Grade One success for Edwardstone at Sandown

Tom Cannon admitted it was a “dream come true” to end his lengthy wait for a first Grade One success after masterminding the perfect game plan aboard Edwardstone in the Close Brothers Henry VIII Novices’ Chase at Sandown Park on Saturday. 

Having watched plenty of his weighing room colleagues celebrate victory at the top level, the 30 year old finally enjoyed his own moment centre stage as the seven year old took the spoils in the extended 1m 7f prize. 

Edwardstone had received the perfect confidence booster ahead of his first start at Grade One level since finishing sixth behind Shishkin in the 2019 Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival with victory at Warwick last time out.

Seemingly benefiting from the strong pace set by favourite Third Time Lucki, the Alan King-trained gelding loomed into contention to join the market leader at the Pond Fence before surging into the lead over the second last.

Pressing on out in front, Edwardstone put in another solid leap at the final fence before continuing to pull clear up the run-in and defeat War Lord, who overhauled Third Time Lucki late on, by 16 lengths. 

Cannon said: “I’ve ridden for long enough now in plenty of good races but Grade Ones don’t come round that often and some people go their whole careers without doing it, so to win one is brilliant. It is a dream come true really.

“I’m glad my time has come and now the monkey is off my back hopefully I can get a few more. 

“The game plan was to do it as it worked out. His novice chases around Warwick there has been a strong gallop in them.

“He settled nicely today and jumped well. I was in top gear the whole way down the back trying to hold him together and then it was a case of sitting being patient, hoping Harry would come back to me. 

“I didn’t want to force it, especially around here but he came back to me sooner than I thought. I thought I might be upsides jumping two out but as it was I jumped the Pond Fence with him and kept my momentum going up the hill. It worked out perfectly and he did it very easily. 

“He was meant to go chasing last season but he unseated at Doncaster, then he ran in some competitive handicap hurdles which probably did him good as you have to learn how to survive in those races.

“He got brought down first time at Warwick but that probably made him back off his fences a bit more. He had to find a leg a couple of times today. 

“It is nice to cement it (partnership) with Alan King further really. I won the bet365 Gold Cup in fortuitous circumstances so to do it properly like that is brilliant. 

“He has always been a good trainer with good horses, Flat and jumps. Hopefully we have found another one and there is more to come.”

Victory for Edwardstone was also a first Grade One success for King since Sceau Royal ran out the winner of the 2017 renewal of the race. 

It has been a year to remember for the trainer, who has tasted Group One glory on the Flat with Trueshan, and the occasion was not lost on the Barbury Castle Stables handler. 

King said: “That was lovely. He does settle a bit better over fences but we have been lucky enough this year they have gone a right good gallop in all his races. He has got a great cruising speed. I’m thrilled with him. 

“We couldn’t win a bumper with him but I think we bumped into some superstars along the way. Over hurdles he was just very progressive. 

“We tried him over fences last year and it was January time he unseated at Doncaster. I thought it was too late to keep going over them so we went back over hurdles and his form at the back end of last season was as good as ever. 

“He was fifth in a County Hurdle and placed at Aintree but he was always hopefully going to make a chaser. That was unfortunate what happened at Warwick first time. Thankfully he was fine and we got a nice confidence booster into him last time.

“I didn’t really want to come here. If I could have found a two mile race with a penalty I would have gone somewhere but they weren’t around and I did want to stay at two. 

“Though he is bred to get further he doesn’t need further than two miles at present. He has had three fairly quick runs so it is a nice problem to have. It is great.

“He is home-bred - the owners have a had bit of bad luck as Midnightreferendum fell at Aintree when running very well. They are wonderful people to train for and they take the good with the bad. 

“It has been a hell of a year really. It’s been a while since I’ve had a Grade One jump winner. 

“The nerves don’t get any easier. We had three runners at Cheltenham the other Saturday and we didn’t really fancy any of them and I’ve never been so bored racing, so I did say to Rachel (wife) when I came home that I will appreciate it when I have a good horse to run as it means everything. 

“You do get wound up beforehand but when it comes off it is a wonderful feeling.”

Following the race Edwardstone was shortened to 12-1 for the Sporting Life Arkle Novices’ Chase by Sky Bet while Paddy Power went 10-1 for the same race which King hopes will be his main end of season target.

He added: “I hope and think he is an Arkle horse so we will work back from that. He has had three fairly quick races. The Kingmaker would be the ideal one but he wants somewhere in between. 

“Whether we go to Kempton at Christmas I don’t know. Whether I’m sneaky and we go to Plumpton (to try and get a bonus), I think that might be out the way with a double penalty.”