LIAM Treadwell’s revival continued when the majestic mare Pepite Rose galloped to a convincing victory in the William Hill Castleford Chase – the day two highlight of Wetherby’s Christmas meeting.
The journeyman jockey almost gave up race riding in the aftermath of his shock Grand National win aboard 100-1 outsider Mon Mome in 2009 because of disillusionment with the sport and a dearth of opportunities.
However, after joining forces once again with Mon Mome’s trainer Venetia Williams, Treadwell is now on the 27-winner mark for the season thanks to Pepite Rose’s battling win – and on course to beat his personal best of 30 that he recorded at the outset of his career in 2005-06.
Though just five runners went to post, Pepite Rose overjumped the first and it took Treadwell’s tenacity to keep the partnership together as Malcolm Jefferson’s King Of The Wolds and the Tom George-trained Majala set the early pace.
As they galloped into a strong headwind down the back straight, 27-year-old Treadwell bided his time on his 4-1 chance as King Of The Wolds kicked on under Brian Hughes as he attempted to turn the two-mile race into an even tougher test of stamina.
Yet Pepite Rose, who runs in the colours of Leeds-based Falcon’s Line Ltd, had enough in reserve to pull 11 lengths clear of the King Of The Wolds, the only other finisher.
Both Majala and His Excellency came to grief in the home straight, while Wilde Pastures was pulled up as a nasty combination of wind and rain buffeted the horses.
This was a second successive victory in the race for Herefordshire-based Williams, whose Drumshambo prevailed 12 months ago.
“She wasn’t really happy on the ground – her big heart won the race,” said Treadwell afterwards.
“I was able to fill her up round the final bend but she’s had to dig deep. She’d been off for 2,222 days but you always know Venetia’s horses will be fit and get you there. That gives you great confidence.”
It was Williams who provided Treadwell, one of racing’s unsung heroes, with the biggest win of his career when Mon Mome landed the world’s greatest steeplechase.
Yet the rider was then offered the chance to become stable jockey to Sussex trainer Nick Gifford, whose father Josh had mastermined the fairytale National win of Aldaniti in 1981.
However, the appointment coincided with a decline in numbers at the Gifford yard and Treadwell recorded just nine winners from 149 rides in the 2011-12 season before the arrangement ended amicably.
The jockey has not looked back since being reunited with Williams where he is effectively No 2 to Aidan Coleman – the jockey who opted to ride seventh-fence faller Stan over Mon Mome on that fateful day at Aintree.
“I was living up in Tewkesbury and was making a 300-mile round trip to Nick’s twice a week. I just wasn’t making ends meet,” Treadwell told the Yorkshire Post.
“It’s just the way racing goes. You win the biggest horse race in the world, but you are only as good as your last ride.
“I had a bit of misfortune when I broke my ankle playing football and was out for six months, and I probably became a bit complacent and didn’t work hard enough for rides. I did get very disillusioned and I did think about giving up, not because I wanted to, but it was costing me money to race and it couldn’t go on.
“I went back to Venetia’s a couple of summers ago.
“She made no promises, but I had a great time last season with 27 winners and Pepite Rose is my 27th winner of this campaign.
“She has 100 horses so there are plenty of rides and opportunities.”
While Treadwell nearly quit racing after his National win, attention today turns to Ryan Mania – the jockey who had a six-month break from the sport before returning to the saddle in 2012 and winning this year’s Aintree marathon on Auroras Encore for Sue Smith.
The 24-year-old has been on a starvation diet over Christmas so he can make the 10 stone weight when Vintage Star lines up in today’s Coral Welsh National at Chepstow for the in-form Smith stable.
The last time Mania rode at 10 stone was just over 12 months ago when he partnered Gansey over the National fences to finish second. His reasoning is this. “I’d hate to see him win without me,” he admitted.
Victorious in a classy chase at Carlisle last month before losing Newcastle’s Rehearsal Chase to Hey Big Spender by a quarter-of-a-length, Vintage Star only has such a light weight because Paul Nicholls has declared his enigmatic veteran Tidal Bay – the winner of Wetherby’s bet365 Hurdle last month – who has to carry 11st 12lb on his favoured soft ground.
“We are very hopeful,” said Smith, who reported Auroras Encore to be fine after his comeback race on Thursday in the Rowland Meyrick when he finished fifth to stablemate Cloudy Too.
“Off that weight, and if he handles the soft ground and gets the trip, he has a chance.
“The horses are running well – I’m delighted Auroras is in one piece and we will look for another chase.”
Tom Scudamore, still mystified by Dynaste’s lacklustre run in the William Hill King George VI Chase, believes Goulanes has a good chance if he replicates the form that he showed in February when winning the Towton Novices Chase at Wetherby in February.
Meanwhile the highly-promising Oscar Rock carries Yorkshire hopes in today’s Grade One Challow Hurdle at Newbury when his connections look for swift compensation for the defeat of King Of The Wolds.
This highly-promising hurdler, previously trained by Harry Fry before the Calder family took five horses to the Malton yard of the aforementioned Jefferson, won at Wetherby’s Charlie Hall meeting before suffering a narrow reverse at Newcastle.
“He has a hell of a chance,” said Jefferson.
“If everything goes right, he will take a lot of beating. The ground will suit him better than the others, I think.
“When Ballyalton beat him at Newcastle the ground was a bit quick but, more than anything, I think we got the tactics wrong. If we’d been as positive as we were at Wetherby we might have seen a different result.
“Take nothing away from the other horse, though. He’s won another good race since and is very nice, but you can’t give that AP McCoy half-an-ninch as he takes a yard.”