Lizzie Kelly and Tea For Two bounced back from their Cheltenham nightmare with a tremendous victory in the Betway Bowl at Aintree.
Kelly made history when becoming the first female rider to win a Grade One in Britain when steering Tea For Two to victory in the 2015 Kauto Star Novices’ Chase at Kempton and was the first woman in 33 years to ride in the Gold Cup at Prestbury Park last month.
However, the dream did not last long as horse and jockey parted company at the second fence, leaving a disconsolate Kelly wondering what might have been.
Tea For Two was a 10-1 shot to gain redemption on Merseyside and was given plenty of time to find his feet.
The admirable Cue Card was the 2-1 favourite to land the Grade One prize for the second successive year, but the younger legs of Tea For Two propelled him to the front on the run to the final fence and he dug deep on the run-in to prevail by a neck.
Kelly said: “That was fantastic. We were quietly confident going into the Gold Cup when our dreams were taken away from us. This means more than winning the Grade One at Kempton on him. I didn’t appreciate that at the time, but this is special. Next year’s Gold Cup dream is still alive.”
Nicky Henderson’s Champion Hurdle hero Buveur D’Air was an authoritative winner of the Betway Aintree Hurdle.
The JP McManus-owned six-year-old was the 1-2 market leader to follow up his Cheltenham success and ultimately did so in good style by five lengths.
His admirable stablemate, My Tent Or Yours, was runner-up again. He has now finished second in three Champion Hurdles and the last two renewals of this two-and-a-half-mile contest.
Henderson said: “It seems so unfair doing this to My Tent as if any horse deserved to win here or at Cheltenham it’s him but all we are doing is beating him ourselves which seems so ridiculous!
“We’ll speak to JP, but I’d have thought it unlikely Buveur will go to Punchestown. It will probably be shoes off and out for his summer break. He’s wearing the (Champion Hurdle) crown, now we’ve got to try and keep it.”
Buveur D’Air’s victory completed a big-race double for McManus and his retained rider Barry Geraghty, with Defi Du Seuil having earlier extended his unbeaten jumping record to seven with victory in the Doom Bar Anniversary 4-Y-O Juvenile Hurdle.
Trained by Philip Hobbs, the youngster was a prohibitive 4-11 favourite to follow up his brilliant success in the Triumph Hurdle at Cheltenham and while he was not quite as impressive on this occasion, he did enough to take top honours by a length and a quarter.
Paddy Power make Defi Du Seuil a 7-1 shot for next year’s Champion Hurdle, with Buveir D’Air the 9-2 favourite.
Hobbs said: “We need to talk to JP and everybody else to see what the plan will be for next season. You would think that (Champion Hurdle) would be the target, but we’ve plenty of time to think about it.”
Flying Angel (5-1) claimed the Manifesto Novices’ Chase under Noel Fehily, while Dineur was a 16-1 winner of the Randox Health Foxhunters’ Chase, before 8-1 shot Double W’s landed the Betway Red Rum Handicap Chase.