Cheltenham Festival: Tizzard and teenage jockey stem Irish tide with Doncaster bargain

Harry Cobden celebrates after landing the Albert Bartlett Hurdle on Kilbricken Storm.
Harry Cobden celebrates after landing the Albert Bartlett Hurdle on Kilbricken Storm.
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A £22,000 bargain buy at Doncaster sales was the precursor to trainer Colin Tizzard’s dream day at the Cheltenham Festival.

Forty minutes before Native River’s Gold Cup win, Kilbricken Storm surged clear to land the Grade One Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle and this rising star is set to go chasing next season.

Jockey Harry Cobden on board Kilbricken Storm, centre, going on to win the Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle during Gold Cup Day of the 2018 Cheltenham Festival at Cheltenham Racecourse.

Jockey Harry Cobden on board Kilbricken Storm, centre, going on to win the Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle during Gold Cup Day of the 2018 Cheltenham Festival at Cheltenham Racecourse.

It was a first victory at the Festival for 19-year-old jockey Harry Cobden and stemmed Ireland’s domination at Cheltenham.

Tizzard, a Dorset farmer before be became a trainer, was taken aback by the 33-1 success. “None of us knew how good he was and we didn’t know he was going to do that, did we?” he said. “I knew he would stay. We had his shoe off three times last week with the dreaded pus. It was touch and go running him.

“I bought him at the Doncaster Sales for £22,000 and I had to push the boat out to go to £22,000! It goes to show that the beauty of National Hunt racing is you can pick up these horses for around £20,000 and win the biggest staying novice hurdle of the season.

“It is easy for me to say it wasn’t his running at Newbury, but he hadn’t really beaten anything up to today. We had no justification thinking he was going to run like that and beat the best novices in this country and Ireland by five lengths. He will go novice chasing next year, as he has won a point to point.”

Long-time leader Fabulous Saga had appeared to have stolen the race – he had a commanding advantage turning for home – but the fresh-faced Cobden timed his run to perfection.

Though the champion conditional has already enjoyed Grade One successes courtesy of Irving and Politologue, this victory showed that he’s every bit as good as Ireland’s teenage sensation Jack Kennedy, 18, whose win on Farclas in the JCB Triumph Hurdle was his third at the highest level this week.

“I tried to keep him wide to find a little bit of better ground. I wasn’t sure if I was doing the right thing,” said Cobden. “I didn’t want to commit too early and was half-thinking ‘Do I chase Fabulous Saga and risk going too early’, but thankfully my horse was brave and tough and fought on.

“This is only my third Festival and I’ve never encountered conditions quite so testing. I started the week with 10 rides, two were withdrawn and I’ve had two thirds – I was thinking ‘that’s me done’ because I didn’t think this lad could win, but he proved me wrong.

“He’s had a few little issues and Colin was trotting him up this morning to make sure he was okay, and thankfully the vets said he was fine to run. When the adrenalin is up you don’t feel it – if I had a bad toenail I wouldn’t be thinking about it out there. This is right up there with the two Grade Ones I’ve won. My father, Will, is here watching and looking shocked – I don’t think he backed me.”

There were emotional scenes after the County Hurdle when Bridget Andrews drove home Mohaayed.

The claiming conditional rider was embraced by her partner Harry Skelton, who rode stablemate Spiritofthegames into sixth place.

The horse is trained by Skelton’s older brother Dan at stables set up by their father Nick, the Olympic gold-medal winning showjumper.

A landmark week for female jockeys thanks to the successes of Lizzie Kelly, Katie Walsh, and then Harriet Tucker who won the Foxhunters on Pacha Du Polder, an elated Andrews said: “That’s my best moment in racing by a million per cent. Harry got off of Mohaayed to ride Spiritofthegames because of the ground.

“I said sorry to Harry when we pulled up.”