A near 1000-mile trip to Musselburgh paid off for Barnstaple-based trainer Victor Dartnall when Dancing Shadow won the Edinburgh National on Saturday.
Better ground and a race run over a marathon distance prompted Dartnall to send the eight-year-old to the Scottish track and the valiant gelding, who has an abundance of stamina, made light work of winning the race.
Held up in the field until the fifth fence from home, jockey Noel Fehily pushed the eight-year-old on to pick off the leaders one by one and the pair won the four miles one furlong race by two and half lengths.
“He’s a real out-and-out stayer and loves good ground,” said Dartnall. “We’re really pleased with him. I always thought that stamina would be his strong point. He’s got an entry in the National Hunt Chase at the Cheltenham Festival, but whether he’ll be good enough it depends.
“He’ll be put in the Midlands National if there is any chance of the ground being right for him. There’s the Scottish National in April and that will probably be his long-term target. It would be nice to get a run into him before then.”
There was cause for double celebration with Victor’s son Paddy, his travelling head lad, and partner Katie welcoming their second child with the birth of their daughter Polly on Saturday night.
But the timing of her labour, which began a week early, just as Paddy reached the M6, made for a fraught journey to Scotland.
Dartnall said: “My brother Gerald and Paddy went to Mussleburgh while I stayed at home. We couldn’t decide whether I should drive up and meet them, so that Paddy could drive back in my car and I could go on in the lorry but Paddy decided to keep going as her waters had broken, but she hadn’t gone into labour.”
Katie’s contractions began on Saturday morning, and there was still a chance they would get back in time after Dancing Shadow was loaded up for the long journey home. But before they reached Manchester Paddy received the call that Katie had given birth to a daughter named Polly, a second child for the couple and an eighth grandchild for Dartnall.
“That’s my first granddaughter, and eight grandchild, with another on the way, and as we are all big fans of cricket, we are hopeful we will be able to put our own cricket team together,” he laughed.