PART-OWNER Jane Williams ruled out a tilt at the Ladbrokes World Hurdle for Tea For Two, who was a runaway winner of the prestigious William Hill Lanzarote Hurdle under her daughter Lizzie Kelly.
The six-year-old was joint-favourite for the competitive Kempton handicap following a Boxing Day victory at Towcester and made a mockery of an opening mark of 134 with a 16-length victory.
Cheltenham Festival’s World Hurdle was mentioned as a potential target immediately after the emphatic success, but connections are keen to stick to novice company for Tea For Two.
Williams said: “I wouldn’t enter him for the World Hurdle, you’d probably stick to the novice company. I’ve got my other good horse Aubusson for that so I wouldn’t enter him in it.”
The victory continued an excellent run of form for Kelly, with Williams hoping more trainers will take note of her daughter’s obvious talent.
“She’s a professional. There’s no way she would have done a pound over,” said Williams who trains the horses with her husband Nick, who is the jockey’s stepfather.
“Hopefully, people take notice and she’s done enough to get some more rides.
“There’s a bit of a feeling that girls aren’t strong enough. She’s as tough as they come. If she falls off, she falls off.”
As for Kelly, the university graduate is keeping her feet firmly on the ground after being recruited as conditional jockey to trainer Neil King.
“I’m on a massive learning curve as well. I need to get the experience to be able to ride these kind of horses,” she said after the biggest win of her burgeoning career.
“It’s all quite big and scary. I never thought this would be my first season as a conditional and it’s gone really well.”
Another conditional who continues to catch the eye is Yorkshire-based Callum Bewley who recorded his ninth win of the season when partnering Smooth Stepper to handicap hurdle success at Wetherby on Saturday.
The horse, owned and trained by Sue Smith, was given a confident ride by Bewley, who only took up the running after a fine leap at the final flight.
“The horse will, hopefully, be a three-mile chaser in time,” said assistant trainer Ryan Clavin. “Callum did a good job and is improving all the time. Hopefully we can get some bigger winners for him.”
The feature handicap chase at a wind-swept Wetherby went to Malton trainer Malcolm Jefferson’s Firth Of The Clyde.
He was a slightly fortuitous 71st winner of the season for the century-chasing Brian Hughes after Indian Voyage came to grief at the last and brought down AP McCoy’s mount Bold Henry.
Though Firth Of The Clyde was closing on the front pair, Jefferson believes that his horse would probably have finished third and that he hopes the handicapper will take account of this.
Jefferson served his racing apprenticeship under the auspices of the legendary Cumbrian trainer Gordon Richards, who was responsible for legendary horses like One Man, who won the 1998 Queen Mother Champion Chase at Cheltenham under Brian Harding.
Richards died from cancer later in 1998 and his Greystoke stables have since been run by his son Nicky, who plans to go straight to the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase at Cheltenham in March with his stable star Simply Ned.
Runner-up at Grade One level as a novice over fences last season, the eight-year-old made a winning return in a Kelso handicap in early October before chasing home Uxizandre at Cheltenham the following month.
He then travelled to Ireland for his latest start and performed admirably to finish third in the Paddy Power Dial-A-Bet Chase at Leopardstown.
Richards, whose number one rider is still the ageless Harding who rode a four-timer at Ayr recently, feels Simply Ned can raise his game another notch on a sounder surface at the Cheltenham Festival in March.
“I think we’ll go straight to Cheltenham,” he said. “The Game Spirit at Newbury is shaping up to be hot, so we may as well go straight for the big one for more money.
“On his breeding, he shouldn’t be a two-mile chaser, but the lads in Ireland were saying what a great horse he is as any ground comes alike, really.
“I was looking at the betting and you’ve got the big two Sprinter Sacre and Sire De Grugy who haven’t run this season, and then you’ll probably have Al Ferof and the rest our lad has beaten.
“I’m not saying he’s going to go and win, but he’s the one who will appreciate the better ground the most.”