Brave Wishes edges Ascot thriller

Molly Ollys Wishes dug deep to grab Grade Two glory in the SBK Mares’ Hurdle at Ascot.

Giving the trainer and jockey team of Dan and Harry Skelton a third winner of the day at the Berkshire venue, the 13-8 favourite proved just too strong for the closing My Sister Sarah in what was an intriguing affair.

Irish recruit Western Victory hared off in front on her British debut for Emma Lavelle, building up a sizeable lead as Skelton on the winner and Paul Townend on My Sister Sarah kept their cool in the belief the pacesetter would eventually stop in front.

Western Victory’s stride began to shorten turning for home and Molly Ollys Wishes quickly closed the gap and grabbed the lead, while Townend was stoking up My Sister Sarah who had raced in last throughout.

While the eventual runner-up found plenty after the last, Skelton had flown and Molly Ollys Wishes prevailed by a length and three-quarters.

Betfair go 14-1 from 20s about her chance in the Close Brothers Mares’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival, which is over two and a half miles rather than this near three-mile trip.

Dan Skelton said: „Really happy with her. I had her entered on Friday in the Winter Millions race, but I said to Dean Pugh, her owner, ‘look, you have a big decision to make here – she is a tap-in at Lingfield or we stick to Plan A’. And this was always Plan A – this was the ideal race for her.

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„Dean was keen to stick with Plan A and I was confident, as I always knew we had primed her for this, but at the same time you have some pretty in-form horses against her.

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„The way the race worked out was perfect for her, because she was not keen.

„She is one of those horses who have been a slow burner. When we started, she was middle of the road, she got a little bit better and a little bit better and she has taken us all by surprise.

„As she has got older, she has got stronger. We tried her over a fence once at home and it was just a disaster. It took 50 per cent of the ideas off the table immediately, so you could concentrate ore on the hurdling – which is great, as sometimes when you are confronted with a plethora of options, more can go wrong. If you narrow it down a bit, it can be easier.“

Molly Ollys Wishes is a 33-1 shot for the Stayers’ Hurdle at Cheltenham, and Skelton added: „I think the Stayers’ is a bit ambitious.

„The mares’ hurdle, we’ll see how it cuts up. We will see what is in there at each stage. I’ve always thought she would be a good candidate for Aintree and if not, there is always a race at Fairyhouse over Easter that would suit her. She has the talent to go to Cheltenham, which is always nice.

„A treble on the day is wonderful. The horses are running well, thank God.“