Aye Right and Callum Bewley carry hopes in Cotswold Chase on Cheltenham Festival Trials Day

CALLUM Bewley’S special affinity with Aye Right helps explain why they have become one of the most popular partnerships in jump racing.

A string of placed performances in high-profile handicaps was rewarded with victory in a stirring finish to Newcastle’s Rehearsal Chase last November.

Now they carry the hopes of the North in today’s Cotswold Chase – a significant Gold Cup trial – at Cheltenham’s Festival Trials Day meeting where they are leading contenders.

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“He makes me happy,” says the jockey in an exclusive interview with The Yorkshire Post. “I know him. He knows me and we just click.”

This was Aye Right and Callum Bewley winning Newcastle's Rehearsal Chase.

It is also an unlikely success story.

Aye Right is trained at Jedburgh in the Scottish Borders by Harriet Graham, clerk of the course at Hamilton, and Gary Rutherford.

They are a small and select team whose astute handling of Geoff and Elspeth Adam’s chaser has won the respect of National Hunt racing.

And Aye Right, now the winner of eight races from 26 starts, has helped to take the increasingly self-assured Bewley’s career to new levels after a character building two years with Yorkshire’s Grand National-winning team of Sue and Harvey Smith before going freelance.

Aye Right and Callum Bewley (right) lead Harry Cobden on eventual winner Cyrname in the 2020 Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby. Photo: Phill Andrews.

Born in Jedburgh, Bewley counts himself fortunate to have grown up with horses in a farming family – his mother Kathryn never got the chance to race-ride while his father Robert never made it beyond novice status.

Describing them as his “biggest supporters”, he still remembers with fondness the point-to-pointer Windy Hills that helped start his career with Cumbrian trainer Nicky Richards before a stint in France and a spell with the aforementioned Smiths on Baildon Moor.

But it was his decision to return nearer to his roots, and go freelance, that saw him establish connections with more trainers – including the ride on Aye Right when the horse made his debut at Kelso in September 2017.

Third then, it was the decision to contest the Grade One RSA Chase at the 2020 Cheltenham Festival which suggested Aye Right was above-average.

This was Callum Bewley riding Sue and Harvey Smith's No Planning at Wetherby during his formative years in the saddle.

On just his third start over fences, Bewley and Aye Right held their own in a race won by Champ, with Minella Indo, now the Gold Cup champion, second just ahead of the brilliant Allaho.

“Fast,” says Bewley when asked what it was like to compete against these Grade One champions. “Very fast,” he then adds after a pause.

“I love riding this horse so you never worry, but once or twice he put in some sketchy jumps and landed on the open ditch.

“Looking back, it was the best thing that could have happened because it made him think about the job. He’s a gentleman.”

Nicky Henderson's Chantry House - a Grade One novice chase winner at Cheltenham and Aintree last season - heads the field for today's Cotswold Chase after being pulled up in Kempton's King George VI Chase on Boxing Day.

There have been occasions when Bewley has lacked self-confidence. Even after landing the Grade Two Rendlesham Hurdle at Haydock nearly four years ago on Donna’s Diamond for Billingham trainer Chris Grant, he was fretting about whether he had been tidy enough in the finish before he had even dismounted after the most notable win of his career at the time.

Now he’s much more resilient – on and off the track – and was confident enough to predict, beforehand, that Aye Right would be placed in Wetherby’s ‘lockdown’ Charlie Hall Chase of 2020. He was right – only Cyrname and Vinndication proved too good.

It also points to a more relaxed state of mind. “I’m enjoying it (riding) as much as I’ve ever done,” says the 27-year-old. “I’m riding for some great people – and people who want to see me do well.”

And this hit home after the Rehearsal Chase when Aye Right overcame the late charge of Good Boy Bobby – the subsequent winner of Wetherby’s Rowland Meyrick Chase – and the sheer volume of goodwill messages on his phone.

They meant as much to Bewley as the biggest success of his career in a dramatic race, broadcast by ITV Racing, that was settled by a photo-finish in favour of the still disbelieving rider.

“Everybody thought I had won and even Daryl (Jacob) on Good Boby Bobby said ‘well done’,” recalled Bewley.

“I didn’t think I had won – that was me being cautious.

“It was brilliant, especially for the horse and team at home.”

Now the North’s highest-rated steeplechaser, Aye Right heads to Cheltenham after deciding not to carry top weight in Doncaster’s Sky Bet Chase.

The five-runner field is headed by Chantry House for in-form Nicky Henderson – but Bewley and Aye Right, who holds a Gold Cup entry, head to the Cotswolds on merit.

“It’s all positive,” reports Bewley. “He makes me happy. He is a very, very likable horse. Just riding him, he puts a smile on your face.

“I’ve known him for a long time and everything I thought he could do, he’s done. It is because he’s so genuine. When he’s on song, not many horses can lay up with him and he’s happiest up with the pace.

“He’s called ‘Our Jock’ at home, he’s worked great and we’re looking forward to Saturday.”