Five-grand-buy Coole Cody makes all

Wiltshire trainer Michael Blake trained his first Cheltenham winner today when Coole Cody won the Martin & Co Jewellers Intermediate Handicap Hurdle.

A 25/1 shot, the six-year-old was ridden by Brendan Powell to an all-the-way win by three lengths and three and three-quarters of a length from Mischievous Max (14/1) and Red Indian (5/1 favourite). Diable De Sivola (7/1) was fourth.

Blake trains just ten horses at his yard near Trowbridge, yet Coole Cody was his fifth winner of the Jump season, and he has saddled five on the Flat.

He said: “It feels fantastic. We’ve had this race in mind for a while because he won a couple of novice hurdles at the end of his novice season and since then we laid him out for this. We weren’t worried about the ground because he won an Irish point-to-point on heavy ground, and again at Wincanton.

“We told Brendan to go wide all the way and he rode him beautifully – it looked easy, but I don’t know if it was. He only cost £5,000 at Ascot Sales – Wayne [Clifford, the owner] found him and sent him to me. He’s a good size and we thought about going over fences with him this season, then decided to make use of his novice status over hurdles for the time being – he’ll run over hurdles again before Christmas and then we’ll think about fences.

“I’ve only had four runners at Cheltenham, but to have a winner here is fantastic.”


Jockey Brendan Powell produced a fine front-running ride on 25/1 shot Coole Cody to land the Martin & Co Jewellers Intermediate Handicap Hurdle at Cheltenham this afternoon.

The Michael Blake-trained six-year-old travelled beautifully through the testing ground and the pair stayed on strongly on the run-in to record a three-length victory, with Mischievous Max back in second.

Powell was surprised that he got such an easy lead in a competitive race.

“You never really get an easy lead round Cheltenham but the ground probably played a part in that,” said the jockey.

“The other jockeys probably had it in their minds to save as much energy as possible which allowed me to dictate the pace. In the end, he’s settled well. He can be a bit quirky but he’s done it all right today.

“I was confident when I jumped the second last as I’d been saving a bit all the way round. I had a loose horse for company coming down the hill so, as long as he didn’t get in my way, I knew I had a chance. I’d just like to thank Mr Clifford (Wayne – owner) and Mr Blake for the chance to ride him. They were very confident before the race and all credit to them.

“All I had to do was sit and steer and make sure I did not go too quick. Coole Cody is obviously a bit quirky, but this is the first time I have sat on him and Harry Cobden gave me all the information I needed.

“The one thing we thought might stop him was the ground. It was a bit of unknown, even though he ran in a point on heavy, because it is different on the track.

“I was able to save for a lot of the way and got quite an easy lead. I had it in my head that I wanted to save until the bottom of the hill. He has won really well. I have been lucky enough to have a couple of winners here, but things have been quiet for me for the last little while. It is good to get another one.”

3.30pm Martin & Co Jewellers Intermediate Handicap Hurdle

1 Coole Cody (W Clifford) Michael Blake 6-11-11 Brendan Powell 25/1
2 Mischievious Max (Colmark Stud Partnership) Joseph O’Brien IRE 4-11-02 J J Slevin (3) 14/1
3 Red Indian (Preston Lodge Stud) Ben Pauling 5-11-08 Nico de Boinville 5/1 Fav
4 Diable De Sivola (Robert Forster) Nick Williams 4-11-04 Lizzie Kelly (3) 7/1

Distances: 3, 3¾, 6
Tote Win: £33.00 Places: £4.90, £2.40, £2.00, £1.90 Exacta: £526.40


Five-year-old Red Indian, third behind winner Coole Cody and second-placed Mischievous Max in the Martin & Co Jewellers Intermediate Handicap Hurdle, was home-bred by Weatherbys chairman and Her Majesty’s Representative at Ascot, Johnny Weatherby.

Trained by Ben Pauling and ridden by Nico de Boinville, Red Indian, a son of Sulamani, started the 5/1 favourite and was beaten six and three-quarter lengths by the winner.

