Vieux Lion Rouge on the prowl for Cheltenham Festival date
Last Updated: 31/01/14 8:13am
Vieux Lion Rouge impressed for David Pipe
Vieux Lion Rouge, owned by Professor Caroline Tisdall and trained by David Pipe, could be heading to the Cheltenham Festival after he comfortably landed the odds at Wincanton.
A widely acclaimed author, art historian and general polymath, Tisdall has some expensive purchases among her 10 horses in training at Pond House, including the £450,000 Un Temps Pour Tout, and she first really rose to prominence when Dell' Arca took the Greatwood Hurdle last November.
Vieux Lion Rouge was a more conservative signing who met with his only defeat in five previous starts in the Champion Bumper, and followed up his success at the same course a fortnight ago as 1/4 favourite for the fitandfurnish.co.uk Novices' Hurdle.
His task was made rather easier when market rival Lady Charisma crashed out at the second-last with Tom Scudamore just using hands and heels to get home by six lengths.
"I bought him for 42,000 euro at Arqana in 2012. He was a big chestnut then and he's grown even more," said Tisdall.
"He came back in late as he had mucus. He jumped beautifully - Tom has been doing a lot of schooling with him.
"Dell' Arca is doing well. He was unseated in the Ladbroke last time but he'll run in the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury on February 8."
Pipe said of Vieux Lion Rouge: "I was pleased with his jumping - he was much better today.
"He had good bumper form and I like them to think racing is easy.
"He's in the Neptune at Cheltenham, we'll see. This was low-key but it gives him confidence."
Pipe expects Un Temps Pour Tout to have one more run somewhere before looking at the Festival.
Despite the Army having been finally deployed to support the stranded residents of the Somerset Levels, the county has provided the only two surviving English National Hunt meetings this week.
It meant Andrew Thornton could draw ever closer to achieving his ambition of 1,000 career winners.
One of the weighing room's elder statesmen, Thornton drove the Seamus Mullins-trained Alder Mairi (18/1) two lengths clear in the New Racing UK Anywhere Available Now Handicap Hurdle.
"That's 947 winners over here, and 949 including two abroad," he said.
"We'll keep working away. Seamus and Caroline Bailey have been particularly good supporters of mine since Robert Alner stopped training.
"Two and a half miles suits her (Alder Mairi) well - she didn't get home at Kempton last time."
Venetia Williams won the inaugural Dick Hunt Handicap Chase with 9/4 joint favourite Bennys Mist, who followed up his success at the previous meeting.
Stablemate Carrickboy, out of sorts since his Cheltenham Festival victory last spring, grabbed third.
"It was a bit of a risk coming back quickly after a tough race the other week but he does like soft ground," said Williams.
"I was really pleased with Carrickboy. In a way it's better than if he was second as then I'd be thinking I should have run him in another race."
Williams and Aidan Coleman later made it a double with Brick Red (9/4) in the Red And Yella Mickey Boley Memorial Novices' Limited Handicap Chase.
Paul Nicholls only has a handful of mares at his stable but he has a good one in the ex-Irish pointer Tagrita (1/3 favourite), who looked particularly athletic in the Carling EBF Mares' "National Hunt" Novices' Hurdle.
The trainer said: "She's a nice mare. We were finding out about her first time she ran at Newbury and she won well here the last day and again today.
"She'll go to Doncaster for a Listed three-mile mares' hurdle a month on Saturday."
Shy John (13/2) repelled the experienced Richard's Sundance in the CGA Foxhunter Trial Open Hunters' Chase for jockey and trainer Peter Mason.
His wife Jennifer, a capable trainer herself, said: "He's proved himself quite a useful Open horse and this was a step up.
"You can't say you wouldn't think about going to Cheltenham, but I'm not sure."
Jolly's Cracked It (7/2 joint-favourite), a half-brother to Crack Away Jack, picked up the Connolly's Red Mills Bumper Challenge.
Trainer Harry Fry said: "He's a big horse and that might have been a good race. It's his first run for us and I'd say he'll stick to bumpers."