Carruthers delivers emotional win
For John Oaksey and Yorkshire’s Harvey Smith had days to remember – the former breeding the Hennessy Gold Cup’s emotional winner Carruthers who led from start to finish, the latter combining with his trainer wife Sue to record a 3,880-1 four-timer.
Although the Hennessy victory was the defining moment in the career of 35-year-old journeyman jockey Mattie Batchelor, it was the Oaksey link that eclipsed long-distance hurdler Big Buck’s who had earlier won a 13th successive race in workmanlike style.
As plain John Lawrence, Oaksey remains the only amateur rider to win Newbury’s historic handicap after Taxidermist emerged from a different parish in 1958 to win the enduring race’s most celebrated renewal on the line.
He went on to become a distinguished commentator, the Injured Jockeys’ Fund inspiration and breeder and co-owner of Carruthers, a durable chaser good enough to be fourth in the 2010 Cheltenham Gold Cup before disappointing in subsequent outings.
It was particularly poignant that Oaksey’s fading health – he is frail of mind – meant the 82-year-old could not be present to watch his son-in-law Mark Bradstock take the training plaudits.
Bradstock had admitted to being a bundle of nerves as he watched the race “pacing up and down and having a few cigarettes”.
He said: “It’s my biggest win by a long way. You’ve obviously got the King George and the Gold Cup, but the Hennessy is in the top six races you would want to win as a trainer.
“We bought the mare of Carruthers just as a bit of fun for John Oaksey’s retirement and this is her first progeny. We’re just a small yard, but we’ve got good owners and horses like this are a reason to get out of bed in the morning.”
A relentless galloper, the Welsh National could be next on the agenda for Carruthers while the Philip Hobbs-trained pair of Planet of Sound and Fair Along, second and third respectively, will also be aimed at staying chases.
The latter, a dual winner of Wetherby’s John Smith’s Hurdle, finished with prodigious speed for Nina Carberry. She was deputising for regular jockey Rhys Flint who could not make the 10st weight.
Of the others, Paddy Power Gold Cup winner Great Endeavour finished fourth and three miles is clearly the limit of his stamina.
The racing was no less dramatic at Newcastle where Jason Maguire, having won a novice chase at Bangor on Peddlers Cross, flew by helicopter to the Northumberland track just in time to ride Overturn to a historic victory.
As well as beating the 2010 Champion Hurdle victor Binocular, who lacked any sparkle for AP McCoy, Overturn became the first dual-purpose horse to win both the Northumberland Plate and the Fighting Fifth Hurdle.
That the Plate – widely known as the Pitmen’s Derby – proved beyond the scope of Peter Easterby’s legendary Sea Pigeon is a measure of Overturn’s performance, though the Donald McCain-trained horse has still to win one, never mind two Champion Hurdles.
The rest of the card was dominated by the in-form Smith stable. Buoyed by Kilkenny All Star’s last gasp 5-1 victory at Bangor under impressive conditional Shane Byrne, Henry Oliver took the riding honours at Newcastle on Lackamon (15-8), Fill The Power (14-1) and Douglas Julian (14-1) to record his first treble as a jockey.
Again, this eyecatching run of results needs putting in perspective. Nicky Henderson’s seven-timer a week ago amounted to combined odds of 66-1 – while those who backed the Smith four-timer would have yielded a return of 3,880-1.
Three of the quartet are owned by the Smith family, the exception was Fill The Power who runs in the colours of The McGoldrick Partnership.
“We live on a hill and the horses get worked hard at home,” said Smith, the former showjumper when asked to explain his success and the ownership of the horses.
“They’ve got to be fit going to the races and everything in the yard is for sale – apart from the dog!”