Weatherby said: “He was an orphan because his dam [Rafiya] died the day after he was born, so he had a slightly tricky start. He went to Ben [Pauling] last season and was quite sick, so this is really the first season he has been feeling well. He did great – I’m really pleased. Ben is thrilled with him.

“He’s inexperienced, and he didn’t handle the ground too badly. That was part of thing – to find out would he get the trip and what sort of ground he could handle. We are thrilled.”

To view a replay of the race, please click here –

Bowen rides out 7lb claim on Thomas Campbell

The well supported 13/8 favourite Thomas Campbell made it two wins in as many starts at Prestbury Park with a comfortable two and a half-length victory in the Regulatory Finance Solutions Handicap under young conditional James Bowen.

Always travelling well, the Nicky Henderson-trained five-year-old son of Yeats stayed on powerfully after the final flight to fend off the sustained challenge of Sophie Leech’s Anteros (8/1) in second, with a further five lengths back to Kim Bailey’s Rocky Treasure (13/2) in third.

Seven Barrows maestro Henderson, registering a 4.25/1 double after the victory of Apple’s Shakira in the G2 JCB Triumph Trial Juvenile Hurdle, said: “James gave him a lovely ride. He is a really good lad and it’s his last day claiming 7lbs so I wasn’t going to waste it.

“I’ve got a number of good boys at home including Ned Curtis and Hugo Hunt so it’s nice as these boys are the future.

“Thomas Campbell was always going well – he is progressing nicely. He has a bit of a temperament but he always tries.

“We have never run him in that sort of ground and whilst he is a reprobate, he has ability and he uses it.

“He jumped very well today, so it suggests that he does handle the ground. We’ll keep creeping away with him but he’s a very honest fella.”

3.00pm Regulatory Finance Solutions Handicap Hurdle
1 THOMAS CAMPBELL (Mrs Van Geest & Mrs Kelvin Hughes) Nicky Henderson 5-11-10 James Bowen (7) 13/8 favourite
2 Anteros (Mr K. W. Bell) Sophie Leech 9-10-04 8/1
3 Rocky’s Treasure (Mr J. Perriss) Kim Bailey 6-10-10 13/2

Distances: 2 1/2, 5
Tote Win: £2.20 Places: £1.60; £1.90; £1.90 Exacta: £15.10


Conditional jockey James Bowen rode his first Cheltenham winner today when 13/8 favourite Thomas Campbell won the Regulatory Finance Solutions Handicap Hurdle.

No less pleasing for the 16-year-old Welshman was that the victory came on a horse trained by his boss, champion trainer Nicky Henderson, who he joined in the autumn. Today’s win was his 21st victory under Rules – he set a British record of 30 wins by a novice point-to-point rider last season – and while he claimed 7lb today following a 20th victory at Exeter in midweek, he is now down to a 5lb allowance.

Bowen said: “He travelled brilliantly, he settled, and he jumped really good. All the way round I was on the winner, and hopefully he can go on to prove a very nice horse.

“He wasn’t the most straightforward when he was younger, but he’s come into himself – he was easy to ride today. He’s not keen, he settled and he stayed on in that ground. That’s his trip.

“So far things are going well – long may it continue.”


Jockey Paddy Brennan was satisfied with the performance of Anteros, who finished the two and half-length runner-up behind Thomas Campbell in his attempt to win back-to-back runnings of the Regulatory Finance Solutions Handicap Hurdle at Cheltenham this afternoon.

The 8/1 shot won for jockey Paul Townend and trainer Sophie Leech 12 months ago and Brennan felt that the nine-year-old had run into a very well-handicapped horse this afternoon.

“I maybe just got there a fraction early but the winner has won very well,” said the jockey.

“I very keen to get that near-side rail though. I was very impressed with the winner though and the way he picked up.

“Anteros has run a nice race though – probably as well as he did last year.”

Rocky’s Treasure finished a further five lengths back in third and his jockey, David Bass, was another who was taken with the winner’s performance.

“I think the winner is very well-handicapped,” said Bass.

“I’m really pleased with my lad though. I think he’ll be better on better ground though. It rode really heavy today and I’m pleased with the way he ran.

“I think there could be a nice handicap in him somewhere down the line.”

