Jockey Lizzie Kelly struck a blow for lady riders with a superb display aboard Tea For Two in the Betway Bowl at Aintree, beating Cue Card in a tight finish over the Mildmay fences for a memorable triumph.
Kelly made history in December 2015 when becoming the first female rider to win a Grade One in Britain as Tea For Two, trained by her father, Nick Williams and part-owned by her mother, Jane, landed the Kauto Star Novices’ Chase at Kempton.
But this success will have arguably meant more, coming as it did against one of the best stayers of recent years in Cue Card and on the first day of the Grand National meeting.
Kelly, who had been left hugely disappointed when unseated from Tea For Two at the second fence in the Cheltenham Gold Cup, said: “That was fantastic. We were quietly confident going into the Gold Cup when our dreams were taken away from us.
“He’s a horse that has produced time and time again for me and my family, everyone else puts in more work than I do but I get the opportunity to ride him. He was a dream ride.”
Content to bide her time in the early stages of the race, which were dominated by Bristol De Mai and Silviniaco Conti, Kelly gradually moved her mount into a challenging position as the contest developed.
But just like 12 months ago it looked like Colin Tizzard’s 2-1 favourite Cue Card would claim the spoils having fallen in the Gold Cup on his previous start, after opening up a lead over the fourth-last with a bold leap.
That advantage was soon closed down by the 10-1 winner with little to separate the pair over the penultimate fence in the three-mile-one prize.
It was on the run down the last that the younger legs of Tea For Two asserted and after meeting the final fence on a good stride, Kelly kept her willing partner up to the task to defeat the rallying Cue Card by a fast-diminishing neck.
Kelly added: “This means more than winning the Grade One at Kempton on him, I didn’t really appreciate that at the time, but this is special.
“We didn’t let on how confident we were coming here today, we were always more confident about him handling this better than Cheltenham because he’s done all his winning on flat tracks.
“It’s fantastic for the yard, I missed our winner at Cheltenham this year but I’ve had my reward today.
“My mum deals with him on a day-to-day basis. It was hard what hapenned in the Gold Cup after all the build up and he has been different at home.
“She said to me she didn’t know what I’d find today, he’d had a long season, but she’s done a lot of hard work with him.
“Next year’s Gold Cup dream is still alive.”
Champion Hurdle hero Buveur D’Air (4-9 favourite) backed up his Cheltenham success with an impressive victory in the Betway Aintree Hurdle, beating stablemate My Tent Or Yours.