Lalor proves poignant winner for Kayley Woollacott at Aintree

Lalor ridden by Richard Johnson wins the Betway Top Novices' Hurdle during Ladies Day of the 2018 Randox Health Grand National Festival at Aintree Racecourse. Picture: Tim Goode/PA Wire

Kayley Woollacott was left fighting back the tears after Lalor claimed an emotional success in the Betway Top Novices' Hurdle at Aintree.

The racing world was left shocked in January after it was announced trainer Richard Woollacott, who was based in South Molton in Devon, had died, aged 40.

Lalor provided Woollacott with his first big-race success when winning the Grade Two bumper at this meeting a year ago and he was a 14-1 shot to strike Grade One gold on his return to Merseyside, running in the name of his wife.

With champion jockey Richard Johnson in the saddle, Lalor travelled strongly and moved to the front after jumping the third flight from home.

Bedrock briefly threatened to cause a huge upset, but Woollacott's charge kept up the gallop to prevail by two and a half lengths.

Vision Des Flos beat a weary Bedrock to the runner-up spot.

Woollacott said: "It's unbelievable, I don't know how that has just happened.

"It's a very emotional day, but obviously I've had a little bit of help from up there.

"This is a really special course for me and Richard, as we had some of our best days here.

"It's unreal, we love the horse and this is amazing."

Reflecting on a tough couple of months, she continued: "The horses have really kept everything going and me on the straight and narrow. They've been a big help and definitely having ones like him in the yard make you want to do it.

"I am so pleased for the owners, who have stuck by me. They are so loyal and it has worked out.

"I did say earlier 'I want to go home', I really did. Racing is one of the toughest games at times, but over recent months it has shown how amazingly supportive it can be - they really get behind you and look after you."

Woollacott intends to enjoy the success before considering plans for next season.

She added: "I honestly thought today if he didn't run well he would still be a novice next year with plenty of experience, but now we will have to go back to the drawing board.

"He is a chaser in the making. He (Richard) went to look at him at Stuart Kittow's and he came back and said 'I've got to have this horse and we've got to find a way of having him'.

"He turned up and was big, beautiful, backward and a bit gormless but lovely, and we've always been really excited with him.

"He will jump fences one day, but we are definitely going to enjoy today before we think about where we go."

Johnson told ITV Racing: "This is hard to put into words. It was very sad what happened and this horse last year was his first big winner.

"To come and do it again in his memory, for his family, is fantastic. It was a big shock what happened.

"Hopefully this horse will keep Richard's name in lights for a long time to come.

"It's a special day for the family and I'm sure Richard is smiling as well."

Iain Jardine, trainer of third-placed Bedrock, said: "It's fantastic. The owners wanted to bring him here today.

"I didn't give him much of a chance on ratings, but I know he's a very good horse.

"There's a real good race in this fella.

"I was thinking of the Scottish Champion this year, but that's gone for him.

"That will be his last run as a novice. There are plenty of options for him, maybe through the summer and next season. He might win a Flat race as well."

- PA

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