Lalor (11/2) posted an impressive success in the G2 Racing Post Arkle Trophy Trial Novices' Chase at Cheltenham on Sunday to provide trainer Kayley Woollacott and jockey Ricahrd Johnson with an emotional victory at the Home of Jump Racing.
The six-year-old son of It's Gino travelled menacingly into contention on the approach to the home straight in the two-mile contest and sealed victory with two exquisite leaps, before bounding up the hill to register a clinical seven-length win.
Lalor, making his debut over fences, captured G1 honours in the Betway Mersey Novices' Hurdle at Aintree's Randox Health Grand National meeting in April and could not have a made a better start to life over the larger obstacles in today's race.
The victory was poignant for winning rider Johnson, who was a close friend of Richard Woollacott, Kayley's husband, who trained the horse before he took his own life in January.
Lalor is an 8/1 shot with Paddy Power and Betfair for the G1 Racing Post Arkle Trophy Chase at The Festival™ presented by Magners in March.
Britain's champion Jump jockey, said: "Lalor is a lovely horse. This is the third time I have sat on him and my third win on him.
Woollacott said: "It's so amazing. We have worked so hard for this, and we are on 'plan F' probably - we've tried so hard to get him out before now. We've really learnt that sometimes it pays to be brave, and it's come off. The perfect start.
"He took to fences like a duck to water - he's always been a mega jumper. Dickie said he was a little bit brave over the first and a bit novicey at a couple of fences, but he took to it really quickly and his jumping was ace. I wasn't watching by the second-last - I saw he had got to the front and that was it!
"It's a massive day. At Aintree it was very overwhelmning and got sucked in by everything else. We had a proper break over the summer and this is in our own right. As a team we've done him ourselves and that's really important. Lalor was Richard's favourite horse and he always said, 'this is the best thing we'll get our hands on'. It's amazing that David and Bunty Staddon [Lalor's owners] still have him with me and allow me to do it.
"We'll go home, reassess and have a think about what's next - we're not going to be in any rush. It was very much see how today went before we made a plan, but obviously we have the spring races in mind, particularly Aintree because he loves it there, but we'll have to think about the Arkle now after today. He's done it probably better than I thought he would, so we'll enjoy it. I have a little girl at home [daughter Bella] who will be very pleased with us, so I'll go home in the good books!
"I think Lalor will come on for the race - he has done plenty at home, but he is a big burly chap. That would be exciting."
"He has been a star and won a G1 at the end of last season. You started to think he was a spring horse because all of his best form is in the spring, but he has come here today and Kayley has done a wonderful job of preparing him.
"Lalor has been to Mr Hobbs' a couple of times and schooled nicely. Kayley has done everything right with him and today was a very taking performance. He learnt as he went along.
"It looked a very warm novices' chase beforehand, with five very smart horses, and Lalor has come here on his first start over fences. He is definitely a horse who has grown since last year, so hopefully he is still going the right way.
"Lalor was a bit novicey early on, but from the back straight onwards, I was pretty confident that he was going to go close. He jumped the last two fences really well and from there, it was quite nice work for me! He learnt very quickly and to win round here, you need to be able to think on your feet with all the twists and turns.
"Lalor is a big horse and I'm sure in terms of fitness, he is sure to improve from today. To come here and beat those horses first time out is very pleasing."
"This is the first horse I rode for Richard Woollacott and my first winner for him. His passing last year was very sad for everybody and this horse has been real boost for them in remembering Richard and keeping it all going. I imagine it's a very emotional time for them, but it is great to ride such a nice horse for nice people."
1.50pm Racing Post Arkle Trophy Trial Novices' Chase (Grade 2) 1m 7f 199y
1 Lalor (David Staddon) Kayley Woollacott 6-11-02 Richard Johnson 11/2
2 Dynamite Dollars (Michael Geoghegan) Paul Nicholls 5-11-02 Harry Cobden 3/1
3 Claimantakinforgan (Grech & Parkin) Nicky Henderson 6-11-02 Jeremiah McGrath 11/8 Fav
Non-Runner: One For Billy (Vet's Certificate, Infected Foot)
Distances: 7, 4
Tote Win: £7.30 Places: £2.60, £1.80 Exacta:£22.30