‘She’s a bit special’ – festival favourite Luccia’s emphatic success gives connections Supreme problem.
Luccia’s victory in the Listed 2m12f novice hurdle solidified her status as the overwhelming favorite for the Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival. However, trainer Nicky Henderson was impressed by Luccia’s performance, and he did not rule out a run in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle.
The five-year-old missed out on an intended engagement in the Tolworth Novices’ Hurdle last month but was sent off the 8-13 favorite to keep her unbeaten record. She had won a similar contest at Newbury on her hurdles debut in late November.
Under Nico de Boinville, Luccia breezed into contention in the final stretch and, despite an error at the finish, powered to an 11-length victory. For the Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle, she was generally trimmed to 7-4 from 5-2.
Henderson said: “You had to be impressed with her. She’s had a few hiccups since she won at Newbury, but that was exactly what we wanted before Cheltenham. She was a bit untidy at the last, but apart from that her jumping was great.
“She had a horrible incident last year where we very nearly lost her. It’s fantastic for Paul [Sandy, owner]. She’s a homebred and it’s exciting. She’s a bit special.”
De Boinville gave Henderson a hint that Henderson might like the Supreme because of Luccia’s success. For a race that the trainer and jockey won last year with superstar Constitution Hill, she is the best-priced bet at 12-1.
“I would favour the mares’ race as it looks as if she’d have an outstanding chance in that,” said Henderson. “I think she would have a chance in the Supreme and Nico said to run her there, so he must have been impressed.
“She wouldn’t be out of place in that, but we’ll see. There are a few weeks until then. I’d favour the mares’ race.”
Luccia led a treble for Henderson, who also won the Pertemps Hurdle qualifier with Walking On Air. The Carpenter made a winning start for the trainer in the 2m212f novice hurdle despite missing 701 days.
Walking On Air was introduced at 10-1 for the Pertemps Final. Henderson said: “We’ve now got a strong team for the Pertemps, with the King’s Steal A March, Captain Morgs and a few more that might go. Walking On Air will definitely go. That was much better from him and he’ll be a fine, proper three-mile chaser next season.”
After returning to winning ways with a front-running victory in the Listed 3m mares’ chase, Pink Legend, the Mares’ Chase runner-up from the previous season, was lowered to a general odds of 25-1 (from 50) for this year’s event.
Trainer Venetia Williams told Racing TV: “I’m really delighted. Charlie [Deutsch, jockey] said as soon as she jumped off she was straight into the bridle and was off.
“It was her first time back over three miles for a while but she really enjoyed the tempo.”
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