Annual Invictus secures a big win in the SBK Great Yorkshire Chase (JTW Equine Images)
By JTW Equine Images
Annual Invictus ground out every yard of the 3-mile trip to deny the fast-finishing Forward Plan in a pulsating finish to the SBK Great Yorkshire Chase, under enterprising young jockey Freddie Gordon.
Trained by his father Chris Gordon, he needed his willing partner to cling on for dear life as the rival came close towards the line, but held on by what looked like a flared nostril to score for what has been affectionately named “the greatest trainer in Winchester”.
Last year’s winner Cooper’s Cross was never going a yard, and was pulled up on the far side of the course, along with Famous Bridge, another leading fancy.
In the end, as the rivals dropped away, it was only Forward Plan who could muster a challenge, but ultimately failed, much to the post race delight of connections.
“I rode him around Newbury over hurdles and he just keeps going and going and going, and the gameplan today was that the last few times over fences we put him in mid division, see if we can get him a good lead, and he has!”
“We just thought today we would give him a right good go in front and lead with no one else around us”.
“Jumping’s his best, but he’s completely unbothered, and God he shows how determined he is to win!”
“He keeps battling on!” “He’s seriously tough!”
“It’s just so nice to ride a horse like that, and a big thanks to Tom and the team for letting me ride him”.
When speaking about the trainer, also more importantly his father, he called him “the greatest trainer in Winchester! The trainer’s a genius.”
Might be the only one, but still, you have to be in it to win it!
The trainer was also thrilled to land such a prestigious race in such style.
“He ( Freddie ) gave him a smashing ride”, he noted.
“I was a bit worried about the tack in the ground, as I thought he has the course record at Cheltenham over two and a half and Newbury over 3 on good ground, so I was hoping for quicker ground, the better”.
“There’s been too much cut in the ground recently, and I have been dying to get him out over a bit of better ground, so it worked out well today”.
“It’s great for everyone, it’s been a very tough season for it, nothing seemed to be working out”.
“Everyone works really, really hard at the yard and when it’s a gutty old job, I would much prefer to be a delivery driver for Amazon!”
“It’s great for Fred. The way this game is, the ups and downs, it can be horrific, but there we go”.
“It’s been an unbelievable day for Tom ( Smith, owner ), my farrier. We have his half brother ( of the winner ) at home who we will split into 10 after getting him at Goffs, if anyone is interested!”
“The horses haven’t been seeing their races out recently, we had one beaten a short head at Newbury, but it feels like it’s turning for us”.
“We’ve turned a corner in the yard!”
SBK Handicap Chase
It was a case of bottom weight, but a top performance as Gabriel’s Getaway took the opening race in fine style for trainer Anthony Honeyball and owners Buckingham, Chapman, Kingston and Langford.
A 12/1 shot at the off, he swept past the early leaders Calico and Funambule Sivola in between the final two fences, as their early jousting match took it’s toll and both were unable to repel the sprightly 7-year-old and his willing rider Ben Godfrey.
The combination of the bottom weight and a further 3 pounds coming off the rider meant that he was always going to be a threat, and he duly provided that as he was simply not for catching and not for stopping, to win by around two lengths at the line.
He is now 4 out of 6 over fences, and speaking afterwards, it appears that Ben was keen to state that chasing has brought out the best in him.
“He’s taken a while to come into his own, but once he’s taken to fences he won 3 on the bounce”.
“We’ve always liked him since the early days, but he was a bit of a hothead”.
“He ran no race in bumpers, he was too keen ( and over hurdles ), and needed time to mature”.
“But then he was 3 out of three over fences, and just a little bump at Bangor, and the last day was too soft at Ludlow”.
“He was thrown in at the deep end today, and he’s done it well”.
Afterwards, it appears that a fast 2 miles on good ground, perhaps at Aintree, would be right up his street.
“Definitely” Ben stated. “He likes good ground and it worked in our favour today. It’s on the drier side of it out there today”.
“The two up front have cut each other’s throats and he has saw it out, so something like Aintree would suit him rather well”.
SBK Fillies Juvenile Hurdle
Another day, another victory for the exciting Wodhooh as the daughter of Le Havre made it 5 out of 5 over hurdles under Mark Walsh for trainer Gordon Elliott and owners The Sundowners Partnership.
Formerly trained by Sir Michael Prescott on the Flat, she has simply carried all before her since switching to obstacles and made it another victory in fine style, drawing clear of Max Of Stars to confirm the Newbury placings and score by 6 and a half lengths.
One can believe that the Triumph Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival on Gold Cup day will be her next, but most stiffest, of assignments. In it she will meet Sir Gino, who won the trial at Cheltenham only minutes before in devastating fashion.
SBK Handicap Hurdle
Geromino made sure that his success of 42 days ago at the course was no fluke as he stayed on doggedly under 10lb claimer Charlie Maggs to win the SBK Handicap Hurdle for trainer Donald McCain and owner Mr G.E. Fitzpatrick.
Having been raised only 2 pounds for his victory last month, he was always at the head of affairs, and was simply not for catching as all his rivals fell away one by one, with only Rich Spirit getting near him on the run in, but never quite close enough.
Charlie afterwards said it was a “dream” to come over here and ride winners, and in the process of today’s victory he had shed the 10lb claim, and was now down to 7lbs.
“To be able to do it twice on this horse, shows what this lad can do”.
“I didn’t know how far everyone was, but he met the last on a perfect stride and did it well”.
“Donald has told me a lot, he’s done a lot for me, pointed me in the right direction and told me where I‘ve been going wrong!”
Winning trainer Donald McCain was full of praise for the team at Bankhouse Stables, Cholmondely, who he dedicated this win to.
