- Royale Pagaille, the Haydock Park specialist, ran away with the Betfair Chase
- In five trips to the Merseyside track, Royale Pagaille has now won four times
- The chaser put odds-on favourite Bravemansgame to the sword on the straight
Horses for courses: it’s a simple phrase but how often it turns out to be apt. It certainly rang true on Saturday for Royale Pagaille, the Haydock Park specialist who ran away with the Betfair Chase.
Five times this strapping chaser, trained by Venetia Williams, has been to the Merseyside track and his record now stands at four wins after he galloped and jumped Bravemansgame into submission, putting the odds-on favourite to the sword up the long straight that plays to his strengths.
Williams, in that elegantly understated way of hers, smiled when asked if she had foresaw such a special performance but, really, none of this should have come as a surprise. The answer to this conundrum involving four wonderful steeplechasers had been in front of us all along.
The only time Royale Pagaille has been beaten at Haydock was in this Grade One contest two years ago, when runner-up to the outstanding A Plus Tard, but this was a career best. Never at any stage did the nine-year-old look in trouble and there was nothing fortuitous about this outcome.
‘A dream,’ said exultant jockey Charlie Deutsch, as he grappled to find a fitting description.
Royale Pagaille, the Haydock Park specialist, ran away with the Betfair Chase on Saturday
Jockey Charlie Deutsch described the win over odds-on favourite Bravemansgame as a dream
It certainly was. While Bravemansgame moved stylishly for his stand-in jockey Daryl Jacob – regular pilot Harry Cobden was required at Ascot, where he rode a spectacular four-timer – Deutsch was comfortable matching strides, bobbing away in Susannah Ricci’s pink silks.
With Protekorat, the defending champion, out of sorts and Grand National winner Corach Rambler finding things happening a little too quickly at key moments, for much of the last mile it was evident only two horses were capable of winning. Up the straight, it quickly became one.
‘I’m thrilled,’ Williams said, with a sigh of relief. ‘These (Grade Ones) are so hard to win. I’m over the moon; thrilled for everyone in the yard.
‘He jumped very well but if you had seen him school last Thursday at home, you wouldn’t have thought that was the case.
‘But that’s him. He’s not switched on there – when you get him to the races he comes alive.
‘It would have to be a career-best performance, wouldn’t it? Maybe if all the horses in this race were at the top of their game, you would put a different light but they weren’t, necessarily.’
Not true. Paul Nicholls, Bravemansgame’s trainer, insisted there were no excuses from his camp and they had been beaten by a better horse; Corach Rambler, who plugged on resolutely for third, delighted Lucinda Russell with his application following a lacklustre comeback at Kelso in October.
Trainer Paul Nicholls said there were no excuses from his camp as Bravemansgame was beaten
This quite simply was the product of a class animal being wonderfully prepared by a superb trainer and Royale Pagaille’s victory was enthusiastically greeted by a bumper, knowledgeable crowd. They know a good one when they see one here and they know where the gelding will be heading.
Bravemansgame remains favourite for the King George VI Chase at Kempton, the Boxing Day mid-winter championship, but it would take a brave man to say with certainty he will turn this form around, for all that Nicholls was bullish.
‘We’ll get him fresh for Kempton,’ said Nicholls. ‘The other horse outstayed him. He’s run a good race but Kempton’s his track. Sometimes they want a few races to harden them up a bit. He’s run well and he’ll run well at Kempton: that probably suits him better.’
Perhaps but consider this: Royal Pagaille has had two runs at Kempton and a win and second place in last season’s King George suggests he likes it, too. Williams won that great race 25 years ago with Teeton Mill. Don’t rule out the prospect of her doing it again.