As the runners came to the second last, David Pipe’s highly fancied Shoegazer was in front despite topweight, but with most of his 14 rivals still in close contention.
However, he began to tire on the run to the last and Dineur regained the lead, but What A Steel, who had been much nearer last than first in the early part of the race, continued to pick up ground relentlessly and surged to the front over a furlong out to win by two-and-a-half lengths at 14-1.
Peter Bowen’s 20-1 shot Dineur was second with Kim Bailey’s Valento staying on for third at 28-1.
It was a great win for Whillans who said: “I thought he would run well, but it was such a competitive race that I thought we would be up against it”
He should have banked on the belief of Gretna owners John and Sheila Wright, who had high hopes as an excited Mr Wright explained: “Cartmel has always been a lucky track for us. We had our first ever winner here with Copplestone in 2006 and have had other winners here too”.
Lucy Alexander, whose stock continues to rise, rode a peach of a race on Constant Contact to win the Cartmel Cheeses Lady Riders Handicap Hurdle, the first race of its kind to be staged at the course.
The 11-4 joint favourite looked likely to be trapped in a pocket when left short of racing room by the weakening Tough Talkin Man, but cleverly switched by his talented rider, Donald McCain’s gelding came round the outside to beat Hawkhill, who got the better of Cool Baranca in the battle for second.
Nigel Twiston Davies lost his chance of winning the big race when Royal Riviera was pulled out, but he still made the long trip from Gloucestershire pay with a better than 12-1 first and last race double with Foundry Square and Desolait, both ridden by his son Sam.
Our annual Cheltenham Festival Preview Night, at Cartmel Racecourse, will be held on Thursday 9th March – commencing at 7.00pm.
2,000 Early Bird tickets will go on sale at half price on tuesday 17th January.