Lizzie Kelly gets gutsy Agrapat up to pip L’Ami Serge

Davy Russell and Whisper turn over favourite Clan Des Obeaux at Cheltenham

Lizzie Kelly gave the gutsy Agrapart (L) a brilliant ride to pip L’Ami Serge at Cheltenham. Photograph: Julian HErbert/PA

If the New Year's resolution made by jockey Lizzie Kelly was to ride more winners in 2017 then she got off to a flying start after Agrapart helped her secure the most significant double of her career in the Dorman Engineering Relkeel Hurdle at Cheltenham.

With a Grade One victory already on her CV, the 23-year-old enjoyed her most successful day in the saddle when teaming up with step-father and trainer Nick Williams to take victory in the extended two-and-a-half-mile Grade Two contest on the confirmed mudlark.

Although favourite L’Ami Serge moved past the 16-1 chance over the last and up the run-in, his stamina could not hold out, with Kelly forging her mount on close to the line before obliging by a head.

Kelly, who tasted Listed glory earlier on the card on Coo Star Sivola, said: “I’m absolutely delighted. It’s been a real hard season up to now.


“I know I’m trying my best out there and it is difficult watching race after race with no real results. Fingers crossed this continues now.

“I had a double at Towcester on Boxing Day a few seasons ago and in point-to-points back in the day, but this is easily my most significant double.”

A return to Cheltenham in March for a tilt at the Sun Bets Stayers’ Hurdle could now be on the cards, with Agrapart introduced at 33-1 by Paddy Power, 25-1 by RaceBets and 20-1 with William Hill.

Williams said: “I think he’s a stayer on good to soft ground, we’ll probably go up in trip, he won’t go backwards in trip and we’ll point towards the Stayers’ Hurdle.”

As for Coo Star Sivola (9-2), who took the Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle by four and a half lengths from Report To Base, Williams said: “Where we go from here, I’m not sure. He would need to be 150-rated for the Neptune but he could go for the conditional jockeys’ race (Martin Pipe).”

Reviving top-class horses to former glories is a talent trainer Nicky Henderson has got down to a tee in recent seasons and Whisper became the latest to advertise that with victory in the BetBright Dipper Novices' Chase.

The Seven Barrows handler appears to have worked his magic with the nine-year-old after he made it two wins out of two over fences this season in the Grade Two affair.

With even-money favourite Clan Des Obeaux making a race-costing error at the penultimate fence, the 11-4 winner seized the initiative when staying on under a power-packed drive from Davy Russell — who picked up a two-day ban for his use of the whip — to take victory by half a length.

Henderson said: “He’s won two Aintree Hurdles and all sorts of races, he’s just tough and genuine and is a real friend.

“He’ll have to come into the JLT picture, I think, although he does get three miles. The key question now is whether he has a run before the Festival. He doesn’t need to have one.”

Rookie trainer Samuel Drinkwater celebrated a moment to savour after Tour Des Champs ensured his first Cheltenham runner was a winning one in the Watch Live Racing On Handicap Chase.

The 50-1 shot scored for the first time since winning last year’s Sussex National to fuel dreams of an outing in the Randox Health Grand National at Aintree after he held Doctor Harper by a short head.

Drinkwater said: “He is a nice horse and I see him as a National type if he goes up enough. I’ve been training about a month and that’s my sixth runner.

“The old heart skipped a few beats and I thought I was dreaming it.”

William Twiston-Davies joined an elite list of jockeys to have ridden a winner at Royal Ascot and at Cheltenham after steering Cogry to glory in the BetBright Casino Handicap Hurdle.

Six months after partnering Primitivo to victory at Flat racing’s blue riband meeting, Twiston-Davies successfully teamed up with his father, Nigel, to claim the three-mile affair.

Despite failing to complete in four starts over fences this season, Cogry (9-2) rallied valiantly from the front to defeat favourite Rocklander by a hard-fought neck, although Twiston-Davies was handed a two-day ban for his whip use.

Meanwhile, Rebecca Curtis is another dreaming of the National after Shantou Flyer gave his new connections an immediate return on their investment by winning the £60,000 BetBright Best For Festival Betting Handicap Chase.

Formerly trained in Ireland by Colin Bowe, the seven-year-old, sent off at 20-1, was having his first run for Curtis and his first since the Galway Plate.

Curtis said: “You look at him as a National horse as he stays so well, so maybe that’s the target.”