Lalor, the horse who is helping a stable cope with bereavement, looks like being every bit as good over fences as was hoped and is the second-favourite for the Arkle Trophy in March after an accomplished display to score at Cheltenham. Richard Woollacott, who took his own life in January, spotted him as an unheralded youngster three years ago and guided him through the early stages of his career as a racehorse.
Woollacott’s widow, Kayley, has taken over the training business, after some initial hesitation, and there can be no question it was the right decision. “She knows how to train a horse,” said Lalor’s owner, David Staddon, who would have been welcomed with open arms by any trainer in the country if he had elected to take his horse to a more established stable in the spring.
“Richard always said: ‘This is the best thing we’ll ever get our hands on,’” Kayley said. “It’s a massive day. He’s done it better than I thought he was going to.”
In recent months, her three-year-old daughter, Bella, has become very well known to racing fans on Twitter, thanks to regular videos showing her fussing over Lalor and the horse responding with gentle thanks. Kayley said she had not dared bring Bella to the races for Lalor’s first run over fences, with so many different kinds of pressure already hanging on the outcome.
But the horse warmed to his jumping after some novicey early leaps and pulled seven lengths clear of quality rivals in the style of an authentic star. He is just 8-1 for the Arkle, having been readily available at 33-1 in the morning.
The permit-holder Leonard Kerr must have endured a reflective drive on the 360 miles back to his Ayrshire stable after the stewards ordered the withdrawal of Sword Of Fate, who was supposed to be Kerr’s first runner at this famous venue.
Vets making their rounds of the racecourse stables found evidence the horse had been given Cortaflex, which eases joint stiffness and, like all other substances apart from normal feed and water, cannot be given to a horse on raceday.
According to the stewards, Kerr readily admitted his offence and will face a penalty to be determined by the British Horseracing Authority.
A semi-retired auctioneer who averages one runner a month, Kerr was said to be thoroughly contrite about his failure to realise his actions were against the rules.
Ireland’s much-anticipated Morgiana Hurdle became a terrible anticlimax, Samcro and Supasundae being withdrawn over fears of quick ground. That left Faugheen at odds of 2-5 but the 10-year-old was outpaced by his stablemate Sharjah and he surely lacks the pace for top-class two-mile races at this stage of his career.