Saturday, December 3, 2022

Welcome Sandown winner for Nicky Henderson team with Luccia

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Nicky Henderson ended a miniature barren spell as Luccia followed up her debut win at Warwick in some style at Sandown, taking the British Stallion Studs EBF Mares’ Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race in the hands of Nico de Boinville.

A daughter of The Gurkha, she is closely related to the useful hurdler Hooper and had advertised her ability on her first run.

De Boinville eased her to the front and powered clear up the straight to score by 17 lengths from Eabha Grace and Fairy Gem, with the well-regarded 11-8 favourite Mullenbeg well held and struggling long before two furlongs out.

Luccia (7-2) may now head to Aintree, although Henderson is already eyeing the Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham next season.

He said: “She was good. Impressive. She is a good filly. We have had the mare, we’ve had Hooper, her brother, it is a lovely family.

“She looked good there, didn’t she? I said to her owner, ‘There’s a nice novice hurdle for her in a week’s time’, and before I could get out ‘in a year’s time’, he thought I was going to run her next week (at Cheltenham). I thought she would win at Warwick.

“I thought we would win this, until Milton (Harris) suddenly came with the horse who looked as if she would go to the Champion Bumper (Mullenbeg) and all that rain overnight, and put what would have been nice ground here today, back to where it has been all winter – horrible. And it didn’t seem to bother her at all.

“I thought it would run to speed – which she has got – so she could go to Aintree for that mares’ bumper. It is either Aintree or bed – one of the two. The obvious objective is a week’s time next year, the mares’ novice hurdle at Cheltenham.

Luccia was in receipt of an allowance, which saw her carry a stone less than a trio of top weights.

Henderson felt that made a big difference and said: “The four-year-old allowance is big. It was staring at you off the page, but you can’t be a certainty in a race like this.”

Of his recent poor form, he added: “Of course it is a relief. It is nice to finish up the week knowing what is good is still good. But we haven’t been running anything.”

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