LADY BUTTONS produced one of the performances of her career to finish fourth in the OLBG Mares Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival.
A dramatic race changed complexion at the final flight when the clear leader Benie Des Dieux fell heavily under Ruby Walsh in an action replay of Annie Power coming to grief at the last in the 2013 renewal for the same rider, owner Richi Ricci and trainer Willie Mullins.
It handed victory to Roksana. Trained by Dan Skelton and ridden by his brother Harry, their father, Nick, is the Olympic gold medal-winning showjumper.
Stepping up in trip to two and a half miles, Lady Buttons – trained at Catterick by Phil Kirby – settled well under Tommy Dowson who was riding in the biggest race of his career to date. Yet the speed of the race meant she couldn’t quite latch onto the back of the pacesetters on the run to the home turn.
However Lady Buttons, a four-time winner this season, ran on after Benie Des Dieux fell to take fourth and provide owners Jayne and Keith Sivills, who bred the mare and run a North Yorkshire pub, with a day that they say they will never forget.
The Red Rum Chase at Aintree on Grand National day could be next for Lady Buttons who is equally adept over both hurdles and fences.
As for Roksana, Dan Skelton said: “I have a lot of respect for Ruby. He’s the winning-most rider at the Festival and will get up and dust himself down. Harry was super on her all the way. I’m delighted for Sarah Faulks [owner], who is a stalwart National Hunt breeder.”