TWELVE months ago, Nico de Boinville was just another promising jockey who was better known for having the honour – and responsibility – of riding the steeplechasing superstar Sprinter Sacre on the gallops.
Fast forward one year and the modest de Boinville is now in the big time after winning a Cheltenham Gold Cup on the novice Coneygree; partnered former Gold Cup hero Bobs Worth to a heartwarming success at Aintree before riding Sprinter Sacre to an emotional success in Cheltenham’s Shloer Chase a fortnight ago.
The rider is the first to admit his good fortune at being in the proverbial right place at the right time – he had begun to forge a successful association with trainers Sara and Mark Bradstock before Coneygree’s remarkable rise to prominence and before greater opportunities emerged at Nicky Henderson’s yard in the wake of longstanding stable jockey Barry Geraghty succeeding AP McCoy as retained rider to JP McManus.
However the still inexperienced de Boinville would not be entrusted with such high-profile horses if there were any doubts about his temperament and horsemanship – and that he will hope to retain the winning thread when partnering Bobs Worth in today’s prestigious Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury.
They have every chance. Even though Bobs Worth’s return to winning ways at Aintree was over hurdles – de Boinville’s mount got the better for stablemate Simonsig in a thrilling finish – the former champion showed much of the spark which saw him win the Hennessy three years ago before landing the 2013 Gold Cup.
He’s also extremely well handicapped for this three and a quarter mile chase following the defection of Coneygree after the champion failed to recover from a training setback sustained in the wake of his recent comeback win at Sandown. “I think he’s got a great chance. The one thing is that I wouldn’t want too much more rain. The ground is key for him and I wouldn’t want it too soft,” said the jockey.
“He’s dropped down to an all time low off his mark and it seems the logical step after having a nice prep run like that last time out. He’s in great shape and he seems to be enjoying life again.”
As for Henderson, he remains to be convinced that Bobs Worth is back to the form which he showed when winning the Hennessy in 2012. “He’s in a different place nowadays to where he was then, so it’s probably going to be tougher,” said the trainer.
“He’s fallen down the pecking order a bit, but our job is to get these horses back and what we were doing at Aintree the other day was part of the plan. He’s had some very hard battles and they show, at the end of the day. If he could come back and win a race like this it would be very special.”
In the absence of Coneygree, the top weight is the Sam Twiston-Davies-ridden Saphir Du Rheu who will prove his own Gold Cup credentials with a bold show.The rider was lucky to walk away unschathed after a spectacular fall from Copain De Classe yesterday on day two of the Hennessy meeting.
Of the rest, David Bridgwater is particularly bullish about the under-rated The Giant Bolster who was good enough to be placed in three successive Gold Cups without ever getting his head in front. Tom Scudamore is again in the saddle while it would not be the greatest surprise if the Philip Hobbs-trained Fingal Bay finally showed his undoubted class under Richard Johnson.
Harry Fry has been dealt a blow after a tendon injury forced former Champion Hurdler Rock On Ruby into retirement.
The 10-year-old, well-beaten in Wetherby’s West Yorksire Hurdle last month, showed he retained plenty of his old dash at Ascot seven days ago when winning the Coral Hurdle. However in doing so, he suffered a career-ending injury.
An emotional Fry said: “Ruby is 10 now and his owners have generously given him to my wife Ciara who adores him, and has always looked after him at home. She will ensure that he remains the elder statesman of the yard for the rest of his life.
“He truly is one in a million as his form suggests with 12 wins, eight seconds, five thirds, one fourth place and just one unplaced effort in 27 starts. What a phenomenal athlete.”
Rock On Ruby’s 2012 Champion Hurdle win was also the beginning of a glorious autumn to the injury-plagued career of Noel Fehily who recently recorded his 1,000th career winner and who is now regarded as racing’s foremost horseman at present.