Lady Buttons’ journey to Cheltenham Festival one of more uplifting – Bob Champion
Champion, who overcame cancer to win the 1981 National on Aldaniti, says it speaks volumes about the success of the 10-year-old horse that so many racing fans have embraced her. The winner of 15 out of 32 starts, Phil Kirby’s stable star has put up career- best performances in her last two outings – both at Doncaster – where she won over fences and then hurdles.
Lady Buttons holds three entries at next week’s Cheltenham Festival – the blue riband Queen Mother Champion Chase, the Mares’ Hurdle and Grand Annual Chase.
Owners Keith and Jayne Sivills, together with Kirby, will make a final decision this weekend after agonising about the most suitable race – Lady Buttons was a gallant fourth in last year’s Mares’ Hurdle under jockey Tommy Dowson.
And while Kirby ventured that the two-mile Champion Chase was the least likely option because of the quality of the opposition, Champion hopes connections take on the hat-trick seeking Altior, rising star Defi Du Seuil and others.
Both men were speaking at a Cheltenham preview night that the Sivills family hosted at The Tiger Inn pub at Easington that raised over £1,500 for the Bob Champion Cancer Trust.
Champion, who grew up in nearby Guisborough, told The Yorkshire Post: “Lady Buttons is a lovely mare. She wins so many races – and she’s 10.
“It’s very rare to have a horse win 15 starts – especially under National Hunt rules.
“Fences, hurdles, she’s great at both and I’d love to see her in the Queen Mother. I know she’s not my horse, but you only get one chance to win such a prestigious race.
“She’s also great for racing – look at all the people who wear scarves in her colours and the coverage she gets on television and in the papers. I think she’s brilliant.”
Champion believes Al Boum Photo will make a successful defence of the Gold Cup at the end of a week where he expects Rachael Blackmore, the top Irish jockey, to shine.
He says it is possible that she could be the week’s leading jockey.
“She’s riding out of her skin,” he added.