Classic Chase: Iwilldoit Roars Back Into Life With Warwick Victory For Sam Thomas And Stan Sheppard

Classic Chase: Iwilldoit Roars Back Into Life With Warwick Victory For Sam Thomas And Stan Sheppard

Iwilldoit defied a huge weight and a monster absence to win the Wigley Group Classic Handicap Chase for Sam Thomas.

Thomas who along with prominent owner Dai Walters was involved in a helicopter crash in November, was celebrating his first winner of the calendar year.

Winner of the Welsh National last season, Thomas and connections have had to be patient as the 10-year-old suffered a setback.

Having his first outing for 383 days, Iwilldoit travelled incredibly well in the hands of Stan Sheppard.

It was Threeunderthrufive, one of only two in the race carrying more weight than the winner, who hit the front going down the back straight for the final time – but Sheppard was still sitting pretty.

He sent him to the front turning for home and looked a class apart as he soon put distance between himself and the others.

Willie Mullins’ Mr Incredible stayed on for second, beaten two and three-quarter lengths, with Notachance third.

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Iwilldoit clears a fence on the way to victory in the Classic Chase

Racing off a 7lb-higher mark than that which he won off at Chepstow, the 12/1 winner now looks a real Aintree contender.

Paddy Power introduced him at 25/1 for the Grand National.

France trip on the table for Thomas’ hero

“We didn’t get him in till a bit later unfortunately and he missed the Welsh National. But he’s eating well and we can train him a bit differently now,” said Thomas. “Before the Welsh National last year he was hardly ridden. I’m just delighted for everyone. It’s emotional.

“He’s notoriously been a fussy eater and a worrier, but as the years have gone on he’s matured and knows what his job is – he’s certainly easier to train than he was.

“They are his conditions (heavy), the speed he was going at the start was the same speed he was going at the end, he’s very one-paced. It’s nice we can come and have a go in these big races, the softer the better for him and it is nice to see he is still able to win off that mark.

“He’s a star, he’s very genuine. You won’t find another horse to try like him – it’s very straightforward when then want to do it just like him.

Sam Thomas and Stan Sheppard hold aloft the Classic Chase trophy
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Sam Thomas and Stan Sheppard hold aloft the Classic Chase trophy

“Credit to Stan who gave him a great ride and well done to team and Leah (Dix) who rides him every day. That’s what we do the job for and it is nice we can come here and take on the big boys and have a go.

“We had a good start to the season, from November onwards for obvious reasons (the crash) we struggled a bit. It’s not an easy game and you need these big winners to keep the wheel turning.”

Of an Aintree bid he said: “I don’t know, he needs another run over fences, he’s still not qualified to run in the Grand National. It’s been a whirlwind season so far, so we’ll enjoy this today and go from there.

“Maybe the Grand Steeple-Chase (French Grand National) in May would be an option. That’s what I was thinking before I came here today and you would get heavy ground. You need a Gold Cup horse to win that, but he could go and pick up some prize money. He would have to get an entry (for Aintree) though.”

Skeltons at the double

Grey Dawning stayed on stoutly to throw his hat into the ring for the Cheltenham Festival with a gritty display in the Ballymore Leamington Novices’ Hurdle at Warwick.

Winner of a handicap off just 123 at Kempton on Boxing Day, Dan Skelton’s charge faced a huge rise in class for the Grade Two event.

Won by the likes of Inglis Drever, Carruthers, The New One and Willoughby Court in the past, the race can certainly throw up a top-class performer.

On paper at least it looked wide open, with Gary Moore’s Givega, related to the great Quevega, sent off the 3/1 favourite in a field of seven.

Harry Skelton and Grey Dawning clear the last in the Leamington
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Harry Skelton and Grey Dawning clear the last in the Leamington

Lucinda Russell’s Snake Roll tried to stretch the field but his jumping fell apart down the back straight when Paul Nicholls’ Knowsley Road, Tom Lacey’s Ginny’s Destiny and the eventual winner all pulled clear.

Grey Dawning (9/2) briefly looked in trouble at one stage and then when Harry Skelton went for a gap between the other two, it began to close.

Skelton had enough horse underneath him, though, and the grey pulled clear in testing conditions to win by five lengths from Ginny’s Destiny.

Galia Des Liteaux never put a foot wrong as she jumped her rivals into submission in the eventmasters.co.uk Hampton Novices’ Chase at Warwick.

Galia Des Liteaux proved too good for her rivals in the Hampton Novices' Chase
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Galia Des Liteaux proved too good for her rivals in the Hampton Novices’ Chase

Dan Skelton has made no secret of the regard in which he holds the seven-year-old mare, and when she won a Listed event for mares on her chasing debut the sky looked the limit.

Upped to Grade One level for the Kauto Star Novices’ Chase over Christmas she almost fell at the second and then made another bad mistake at the fifth before she was eventually pulled up.

Connections were content to put a line through that run, insisting that her jumping was sound in the main – and so it proved on this occasion as she put in some big leaps on the way round.

Paul Nicholls’ Complete Unknown was giving vain chase, as was Gordon Elliott’s The Goffer, but neither could ever get on terms.

With the last fence bypassed, Harry Skelton kept Galia Des Liteaux (11/4) up to her work to take Grade Two honours by 13 lengths.

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