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Lavelle and Jones joy as De Rasher Counter brings home Ladbrokes Trophy bacon

Emma Lavelle joked that if Carlsberg did jumps weekends she should be the new poster girl for any subsequent advert campaign and that point was underlined, highlighted and showcased in emphatic fashion by the impressive Ladbrokes Trophy triumph of De Rasher Counter.

That success, in what most consider Britain's premier handicap jumps race behind the Grand National, underlined the growing status of Lavelle's training operation, which garnered further honours 24 hours earlier when stable star Paisley Park cemented his position as the sport's leading staying hurdler in the Long Distance Hurdle.

Lavelle, therefore, was in the midst of the most glorious two days of her career, but her role as designated driver might not lead to a second vocation as taste sampler for the world-famous Danish brewery.

It was, however, no surprise that she still savoured the sweet victory of De Rasher Counter, whose part-owner Andrew Gemmell owns yard ace Paisley Park.

Everything he touches seems to turn to gold and young jockey Ben Jones – deemed a star of the future – certainly had the Midas touch when propelling the son of four-time Gold Cup hero Yeats home.

He had a John Smiths-smooth run through when powering to a decisive success from The Conditional.

"This weekend has been unbelievable and I'm so proud of everyone at home who has helped get these horses right for it," said Lavelle. "It's so special for everybody. We've got such patient owners and they give the horses time. 

"This horse could have gone to Cheltenham last season, but mentally we didn't think he was ready for it and the owners were prepared to wait for this.

"It's magical it has come off because we all know so often it doesn't. I can't believe it.

"My husband Barry [Fenton] and I watched this race together and we don't normally because we irritate each other so much, but the horse was always in the right place and was jumping and travelling and – it's probably the wrong phrase – but that innocence of youth from Ben might have helped.

"You don't know what can go wrong and he's riding at the top of this game – as Barry said, he was riding on instinct."

Lavelle, a disciple of dual Grand National-winning trainer Toby Balding, earned success with Labelthou and Cheltenham Festival winner Crack Away Jack in the early part of her training success, which has surged to another level since her move to Wiltshire in 2016.

It has proved fruitful and little wonder since its former alumni include Sir Gordon Richards, Bob Turnell and Peter Makin.

"I think it's just a grown-up training place," she added.

"We've had some lovely results and it's enabled us to nurture the horses a bit better and we've more variety. I think it's a proper place and I walked into the yard this morning after Paisley Park yesterday and was thinking how nice it is we're actually doing it proud because it does have an incredibly rich history as an establishment.

"We needed to move there in the first place. We rented where we were near Andover and it's a massive thanks to my parents and to the bank – HSBC if they're listening – who were great. Barry had a vision and was able to design the yard, which was great for us."

There are no grand plans for De Rasher Counter, who is 25-1 for the Randox Health Grand National with Ladbrokes, the firm that took over the sponsorship of Newbury's best jumps race from Hennessy.

"Jumping the last from three we thought we had a right old chance and my point was we had him in incredible shape," Lavelle continued. "Was he good enough? He quite patently showed he was. 

"We'll see how he is after today and see what the handicapper does before making plans. The Grand National is something we've spoken about, but he's only a second-season novice. I don't know, it will be too soon to say."

What is not too soon to say is Lavelle passing on driving duties, which is understandable, especially if an Aintree date and some champagne corks are to be popped. It was called the Hennessy after all.

 

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