Doubles for riders Tommie O’Brien and Bradley Gibbs were among highlights at Friday’s evening hunters’ chase meeting at Cheltenham.
O’Brien, born in Ireland but based in Herefordshire with trainer Tom Lacey, had to endure the discomfort of a stewards’ enquiry before he could celebrate a first win at the home of Jump racing – gained on Trio For Rio (6/4f) in the KTDA Open Hunters’ Chase – but the emotion of the moment meant post-race interviews were kept short.
He said: “That means a lot – I’ve wanted to ride a winner here for a long time since I first set foot on this place in 2013. Trio For Rio makes it hard work, but he’s got talent and his trainer has done a fine job on him this season.”
That trainer, and owner, is Clive Boultbee-Brooks, who is also based in Herefordshire. He and O’Brien had to wait while stewards deliberated the run to the line, during which Trio For Rio leaned on runner-up Fixe Le Kap, but the result was unaltered.
O’Brien completed his double on the Lucy Smith-trained Marcle Ridge (2/1f) in the 100% RacingTV Profits Back To Racing Open Hunters’ Chase – it was the Clive Bennett-owned-and-bred gelding’s second win at the meeting following a success two years ago – while Gibbs’ double came on two horses he trains himself.
The second leg came on the very tough mare Highway Jewel, who won the Junior Jumpers Mares’ Open Hunters’ Chase at odds of 2/7, although the Stuart Sampson-trained Fishy Story under Darren Andrews made the winner work overtime for victory. Gibbs’ opened his account, training his first Cheltenham winner in the process, when 11-year-old Captain McGinley (9/1) won the intermediate hunters’ chase which was also sponsored by Racing TV.
After that win, Hertfordshire-based Gibbs, who has now ridden four Cheltenham winners, said: “The owners have been talking about retiring him after today and sending him hunting, but there might be a rethink now. He’s been disappointing this season, but we’ve had a few niggly problems. Years ago when he was with Becky Curtis he was a terrible bleeder, and he bled at Leicester, so we completely revised his training programme.
“Instead of fast work we’ve gone for long, steady work and it’s paid off.”
The Tom Ellis-trained Fumet D’Oudairies (13/8) returned to winning ways with a cosy win in the visitcheltenham.com two miler, following which rider Jack Andrews said of the drop down in trip: “I knew when he first came to us he had loads of toe. Nothing can live with him up the gallops. They went a right clip today and even he was out of his comfort zone, but I was confident they would come back to me and going up the hill they came back in my lap. I gave him a breather and when I pulled him out he went straight back on the bridle.
Jack Andrews rides Fumet D'Oudairies into the winner's enclosure
“I hate to make excuses for horses but he wasn’t at his best when beaten last time, but today he was back on form. It’s fantastic to ride a horse like him – that meant more to me than any other winner.”
Ellis said: “We haven’t made any plans after this, although we’ve got Aintree next season in the back of our minds. That trip would be right up his street, although we have Latenightpass for that. We might run both. This horse is just a load of fun. Last year we leased him to some owners in the yard and this year they’ve bought into him, with Jack and Gina [Ellis’s wife] retaining ten per cent each. I’m so glad it’s paid off for them.”
There were first Cheltenham successes also for Christy Furness, who won the JRL Group Open Hunters’ Chase on Monbeg Chit Chat (8/1), who is owned by the rider’s mother Grania and trained by Gill Walford, while Albi Tufnell landed the Lorna Brooke Open Hunters’ Chase over four miles on the Fergal O’Brien-trained Captain Cattistock (4/1).
Furness, who works in finance in London, said: “It feels so good and it all happened a little easier than I expected. That’s not to ignore the hard work put in by Gill Walford to get him to the course. I was just a pilot.
Christy Furness after his win on Monbeg Chit Chat
“I got a breather going up the hill, then he took off going down it and winged the third-last and he zoomed up the hill. That’s my second hunters’ chase winner. We do it as a family and that makes it special.”
After Captain Cattistock’s success in the race that commemorated former rider Lorna Brooke, O’Brien’s partner, Sally Randell said: “I used to ride against Lorna and so it’s lovely to win this race in her memory. She’ll not be forgotten.
“Albi’s parents, Jane and Mark, got us the connection to Rupert and Nicky Lowe who own the yard where we train now, so to train a Cheltenham winner for them, ridden by their son, is another wonderful feeling. Albi is a fine rider and Captain Cattistock is mega – he was made for this four miles. He was going to be ridden by Albi in Aintree’s Foxhunters’ Chase but got an over-reach which was my fault and had to miss the race. I said I’ll make it up to you at Cheltenham, and the horse has done the rest.”