To view a replay of the race, please click here –

Geraghty: “Apple’s Shakira the fastest 3-y-old I’ve ever seen”

Apple’s Shakira, a full-sister to Apple’s Jade, winner of the Grade One OLBG Mares’ Hurdle at The Festival in March, was an impressive winner of the Grade Two JCB Triumph Trial Juvenile Hurdle at Cheltenham today.

The three-year-old filly, the evens favourite, strode away from second-placed Gumball, a 5/4 chance, to win by 17 lengths in the colours of J P McManus. She was trained by Nicky Henderson and ridden by Barry Geraghty.

Henderson said: “Barry has adored her from the first moment, but she is funny because she doesn’t show you anything at home. I was petrified, the first bits of work she did, because I thought this was going to be rather special, but aaargh… But she does jump. Barry schooled her once and said, ‘this is the fastest thing I have ever seen, for a three-year-old.’ She’s good. She’s not big, but she’s got a lovely temperament. It’s only the second race of her whole life; there’s lots to learn. She’s still green. She jumps like a big horse. She’s sweet. As long as they come and do it in the afternoon, I don’t mind – far better than these flashy ones, whizzing past you in the morning and then not doing it in the afternoon. I’d rather this way round.”

Asked whether she would be aimed at the most obvious target, the JCB Triumph Hurdle at The Festival in March, Henderson replied: “I will get some instructions, I’m sure! This was soft ground, she enjoyed it; I must admit I don’t think she’d want it too fast. I suppose that’s where we finish up. She wants to learn a bit more so she won’t be hiding in her stable. It depends what other juveniles they [McManus] have got.

“I haven’t got many juveniles, to be fair – I’ve only run two, which are We Have A Dream [who won at Warwick on November 10] and Apple’s Shakira – but the ones I’ve got are alright!

“I really just didn’t know what was going to happen today. I hoped it would be something like that – you always had in your mind that it must be there somewhere, and to be fair I did just enquire as to how well Apple’s Jade actually works at home, and I was quite pleased to hear that she doesn’t show a whole lot either, so I was always hopeful that if the genes are right, we might be alright.”


Jockey Barry Geraghty was looking to the future after Apple’s Shakira ran away with the JCB Triumph Trial Juvenile Hurdle at Cheltenham this afternoon.

The three-year-old filly was always travelling sweetly through the rain softened ground and stalked long-time leader Gumball for the majority of the race, with her jockey patiently waiting until it was time to press the button on the even money favourite.

The response was instant when Geraghty asked Apple’s Shakira for her effort and the pair scampered clear up the run-in to record a facile 17 length victory.

Geraghty was full of praise for the full-sister to Grade One winner Apple’s Jade (winner of last season’s OLBG Mares Hurdle for trainer Gordon Elliott at The Festival) immediately after the race.

“You could only be impressed with that – she’s very good,” said the jockey.

“She was green through the middle part of the race and jumped a bit big but she kept learning as she went. She ran all the way to the line though – she could have gone again at the end of the race.

“She was as much learning as responding. The penny only really dropped halfway through the race. She doesn’t need much schooling as she’s a natural and her work wouldn’t be as flashy as most. She’s got scope though and she covers the ground very well. She’s got a great attitude – you can only love her. She has more to learn than Defi Du Seuil (who Geraghty rode to win this race last year and then to success in the JCB Triumph Hurdle at The Festival). He knew his job very well. This girl has a lot of talent but doesn’t quite know her job yet.

“I said to Nicky (Henderson – trainer) that I’ve never ridden a three-year-old that is so physical – she’s great. I’d say the ground is soft – if you handle it, you’d only think it’s soft but if you don’t, you’d say it’s very soft.”


JCB Triumph Hurdle Trial contender Gumball was strongly fancied to continue Philip Hobbs’ excellent record with juvenile hurdlers, but he found the even-money winner Apple’s Shakira far too good.

Gumball, a 5/4 chance ridden by Richard Johnson, attempted to make all, but was challenged by the winner heading for the final turn, and while he kept tabs on her around that bend he was unable to sustain his rally, and went down by 17 lengths. A further five lengths behind was third-placed Eragon De Chanay from Gary Moore’s yard.