“I’ve got a great bunch of people back home”. “We’ve got Brian, Theo, Peter, the boys at home and Abbie as well, but they have been coming since the age of 12, and they haven’t missed a day”.
“I’ve been conscious that Charlie hasn’t got going like his brother ( Will ) but he has put a lot of work in.
“He will be on the books from today, he’s won a 40 grand, 50 grand handicap, so he will be getting rides from today”.
“The horse is a very genuine horse, he’s had pelvic problems, wind problems, back problems, but he tries and he wants it”.
“You can set your watch by him”.
SBK Supreme Trial Rossington Main Novices Hurdle
Sometimes, you can blow your opposition away in a flashy, impressive performance. And other times, you have to knuckle down and fight like a heavyweight boxer in a title fight.
And this time, Jeriko Du Reponet had to earn his victory as he won the Supreme Trial Rossington Main Novices Hurdle under Mark Walsh for trainer Nicky Henderson and owner Mr J.P.McManus.
The race was rearranged from the meeting that was lost at Haydock last Saturday, but it was still a high-class affair, with the 4/6 favourite having to grind out a victory, instead of the dominant, effortless performances he has been accustomed to in his 3 other races.
When asked to pick up at the top of the straight, there was no real reaction, and it looked like an upset was on the card. However, he fought hard to maintain the lead and eventually began to draw away from the fast-finishing Lump Sum to win by just under a length and a half.
Speaking afterwards, jockey Mark Walsh, who was deputising for Nico De Boinville as he recovers from a broken collar bone, stated that the race was not run to suit his mount in any way.
“We went no gallop early, and it didn’t suit him”.
“He was not great over the first few due to it, but over the last 3 he was electric”.
“He was a bit sloppy early on as he thought he was going for a school around, but over the last 3 he was great”.
“The race wasn’t run to suit, they went too slow, no gallop, and it’s turned into a bit of a sprint”.
The winner was pushed out to 10/1 by BetMGM and BetUK for the Skybet Supreme Novices Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival, with Boylesports, Skybet and Unibet all going 6/1 for the same race.
SBK Yorkshire Rose Mares Hurdle
It pays to be brave. It pays to be bold.
And it was a fine pay day for the connections of Ashroe Diamond as the trip across the Irish Sea paid dividends as Patrick Mullins gave a great ride to his mount as they took the SBK Yorkshire Rose Mares Hurdle for trainer Willie Mullins and owners Blue Blood Racing Club.
The 7/4 chance was coming here after a fine third in the Hattons Grace at Fairyhouse last month, and made the return to the minimum trip a successful one as she strode out well to win comfortably from Under Control, who was bouncing back after wind surgery and a poor effort last time at Newbury. Speaking afterwards, surrounded by what seemed the entire Blue Blood Racing Club, it was Patrick Mullins who sang the praises of the winning mare.
“She has a high cruising speed, and she settled great today”.
“It was great for her as she can normally be quite keen, so we thought today we would settle her in second, and she jumped great”.
“Her pedigree says she can go further, so two and a half in the Mares ( David Nicholson Mares Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival, Tuesday ) would be no problem”.
“She’s an Aintree Festival winner, a Grade 1 winner at Fairyhouse, and she beat one of the favourites at Cheltenham, so what more can you ask for?”
“Her form was deadly with Facile Vega and Marine Nationale and Irish Point, so really top form”.
She is now a general 6/1 for the Mares Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival, behind Lossiemouth, who made it a double at Cheltenham when winning the Unibet Hurdle and an across the card treble in the UK overall for Willie Mullins after Capadanno won the Cotswold Chase.
Albert Bartlett River Don Novices’ Hurdle
Kerryhill bounced back from a defeat at Cheltenham last time out to take the Grade 2 Albert Bartlett River Don Novices Hurdle over 3 miles for trainer Ruth Jefferson and jockey Brian Hughes.
A 7/1 chance on their first appearance since that run at Prestbury Park last month, the six-year-old stormed clear of the field and dominated the tail end of the contest, leaving much fancied Welcome To Cartries and Destroytheevidence trailing in their wake.
In a typically gruelling contest, it looked as if the well fancied favourite would be the one who would prevail, however Kerryhill was simply cruising approaching two out and quickly took the lead under Brian Hughes.
A neat jump at the last sealed the race and he careered away to score in good fashion, scoring in the style of a very good horse.
Trainer Ruth Jefferson stated afterwards that just like last year’s winner Maximilian, the winner of the River Don will not be going to Cheltenham, as they feel he is not suited by the course, and would prefer a flatter track.
It would appear that they will be aiming for the Sefton Novices Hurdle at Aintree in April, just like last year’s victor did.
SBK Novices Limited Handicap Chase
Egbert made good use of the application of a visor as he ran right back to form in the concluding race of the day under Tom Cannon for trainer Alan King and owners James & Jean Potter Ltd.
The seven-year-old stayed on majestically at the end of 3 miles to win going away from the fast-finishing Snipe, who true to name knabbed Young Buster on the line for second.
For a long way it looked like the Fergal O’Brien trained Young Buster would win, but he started to tie up approaching 2 out and was swept by at the last by the winner, who carried on remorselessly.
The winner had flown, and the eye was drawn to the fast-finishing Snipe, who jumping the last was in fifth and 10 lengths down, but was flying home at the end of the contest. It then appears that Paddy Brennan eased down on Young Buster, and was literally sniped on the line for second place by Snipe.
The incident was subject to a stewards investigation, in which he had appeared to drop his hands before he had crossed the line. Paddy Brennan was interviewed, and consequently suspended for 10 days, ranging from 10-19th February. The reason gave was that he had “failed to take all reasonable and permissible measures to obtain the best possible placing on a horse that would have finished second”, and was therefore in breach of the Rules of Racing.