Luccia impresses with dazzling success
Luccia cemented her position as the red-hot favourite for the Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival with victory in the Listed 2m½f novice hurdle, but her emphatic success left impressed trainer Nicky Henderson not ruling out a tilt at the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle.
An easy winner of a similar contest at Newbury on her hurdles debut in late November, the five-year-old missed an intended engagement in the Tolworth Novices’ Hurdle last month but was sent off the 8-13 favourite to maintain her unbeaten record.
Luccia cruised into contention in the home straight and, despite an error at the last, powered to an 11-length win under Nico de Boinville. She was generally trimmed to 7-4 (from 5-2) for the Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle.
Henderson said: “You had to be impressed with her. She’s had a few hiccups since she won at Newbury, but that was exactly what we wanted before Cheltenham. She was a bit untidy at the last, but apart from that her jumping was great.
“She had a horrible incident last year where we very nearly lost her. It’s fantastic for Paul [Sandy, owner]. She’s a homebred and it’s exciting. She’s a bit special.”
Such was the manner of Luccia’s success, De Boinville hinted to Henderson that the Supreme could be for her. She is a best-priced 12-1 for a race the trainer and jockey won last year with superstar Constitution Hill.
“I would favour the mares’ race as it looks as if she’d have an outstanding chance in that,” said Henderson. “I think she would have a chance in the Supreme and Nico said to run her there, so he must have been impressed.
“She wouldn’t be out of place in that, but we’ll see. There are a few weeks until then. I’d favour the mares’ race.”
Luccia headlined a treble for Henderson, who also landed the Pertemps Hurdle qualifier with Walking On Air, while The Carpenter defied a 701-day absence to make a winning start for the trainer in the 2m2½f novice hurdle.
Walking On Air was introduced at 10-1 for the Pertemps Final. Henderson said: “We’ve now got a strong team for the Pertemps, with the King’s Steal A March, Captain Morgs and a few more that might go. Walking On Air will definitely go. That was much better from him and he’ll be a fine, proper three-mile chaser next season.”