Splash of Ginge rolled back the years to produce a fantastic performance when winning the BetVictor Gold Cup at Cheltenham this afternoon.
The nine-year-old won the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury at 33/1 on heavy ground in 2014 and, under similar testing conditions this afternoon, the 25/1 shot prevailed by a neck from the fast-finishing runner-up Le Prezien.
Local trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies, who was winning his fourth running of this race (Tipping Tim in 1992, Imperial Commander in 2008 and Little Josh in 2010), believed that the soft ground was the key to rejuvenating the son of Oscar, who had benefitted from a pipe-opener over hurdles at Wetherby last time out. Twiston-Davies is now the second winning-most trainer in this race behind Martin Pipe, who has won the race eight times.
“He has a big following does ol’ Ginge!” said Twiston-Davies.
“He has been a remarkable horse and just lost his confidence a bit over fences last season, so we put him back over hurdles and he has come back this season like a bull.
“He ran really well at Wetherby and as soon as this rain kept on and on we were hopeful as the soft ground is the key to him. It is probably heavy ground now.
“He just doesn’t notice it when it’s this soft – it was the same when he won the Betfair Hurdle. It’s just come right today. I was talking to John Neild (the owner), who has a lot of opinions as you know, about whether we were going to run him or not and I was thinking about taking him out before we declared.
“In the end, I thought we better run him though. I think I’ll be out with the owners tonight though – they’ll insist on it! The whole of Liverpool has turned up!
“It’s an unbelievable – really special, especially when it’s a horse like that. He’d lost his way a little bit but it’s great to give Tom Bellamy (jockey) a chance as he’s not having a great time at the moment. John likes to give the young jockeys a chance so that’s great.
“I was thinking Foxtail (Hill, Twiston-Davies’ shorter-priced runner at 9/1, who finished eighth) was going to do the job but he didn’t handle the ground.
“The horse has just got his confidence back and the soft ground really is the key to him. This trip on good ground is too sharp for him but, under similar conditions, he’ll be back in December (for the £120,000 Caspian Caviar Gold Cup).
“The idea was, because of John’s connections with Liverpool, to ready him for the National (at Aintree) at one point and we may revisit that idea. We’re always thinking and John has had a bet to win a million if he does win the National so he’s obviously keen!”
BELLAMY SPLASHES OUT
Splash Of Ginge’s 25/1 triumph in the £160,000 BetVictor Gold Cup provided jockey Tom Bellamy with the biggest success of his career so far.
The Nigel Twiston-Davies-trained nine-year-old came to the front three fences from home but stayed there over the final fence and hung on up the hill to win by a neck from Starchitect.
Bellamy said: “Unbelievable – I’m still pinching myself! I can’t believe it. First and foremost, the person sitting here today should be Ryan Hatch [who is enduring a long spell on the sidelines with injury]. He is my best friend and I live with him. I am obviously gutted for him, but at the same time I know he will be delighted for me.
“The owners and Nigel [Twiston-Davies] said to me, ‘Give him loads of light all the way round; he doesn’t want to be behind a horse.’ He hung from the word go so I was in behind horses the whole way, and I was thinking, ‘This is not what I need’, but it worked out perfectly.
“The split came when they went to three out and I thought, ‘Forget the bad ground’ and used it to my advantage. He took off and was brilliant. I actually thought the way he was going was too good to be true, to be honest – they don’t go this well on this ground – so I was thinking he was going to stop at any minute, but he just didn’t.
“Splash Of Ginge is amazing – he has given a few lads very good days. Jamie Bargery had a good winner on him round here [in January 2015] and Ryan Hatch won the Betfair Hurdle [at Newbury in 2014] on him and I celebrated with them then so it’s nice that they can hopefully do the same with me now.
“The owners are football fans and you can see that – they love a good chant and a sing-song. I’m sure the Hollow Bottom [a pub in Guiting Power near Nigel Twiston-Davies’ yard] will be rocking tonight! I must say thanks to them for putting me on and to all the team at Nigel’s. I haven’t had many rides for Nigel and I’ve just started riding out there again. It’s now two wins from three rides for Nigel. It’s a big ride to get, let alone a big winner, so I’m very grateful.”
Asked what it means to ride such a big winner, Bellamy replied: “It means an awful lot in the fact that I lost my claim last year and it’s been very quiet since, so hopefully that might get the ball rolling a little bit now.”
Wild celebrations as Splash Of Ginge wins the 2017 BetVictor Gold Cup
Liverpool-based owner John Neild, backed up by numerous friends and family, celebrated the victory of his Splash Of Ginge exuberantly in the paddock and then the winner’s enclosure.
He said: “This victory is for Ryan Hatch. He has had an awful year and has done everything on this horse.
“Whatever happens in the future, it is all for Ryan (who won the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury on Splash Of Ginge in February, 2014).
“I was screaming as the horse came up the hill. Bellsy (Tom Bellamy) is a great kid too and the one thing about Nige is that he always believes.
“Nigel tilts at windmills and even Sam (Twiston-Davies) said ‘are we really pitching him in here?’
“We said that he is a stone lower than when he ran in this race a few years ago and we knew that if he jumped well, he was well handicapped.
“I actually can’t believe it.”
Winning jockey Tom Bellamy was carried shoulder high after the trophy presentation.