Love Envoi sails through Lingfield ground to maintain unbeaten record

Harry Fry-trained mare first winner on Surrey track’s new Winter Million weekend.

Trainer : Harry Fry
Trainer : Harry Fry Picture: Michael Steele/Getty Images

Love Envoi  maintained her unbeaten record with victory in the Winter Million Mares' Novices' Hurdle at Lingfield.

Winner of an Irish bumper for Sean Doyle, the six-year-old was bought by recently-retired jockey Jerry McGrath for £38,000 in March and joined the Noel Fehily Racing Club, to be trained by Harry Fry.

Following straightforward wins at Warwick and Leicester, this represented a step up in class with several nice prospects lining up.

One of those, Rainyday Woman, was pulled up at halfway, but Nurse Susan and Mayhem Mya, a winner at Chepstow earlier this week, tracked her into the straight.

Jonathan Burke had given his mare a canny ride, though, and saved plenty, with Love Envoi (11-2) relishing the testing ground and keeping on for a two-and-a-half-length win, leaving Fry eyeing a trip to Sandown next month.

He said: "She made an error early on, but she was superb over the last two and that won the day in the end.

"She loved this (heavy) ground and it is a big asset. She just goes through it with ease. She came back in trip today and it wasn't a concern, although she had not tried it before, but the ground brought her stamina into play.

"She liked it, whereas others would not necessarily. She is a fair size and she would probably always want a bit of easy ground.

"She will now go to Sandown for the Grade Two Jane Seymour Mares' Novices' Hurdle over two miles and three furlongs on February 17."

Venetia Williams continued her excellent recent run when Fontaine Collonges made a mockery of a handicap mark of 122 in the Winter Million EBF Mares' Novices' Handicap Chase.

Never far from the pace under Charlie Deutsch, she found herself in front early in the straight and the 5-2 favourite came home 10 lengths clear of Wouldubewell.

Williams said: "I am very pleased with the way she ran to the line and pleased also with her jumping, as she was being a little bit careful and you'd sooner that then careless.

"She was a little bit careful in her earlier races, but better that way and gradually pick up pace over obstacles. We schooled her the middle of last week and the first time she was really on it, she was quick and forward, and I thought, 'yes, that'll do. No more now'."

Williams and Deutsch quickly doubled up when Frero Banbou (9-4 favourite) reeled in long-time leader Eclair D'Ainay in the Handicap Chase.

Williams said: "I'm really pleased with that. It was Charlie's idea after last time to take his time a bit more. We talked about trying to change things slightly in order to get his head in front.

"One of the options was to step him up in trip but we felt that a lack of pace wasn't a problem, so it was his idea to ride him a little differently."

Nigel Twiston-Davies looks set to target the National Hunt Chase at the Cheltenham Festival with Fantastikas, who landed the weatherbys Novices' Chase after a nail-biting finish.

The 5-2 chance looked to have the near three-mile event in the bag when jumping clear at the last, only for Queenohearts to get within a short-head of the Sam Twiston-Davies ridden winner.

"I thought we were beaten," said the winning trainer. "He is a good boy. That was very good. He is in the National Hunt Chase at Cheltenham and in the three-mile novice chase, but he looks like he is a right stayer, so the National Hunt will probably be the one for him. It's very exciting.

"We have made a thing of milking the money and he has won a lot of money by not winning. He won five grand here, was second at Doncaster and won nine grand, he was third at Cheltenham and won seven grand, so he has done all right. If horses pay their way, that's all that matters."

At The Races