hurdle with Ben Pauling tentatively highlighting Sandown’s EBF Final as an option for his strapping five-year-old.
“He’s a lovely, great big individual who will want plenty of time,” said the winning trainer.
“I’m not saying he doesn’t have ability because he clearly has. He lugged slightly right there today and won despite that, but he’s a lovely horse for next year and beyond really.
“He’s a classy horse, he moves well and he’s got everything is in the right place, but he’s doing well to be doing what he’s doing at the moment considering his size.
“We might look at something like the EBF Final with him, but he’s not going to be thrown in at the real deep end anytime soon.”
Nick Schofield registered his first winner since returning from injury when partnering Jonjo O’Neill’s Regal Blue (4-1) to victory in the second division, while Dan Skelton’s Real Stone (8-1) won the Vickers.Bet Independent Family Owned Bookmaker Handicap Chase.
The most valuable race of the day went the way of Nigel Twiston-Davies’ Equinus (5-2) who built on some smart novice form to take the Vickers.Bet Handicap Hurdle when stepping up in trip on his handicap bow.
“I was very pleased with him and he’s improved with every run. He’s done it really nicely and it’s great to be back racing again,” said Twiston-Davies.
“We may try to get EBF qualified and go for the Final at Sandown, that seems the sensible thing to do if we have enough time.”