Tough and gutsy horses who like to be on the front end are always great to watch, they give you a run for your money and at some point in the race will give you a little glimmer of hope. Lualiwa is just this type of horse and the more positive the better, which has served him well this season. He looked the ideal horse for Chester and so it proved when he earned his second career win taking the 7f Woodford Reserve Handicap.
Having shown promise as a juvenile Kevin made the decision to geld Lualiwa over the winter, feeling it would help his progression when he came back as a 3 year old. The Foxwedge gelding justified that decision in his very first run of the year, shedding his maiden tag impressively at Chelmsford. That win showed he had trained on and Lualiwa looked like he had improved but handicaps now called and this would be his real tests for the season ahead.
That win was followed by a solid third place on his next outing at Beverley. It was a good performance considering the pace he had run at, racing keen throughout and doing well to see out the trip. This trait came out again on his next start at York, although he wasn’t quite as fierce. Having taken up the running 2f from home, he found only one too good and ran a fine second in what was a career best performance in a tough handicap. These two runs all bode well and Kevin was adamant that another win was just around the corner.
Lualiwa was declared for Chester with plenty of things looking to be in his favour. The track plays to horses on the pace and when he received stall 2 this boosted his chances. Amongst his rivals was Starlight Romance who was the main threat. The pair were closely matched from the York form but now Lualiwa would receive an extra pound in weight so the signs were positive. Joe Doyle was booked to do the steering and had been enjoying plenty of winners in recent weeks.
Breaking well from the stalls Lualiwa quickly got up to speed and went forward, bagging the rail. Although everyone wanted to go forward, Joe had the shortest route to the front and looked to have control. From out wide Nathan Evans was hard at work, driving his mount Erica Bing hard and the pair swooped round the field to kick into a couple of lengths lead, leaving Lualiwa at the head of the rest.
Always on the turn, the field were going at a good clip. With the leader clear, the rest of the field had filtered in behind Joe who was happy with the margin to the leader. The strong pace looked to be suiting Lualiwa who had dropped the bridle and wasn’t racing keenly at all. Nobody was around the pair so Joe was tight to the rail, ensuring he was taking the shortest route possible.
It wasn’t long before the field passed halfway. Little changed, as most of the jockeys were happy with their position. Everyone looked to be waiting for the cutaway in the rail before making their move, giving them more room and more options. Although the pace was strong there were nos distress signals coming just yet but each were winding up ready for the sprint up the short straight.
Between the 3f and 2f marker the field just closed the gap to the leader, making a move like the peloton does in the Tour De France. The leader had been brave and made a positive move from the outset but was looking vulnerable with the majority of the pack still galloping strong. Joe had just loosened his grip on the reins and Lualiwa stretched out, making inroads into the lead.
Just over 2f from home the pace increased and Lualiwa closed down the leader. Joe was niggling along going through the gears, ready to kick off the bend and lay down his challenge. With the leader looking in danger the packed loomed large but they would have to react to Joe who had the ideal position. Swinging off the bend and with 1 1/2f to run Lualiwa was sent for home. He quickened up and took the lead comfortably. His rivals matched this and were hot on his heels. With the track opening up a line of challengers went in pursuit of Lualiwa but it was his old sparring partner Starlight Romance and stable mate Vona who were looking the biggest threat.
Although Chester is a sharp track it does take some staying sue to the break neck pace that invariable occurs. Lualiwa had quickened but his move had not shaken off his nearest pursuers and Joe had to get serious moving inside the final furlong. On either side the challenge came but neither had managed to get closer than 1/2 length. Joe asked for everything and he got it, Lualiwa kept on finding and squeezed out a little more. Bravely he stuck his head down and galloped all the way to the line, finishing strongly towards the finish and scoring by 3/4 length.
It was a very good performance and was well deserved. Lualiwa is a progressive horse and continues to improve with racing. Owners Julian and Rosie Richer have enjoyed some great days out with tough performers like Trail Blaze and they may have a similar type here. He is very tough and it looks as though he could quite easily stay a mile too, which would open plenty more options. The handicapper will review him now and his next assignment will all depend on that, but he is certainly going the right way.