Moroder (left) on his way to a narrow victory in the Virgin Bet Grimthorpe Handicap Chase (JTW Equine Images)
By Tom Williams
It is always when things are left off the script that racing produces its finest performances.
Step up Seamus Mullins and James Best, who teamed up to train and ride a most unlikely winner of the Virgin Bet Grimthorpe Handicap Chase, as outsider Moroder got up at the end of a grueling 3 and a quarter miles to score by a neck to last year’s winner Undersupervision.
Having come into the race with a Pulled Up and Unplaced next to his name, he was sent off as an 18-1 outsider, despite the fact that he had made it 4 wins over fences on the bounce last year, culminating in a win over half a mile further in March 2022 at Exeter.
That form seemed a world away coming into today, but racing never really follows the script, and the team at Wilsford Stables knew he was better than what he has shown this season already. They primed him to perfection, and he duly repaid their efforts and faith from connections by taking the fight to last year’s winner as they themselves had made their bid for glory.
With Sporting John, Neville’s Cross and last month’s Sky Bet Chase winner Cooper’s Cross all toiling, as the tempo increased when the field swung for home and began to bear down on the last 4 fences, James Best sent his charge forward and at 2 out he was on the coattails, then alongside and then in front of last year’s victor, and put the fight up to him.
Sam Twiston-Davies aboard Undersupervision was not for going down without a fight, and fought back on the inside as the duo headed to the last, both jumping it with gusto and aplomb. And whilst it was a return to form for Undersupervision, it was the extra pound in hand from Moroder that got him up close home, prevailing by a neck.
A jubiliant jockey afterwards, after saluting the crowd at Doncaster with a cry that would have emboldened a Viking army, noted to the assembled media how it was a team effort all round to get their charge back to his brilliant best.
“You get up at 5 every day, and you get knockbacks along the way, but you’ve just got to pick yourself up, keep going, keep going forward”.
“Tomorrow’s a new day”.
“A massive credit to Seamus, he’s done so well to get him back, as his first two runs ( of the season ) were not great”.
“ I would have been happy if we have come third or fourth, nicked a bit and have a crack at it, but jumping in 3 out!”
“You’ve really got to use his jumping as it’s mustard, I’m just so pleased for all connections!”
“Ann ( Leftley ) the owner, has not been overly well this past few weeks, so she couldn’t make it today, but I’m just so pleased”.
“Hopefully that will give her some satisfaction, watching on at home, and a massive thank you for letting me be able to ride him!”
“A lovely horse to be involved with”.
Assistant trainer James Mullins was also full of praise for his team and the winner when interviewed afterwards.
“Winning any race is hard enough, let alone getting it right on the big day!”
“This horse had a great tail end to last season (referencing the win at Exeter), and needed his first run back to blow away the cobwebs”.
“We have had a few setbacks with the frost and a minor muscle tear, all those bits and pieces, and we knew he was well today”.
“We told representatives that we were coming here to have a go. We weren’t necessarily going to win it, but we were here to have a go”.
“He deserved to be here, and God has he proved it!”
“I’m delighted for Besty ( jockey ), and us, it’s been a little while for us, it’s great to have it on the big day!”
“Mrs Leftley has been in racing a very, very long time, and she’s had a lot of lovely horses, but this is one of her good ones”.
“I’m delighted for her (Ann), hopefully she’s watching at home, or probably in a bookies, actually – she loves the feel of a bookies!”
“I hope she doesn’t get too over-excited!”
It was another reflection on how much of a boost in form the winner had produced, right back to his best, after the early runs had left questions on whether he would be able to feature in a handicap such as this.
“He always takes the first run or two to blow the cobwebs away, and we had those minor setbacks”.
“Once he gets on a roll and he’s fully fit, and he’s going and Besty gets the confidence, you could see him rowing at him 3, well 5, 7 strides out. They just gel so well!”
“It’s been a drought for us”. “Let’s see what the handicap mark does for us”.
“For this horse, this is his biggest win, and the biggest Saturday win for him, so I’m delighted”.
Whilst this race is seen as a trial for the Grand National, it remains to be seen if he will develop into a candidate for the centrepiece at Aintree. However, given he has stamina to boot, he may be one to follow.
Upcoming Cheltenham Odds