National prize for battling Beau

LE BEAU BAI provided the closest possible thing to a first home-trained winner of the Coral Welsh National since Norther in 1965.

Third in Chepstow’s annual highlight in 2009 but mistakenly not entered for last season’s running, the gallant stayer was representing Richard Lee, whose yard is just a stroll over the border in the Herefordshire village of Byton.

Le Beau Bai, who adores the demanding ground which habitually occurs at this meeting, went off favourite the last time he lined up in the race and was this time supported into 10-1, despite only sneaking into the handicap because of a recent course victory.

Although a field of 20 lined up, the only two to matter were the long-time leaders over the three and three-quarter miles, with Denis O’Regan and Giles Cross leading Charlie Poste and Le Beau Bai along at a steady pace.

The duo began to stretch the rest out all over Monmouthshire and it was only at the second-last that Giles Cross began to waver, allowing Poste to take command and drive his mount seven lengths clear.

Lee said: “He ran really well two years ago and I’d rather not talk about last year, which goes down as a secretarial cock-up. He’s two years older and much more mature, but if it wasn’t for getting the 4lb penalty for winning here the other day, he might not have got in.

“A lot of my horses haven’t been running well and I was initially worried the ground wouldn’t be soft enough for him, but I knew he’d stay.

“This was his day, and he really deserved it.”

Meanwhile, at Kempton, Sprinter Sacre emerged clear favourite for the Arkle Trophy at Cheltenham when destroying Peddlers Cross with a thrilling round of jumping in the williamhill.com Novices’ Chase.

Nicky Henderson has always held the five-year-old in the highest regard, and it was easy to see why following the gelding’s 16-length defeat of odds-on favourite Peddlers Cross.

The ball quickly went into Sprinter Sacre’s court when his rival belted the first. Barry Geraghty then found himself in front and elected to press on, often getting some spectacular leaps from the free-going Sprinter Sacre.

But, equally, the 11-10 winner was very good when getting in close, as he showed when jumping the final fence off his hocks.

Geraghty said: “He was all wrong at the last but was very clever at it. He jumped from fence to fence and is a horse that gets your blood up.

“He’s got the right combination of pace and respect for his fences.

“He’s one of the best I’ve ever sat on – he is frighteningly good.”

The Henderson-trained Finian's Rainbow later pulled the williamhill.com Desert Orchid Chase from out of the fire in the final strides.

Sent off the 4-11 favourite on the strength of his second place in the Arkle and a win at Aintree in the spring, the Seven Barrows inmate set a steady early pace before nearly falling four from home once the pace quickened. That looked to have cost him the race as Oiseau De Nuit was left in front, but Geraghty gave Finian’s Rainbow time to respond.

Wishfull Thinking appeared to have the race in the bag as he hit the front 100 yards from the line, but Henderson’s youngster flew after a big leap at the last and won by threequarters of a length.

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