The Cheltenham Festival starts off with a bang on Tuesday with the running of the Arkle Challenge Trophy Novices’ Chase, a Group 1 at two miles highlighted by the return of the Kayley Woollacott trained Lalor.
A dozen will start in the Arkle with the current favorite the Mick Channon trained Glen Forsa, who is at 5.50 in Arkle betting at Betway.
The seven-year-old gelding is coming off a 19-length victory in the Kingmaker Novices’ Chase at Sandown on Feb. 15.
Hardline is taking action at 6.00. Trained by Gordon Elliot, the gelding was third in the Flogas Novice Chase (G1) at Leopardstown on Feb. 3. Third choice in the Arkle betting at Betway is Duc Des Genievres at 6.50. The gelding is coming off a 15-length win at Gowran Park in the Beginners Chase.
Lalor is looking to rebound off a third-place finish over soft ground at Sandown in the Henry VIII Novices’ Chase (G1) as the beaten favorite.
Small Trainer overseeing proceedings this morning watching Brian and Lalor gallop @ExeterRaces @dickyjohnson77 ???? pic.twitter.com/pvI40XKQfb
— Kayley Woollacott (@k_woollacott) February 23, 2019
Kayley Woollacott saddled Lalor to victory to Betway Top Novices’ Hurdle (G1) last April, just three months after the untimely death of her husband Richard, the previous trainer of Lalor. Richard suffered from mental illness and took his own life on Jan.23, 2018.
“It’s been a very difficult time since my husband Richard passed away, but we’re focusing on the future and Richard always loved Lalor. Let’s hope he can go right to the top again this season,” Kayley said. “If there is anything Richard could have done it would be to make sure this horse continues to show what he was, and it would be a big proud moment for him. He always maintained this is the best horse we have ever had.”
“He’s given everybody a purpose, he’s just a light, something to look forward to and he’s stopped the whole operation just folding which would have been easy to do,” she added.
Kayley Woollacott EP3: Preparing for Cheltenham
The gelding had a two-mile work at Exeter in preparation for his first start off a three-month break.
“He felt really well at Exeter,” said jockey Richard Johnson. “He did a nice piece of work over two miles. It was great to get him an away day, away from the yard. I could not have been happier with him.”
Kayley’s sister and assistant Stephanie Jones put it best when she said, “We all get a chance for some hands-on time with him. A win would change or lives.”