Hobbs said of the Terry Warner-owned Gumball: “I just think the winner is very good. Our horse was a little fresher than normal, which wasn’t ideal, but the winner was clearly the better horse.

“It’s getting quite testing out there, and Richard thought it was very soft, but our horse won on soft at Chepstow so we can’t use that as an excuse.”

Josh Moore, who rode Eragon De Chanay, said: “He ran a nice race – he’s not the greatest standard, but he’s a fun horse, and he could be a good handicap hurdler one day. He will definitely stay further and he may well want better ground.”


The jockeys who rode in the first race on day two of The November Meeting 2017, the JCB Triumph Hurdle Trial Juvenile Hurdle, gave their opinions on the ground.

Barry Geraghty, rider of the winner Apple’s Shakira remarked: “It’s soft – if you handle it, you only think it’s soft, but if you don’t, you’d say it’s very soft.”

Richard Johnson, jockey of the 17-length second Gumball, said: “It’s soft.”

Joshua Moore, riding third-placed Eragon De Chanay, commented: “Soft.”

Tom O’Brien, partner of Speedo Boy (5th), remarked: “It’s soft and loose ground.”

Jonny Slevin aboard Apparition (6th), said: “It’s soft ground all over.”

12.40pm JCB Triumph Trial Hurdle (Grade 2)
1 APPLE’S SHAKIRA (J P McManus) Nicky Henderson 3-10-05 Barry Geraghty Evens Fav
2 Gumball (Terry Warner) Philip Hobbs 3-10-12 Richard Johnson 5/4
3 Eragon De Chanay (Five Star Racing Group) Gary Moore 3-10-12 Joshua Moore 28/1

Distances: 17, 5
Tote Win: £1.90 Places: £1.50; £1.10 Exacta: £2.80

Nicholls: “Black Corton is getting better and better”

Bryony Frost maintained her unbeaten record aboard the Paul Nicholls-trained Black Corton (4/1) in the Novices’ Chase, the second race on day two, BetVictor Gold Cup Day, of The November Meeting.

The six-year-old son of Laverock tracked the well-backed 10/11 favourite Ballyoptic throughout the extended three-mile event but quickened clear on the turn for home and kept on tenaciously up the punishing Cheltenham hill to score by four lengths from Nigel Twiston-Davies’ charge in second.

Colin Tizzard’s West Approach (7/4) was a further 29 lengths behind in third.

Frost has built up an excellent rapport with the French-bred gelding and is now five from five on him. She followed up last week’s win in the Badger Ales Trophy aboard Present Man, also for Nicholls, with another high-profile success today.

The Ditcheat handler was quick to praise the conditional, commenting: “She rides very well and is a very good girl.

“You watch her all the way round there, she sits quietly and is as good as any of the other conditionals out there.

“She is a very talented lady who works hard and is from a good family – I’m pleased for her.

“He is an astonishing horse really who is just getting better and better. His hurdles’ form was beneath the other two but he has just kept improving throughout the summer.

“He has had a lot of runs, but this week he looked better than he has ever looked. I am astonished with the improvement.

“We thought we’d let him take his chance but it’s just astonishment that he has won.

“He is not a typical big chaser, like the other two in the field, but he gets on well with Bryony. He has got loads of ability and it just amazes me how much he has improved.”

Regarding future plans, Nicholls added: “We might look for something else and then give him a break but my belief is that when they are in form and improving, then there is no point in putting them away.

“We might have to aim for something like the RSA Chase as you have to aim at something like that, as this is top-class form which he has shown today.”


The Paul Nicholls-trained Black Corton, the outsider of the three runners in the three-mile Novices’ Chase at 4/1, extended his winning sequence under today’s jockey, Bryony Frost, to five, taking the race by four lengths.

Frost couldn’t hide her jubilation, saying: “I wouldn’t get mind getting used to this! I don’t think you’d ever get used to wins like this, though.

“Hats off to that little horse – he deserves every pat he gets. From going round Worcester in the summer to now beating these type of horses on ground you wouldn’t say he likes, on a trip you’d never say he’d stay, under weight for such a little horse – he’s brave. Going down the back he gave me every inch he had, and I put his jumping to the test going down the hill. I prayed to God the little horse would keep going, and he did.

