Poignant moment for Scholey family as Wakanda gets up to land thriller
Wakanda won an incident-packed Sky Bet Chase in a five-way tussle up the run-in at the end of the three miles of the Listed feature, much to the relief of bookmakers as the week-long gamble on L'Ami Serge was narrowly foiled.
The joy of success was mixed with sadness as the nine-year-old's joint owner Ray Scholey passed away last Sunday and Wakanda was greeted by his widow Margaret, son Michael and several of his grandchildren.
An emotional Margaret Scholey said: "That is one for Ray. It is so sad he couldn't be here."
Michael Scholey said: "How proud my father would have been to see him win. He was a great supporter of northern racing for many years. One of his best horses was Truckers Tavern who was second to Best Mate in the 2003 Gold Cup, but he had lots of good horses over the years.
"Henry [Brooke] rode some race on Wakanda today. I'm delighted for him as I've known him for a long time as his grandparents used to live next to me."
Wakanda, making Sue Smith the third woman to train the winner of the historic chase after Mary Reveley and Henrietta Knight, was always up with a strong pace that had L'Ami Serge blundering at the second fence with rider Davy Russell losing an iron momentarily.
Tenor Nivernais was broadsided at an early fence and was pulled up along with Coologue before the race developed so thrillingly up the home straight.
Sean Bowen looked to have made a winning move on the smooth- travelling Warriors Tale going to the last but the Paul Nicholls-trained runner idled in the last 100 yards and Wakanda rallied to score by a head.
Brooke said: "He just tends to back off his fences a bit these days, but going to the last I thought if he could get a run through he would win."
Winning trainer Sue Smith was at Uttoxeter but husband Harvey said: "He's always had that bit of speed at the end of his races. It is sad about Ray, owners like him are hard to replace, and like most of his horses he and I bought Wakanda together."
There are no plans for the winner but Smith definitely ruled out a tilt at the Grand National.
Members can read the latest exclusive interviews, news analysis and comment available from 6pm daily on racingpost.com