Personal Ambition holds off Jango Baie for Grade Two success at Kelso

By Sports Desk March 02, 2024

Personal Ambition is likely to head for Aintree’s Grand National meeting after coming out on top in thrilling renewal of the bet365 Premier Novices’ Hurdle at Kelso.

Never far from the pace set by Choose A Copper, Ben Pauling’s charge – whose only defeat in three prior hurdle starts was when third in this Grade Two company at Sandown – soon had them all at it when Kielan Woods went for home.

To his credit, 9-4 market leader Jango Baie stuck to his task when giving chase, as at one stage it looked as if Nicky Henderson’s Boxing Day Grade One scorer might drop away.

Nico de Boinville’s mount had closed right up jumping the last, but try as he might he could not quite reel the leader in under his 5lb penalty, going down by half a length to the 3-1 winner.

Pauling said: “It didn’t exactly go to plan early doors, there was a good gallop down to the first, probably too much of a gallop I would say, and he missed the first and the second and I was thinking ‘this is not ideal’.

“Thankfully he got into a nice rhythm after that and it was great that he toughed it out, as he needed to today. It wasn’t a facile victory, he had to really dig deep and he hasn’t had to do that before really, so it was great to see him do it.

“He’ll probably go to Aintree, that would be the obvious route. We were never going to go to Cheltenham because I knew that he could make the sort of mistakes he did today.

“I still think he’s a horse that just needs time on the track and I think the flat track at Aintree will suit him more than the undulations of Cheltenham.

“He’s obviously got loads of ability and he’ll be a lovely horse in time.”

Woods only returned this week after serving a 45-day suspension related to his use of the whip.

He said: “This is massive. It’s not easy for Ben Pauling to convince owners to put me up after what I’ve been doing, but I’ve learned my lesson and it’s great that Angus and Lynne (Maclennan), who are big owners, have put me up. It means a lot.

“That was brilliant. He stuck at it really well, he was good and tough. He’s very talented, but he’ll be a nicer chaser, he doesn’t have much respect for hurdles. He’ll be a good horse when he gets fences.”

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