|Grade 1, Haydock Park 15:00
3m 1f 125y, Class 1
1 Royale Pagaille 5/1
2 Bravemansgame 8/11F
3 Corach Rambler 18/1
4 ran Distances: 6½l, 9l, 13l
Time: 6m 50.80s (slow by 17.80s)
Royale Pagaille showcased his prowess at his preferred track, outperforming Bravemansgame to secure victory.
The nine-year-old, previously a runner-up in the same race in 2021, entered the Grade One contest at 5-1 under the guidance of Charlie Deutsch. Maintaining a consistent record of never finishing outside the top two in four prior outings at the Merseyside venue, Royale Pagaille lived up to expectations.
Protektorat, under Dan Skelton, displayed occasional jumping irregularities, while Lucinda Russell's Corach Rambler, the reigning Grand National hero, found the race unfolding at a pace too brisk for comfort. The duel for top honours boiled down to Royale Pagaille and Paul Nicholls' Bravemansgame, the 8-11 favorite, sharing the lead in the late stages.
Ultimately, Venetia Williams' charge asserted dominance in the closing moments, navigating the final two fences with precision and claiming his most significant triumph to date with a convincing six-and-a-half-length lead. Corach Rambler trailed behind in third, nine lengths adrift.
Williams said: “Charlie got him into a great rhythm but he said for the first circuit he was quite laid back and not really grabbing the bridle, it wasn’t until he pulled him out wide that he did.
“He jumped very well, but if you’d seen him school on Thursday you wouldn’t believe it. But that’s him, he shows very little at home and switches it on for the races.
“You’d have to say that’s a career best from him. All horses have their day and have their lesser days. If all the others were at the top of their game then it might put a different light on it. The same applies to us on other days, on this day we were the best.
“Cheltenham is a unique course, you go up and down and round. Courses like this, dead flat, there shouldn’t be hard luck stories so you should have the best horse winning.”
She went on: “I’m not saying he’s gone into any Gold Cup as favourite, but it’s a trappy course. It has to be, as it tests the best, just like the Derby at Epsom.
“He’s run in the last three Gold Cups, he should have only been in two but his owners Susannah and Rich (Ricci) had Monkfish who was red-hot favourite in the novice race and duly won.
“He has never had his ground at Cheltenham. Who knows, this year he might.
“Grade Ones are very hard to get so I’m absolutely thrilled for everyone at the yard.
“I’m glad the Irish didn’t come but they will be at Cheltenham! I wouldn’t have thought we’d be going to take them on over there, we’ve got a lot of nice races here anyway.
“This ranks pretty high in my career, we’ve won a lot of nice races but this one is up there.”
Assessing plans for the future, the Herefordshire-based trainer said: “You’d like to think he will go for the Gold Cup again. He hasn’t truly had his ground in the Gold Cup yet as Cheltenham often seems to start off soft but it never seems to last to Friday.
“He could go for the King George again too which he was second in last year and if it came up softer, his chance would be stronger. You always appreciate these wins and I am thrilled for the Riccis.”
Betfair Chase (registered as the Lancashire Chase)
£200,000 guaranteed, 5yo plus, 3m 1f 125y, Class 1
Going: Soft, Good to Soft in places
POS. DIST HORSE AGE WGT TRAINER JOCKEY SP
1 Royale Pagaille 9 11-10 Venetia Williams Charlie Deutsch 5/1
2 6½ Bravemansgame 8 11-10 Paul Nicholls Daryl Jacob 8/11F
3 9 Corach Rambler 9 11-10 Lucinda Russell Derek Fox 18/1
4 13 Protektorat 8 11-10 Dan Skelton Harry Skelton 5/2