“I could hear Ballyoptic [the 10/11 favourite, who finished second] coming to me – that’s the biggest thunder of hooves you could hear – and I thought, ‘Don’t get caught now Blackie, you don’t deserve that’. Hats off, brilliant – absolutely marvellous. I owe a lot to that horse – first win as a professional, five out of five – he is my best friend.”

“We click – I love him and have every faith in him. He’s an amazing little lad. The last time he won here guys shrugged him off a bit, and you’d have to because he hadn’t won against decent horses, but today he’s put two very decent horses to bed. He’ll tell us when he’s done but for now he’s saying, ‘Don’t you pull me up!'”


Jockey Richard Johnson was happy enough with the performance of Ballyoptic after the 10/11 favourite finished the four-length runner up behind Black Corton in the Novices’ Chase at Cheltenham this afternoon.

The seven-year-old appeared to be travelling well under his jockey for the majority of the three-mile race as the pair lead the field, but they could find no answer to the finishing kick of the winner and Johnson was pleased enough with his effort.

“He’s done well,” said the jockey.

“He’s run another good race. I suppose the winner just had that little bit more experience than him and that’s probably made a bit of difference on the day.

“I think he’s run well though. He copes well with most ground so that’s not an excuse.”

West Approach finished a further 29 lengths back in third and his jockey, Tom Scudamore, thinks he is a better horse than he showed today.

“It’s very soft out there,” said Scudamore.

“It took him a bit of time to warm up but he never really got fully going. We know he’s better than that and there will be other days for him. Sometimes it’s the case that they are a bit more novicey on their second start than on their first, so maybe that’s what’s happened today.

“He’s still a nice horse though.”

Colin Tizzard, trainer of third-placed West Approach, a half-brother to his stablemate, Thistlecrack, said: “He didn’t pick the bit up going into the first, nor the second, nor the third or fourth and so on. To put it mildly, he didn’t seem to try an inch. There is no comparison to this effort and Thistlecrack’s first attempt over fences. It’s back to the drawing board.”

To view a replay of the race, please click here:

Perfect Candidate might run in Grand National

Trainer Fergal O’Brien was visibly delighted in the winners’ enclosure after Perfect Candidate gave him another big race success in the Handicap Chase at Cheltenham this afternoon.

The 7/1 shot was recording his third victory at Cheltenham and gave O’Brien his second success in this race following Alvarado’s win in 2013.

Jockey Paddy Brennan had to work hard on the 10-year-old but his mount responded after the pair got into a protracted battle with eventual third Three Faces West coming down the hill.

Runner-up Vicente stalked this pair but Perfect Candidate always had his measure, though the winner had to dig deep as the runner-up renewed his challenge with a strong finish on the run-in.

Both Brennan and Perfect Candidate had enough in reserve though to hold on, a neck being the margin of victory as they passed the post.

O’Brien’s stable has been in rude health over the past few weeks and the trainer is delighted to see his horses running so well.

“Paddy made this horse today,” said the trainer.

“We came here on the back of a nice run before and Paddy has made his mind up for him today. These sort of fields suit him – small fields – and he probably lacks a gear for a National but he certainly rides like a National horse.

“We were lucky today with Minella Rocco (pulled up) being declared as we got in on a nice weight and the ground’s come right for him.

“For three weeks in a row now, Paddy Brennan has been amazing. He just gave everything and gave the horse every chance. I’m delighted and I’m very lucky to have both the horse and jockey. The horse runs so well round here so it’s probably easier to ride him round here. He’s a phenomenal horse. We bought him for £16,000 I think and he’s done both the owners (ISL Recruitment) and myself proud.

“We’ll see how he comes out of this – the Becher Chase (at Aintree) will probably come too soon for him. This was always the plan though – we’ll just have to see. He looks like a National horse and runs like a National horse so we’ll just have to see.”


Jockey Paddy Brennan has high hopes for the Fergal O’Brien-trained Grageelagh Girl in today’s closing bumper, so he was delighted to grab a win on the way when taking the Handicap Chase.

