IT was unlucky 13 for Wyeside trainer Venetia Williams and her yard at Kempton on Boxing Day, as rival Paul Nicholls secured his 13th King George VI Chase victory in dramatic style.
Her horse L’Homme Presse started the three-mile race as the 9-4 favourite and took the lead rounding the final bend, with only Bravemansgame staying on to challenge at the head of the field.
Nicholl’s horse then hit the front approaching the last where L’Homme Presse pitched on landing and stumbled, unseating rider Charlie Deutsch.
The riderless horse continued running as Bravemansgame romped home by 12L.
But in a bitterwseet finish for Williams and her team, her other horse, 12-1 shot Royale Pagaille, took second ridden by Tom Scudamore some 14L back with just over 4L back to Frodon in third.
Bravemansgame at 11-4 looked the likely winner by a length or so approaching the last, but the King’s Caple trainer was denied a double placing with Deutsch’s unseating.
And she said afterwards: “It’s a shame as it looked as though they were going to be second and third, but they’ve both run very well.
“Paul’s horse has won today, but there’ll be more races in which they meet and hopefully we’ll come out on top when they do. I’m proud of both of them.”
The King George VI Chase is second only to the Cheltenham Gold Cup in chasing and is seen as a guideline to the latter race in March.
Royale Pagaille finished fifth in this year’s Gold Cup and was also declared in yesterday’s National until Kempton was selected as the better option.
Bravemansgame’s stablemate Frodon set the pace at Kempton on Monday until the final turn when L’Homme Presse, who had jumped left throughout the race, made its move.
But Bravemansgame ridden by Harry Cobden surged level at the second last and was driven to the front before the final fence.
The winner joined a roster of just six other horses who have contributed to Nicholls’ haul over 25 years after See More Business began the run, which includes five wins by Gold Cup legend Kauto Star.
Nicholls said: “L’Homme Presse was obviously going to be a danger and he is going to be a very good horse and he won’t be far away in the Gold Cup where going left handed will probably suit him better.
“But we got on top of him when he departed at the last and Bravemansgame galloped on to win so it is good form.
“I’m thrilled. Who knows what would have happened if L’Homme Presse hadn’t come to grief at the last but he wasn’t stopping…
“I loved the way he stayed on. All down the back he didn’t have a great passage because L’Homme Presse kept jumping across him, but he came back hard on the bridle and stayed on really strongly.
“He’s a maturing horse and we trained him for today, and that’s what you’ve got to do to win the championship races. He’ll go straight to Cheltenham now and I won’t run him again before the Gold Cup.”
Williams, who also saw a heavily backed Quick Wave pulled up five from home in the Coral Welsh National at Chepstow on Tuesday afternoon, had two early Christmas presents at Hereford last Wednesday though.
Flowing Cadenza followed in the footsteps of her previous fillies to win the Hereford Mares Chase Series Final in a fourth consecutive triumph for the yard, while Alecedo landed a debut win.