Riding Perfect Candidate (7/1), also trained in the Cotswolds by O’Brien, Brennan won by a neck from the fast-finishing Vicente with early pace-setter Three Faces West another 17 lengths back in third. Fancied Minella Rocco and Premier Bond both pulled up.

Brennan was full of praise for the winning trainer, but also for Nigel Twiston-Davies, who once employed O’Brien as an assistant trainer in the days when Brennan was first-choice jockey at the same yard.

As he returned to scale, Brennan said of O’Brien: “What a trainer! He has campaigned him beautifully. He’s a horse that takes a bit of stoking up at times, but he wanted it today as much as me. I was happy he was a little slow at the last, because I was conscious of using my stick and wanted another horse to come to me.

“He jumps too well sometimes, and goes up in the air, but he was brilliant today and it’s always good to get winners, especially here – hopefully we get another one today. The mare in the bumper was our best chance coming here today, so to pinch one on the way is nice.

“Fergal learned from the best. Nigel Twiston-Davies is for me the best trainer of a jumper that I’ve ridden for in England – I say that of a horse rated 80 or 160, and Fergal learnt from him. One day he could be the best himself.”


Dual Scottish National winner Vicente narrowly missed out on victory in the Handicap Chase, making a mistake at the last fence and finishing just a neck behind winner Perfect Candidate.

9/2 chance Vicente, trained by Paul Nicholls and ridden by Harry Cobden, fell at the first in last season’s Randox Health Grand National, but Nicholls indicated that his path may lie in that direction again.

“He just landed in a heap at the last and that cost him a bit,” said Nicholls. “It’s not his ground really, that’s why he’s so good in the spring. He jumps a bit better on it and gets away from his fences. But he’s got loads of stamina and nearly got there today. It was a great run for his first of the season.

“God knows where we go now, we’ll see. Whether we have a look at the Becher Chase in three weeks time and give him a practice, but he’s had a hard race today and we’ll have to see how he is. He is always better in the spring, although he has won here before at this meeting. I’m really thrilled with that run.”

Cobden added: “He doesn’t really like the ground – he jumps much better on better ground. He jumped the last, there wasn’t really a stride there and he half-landed in a heap. The other horse [Perfect Candidate] jumped it well – it probably cost us the race.

“But he’s run a blinder and I’d love to ride him in the National one day. All he does is stay and gallop; a bit better ground underfoot and I’d say he’d be a great spin.”


Richard Johnson was pleased with the performance of the Philip Hobbs-trained Three Faces West (5/1) who finished third in the G3 Handicap Chase, the third race on day two, BetVictor Gold Cup Day, of the November Meeting.

The long-time leader jumped well throughout the extended three mile and three furlong event, but having his first start in 339 days, the nine-year-old son of Dr Massini tired late on as Fergal O’Brien’s 7/1 shot Perfect Candidate edged out Paul Nicholls’ well supported Vicente (9/2) by a neck, with a further 17 lengths back to Hobbs’ charge.

Champion Jump jockey Johnson said: “He hasn’t run for nearly a year so you have to say, that was a very good first run back after all that time off in very testing conditions.

“I’m not sure where he goes now but he is still improving and that run was a nice return, so hopefully there will be some nice staying chases to go for with him now.

“He is only a young horse with time on his side, so hopefully there is plenty more to come from him throughout the rest of the season.”

1.50pm Handicap Chase (Grade 3)
1 PERFECT CANDIDATE (ISL Recruitment) Fergal O’Brien 10-10-12 Paddy Brennan 7/1
2 Vicente (Trevor Hemmings) Paul Nicholls 8-10-10 Harry Cobden 9/2
3 Three Faces West (Paul & Clare Rooney) Philip Hobbs 9-10-07 Richard Johnson 5/1

4/1 Fav Premier Bond (pulled-up)

Distances: nk, 17
Tote Win: £7.90 Places: £1.90; £1.70; £1.90 Exacta: £40.80

To view a replay of the race, please click here –

Splash of Ginge connections’ reactions after Betvictor win

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!”


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.