Deborah Cole is yet to decide the next destination for Long Distance Hurdle third Flight Deck, admitting she is still very much on a high from the bargain buy’s surprise heroics this autumn.
The nine-year-old won five times in 15 starts when previously trained by Jonjo O’Neill, but was picked up for just £5,000 at the sales in the summer and has since really enjoyed himself in his new surroundings at Cole’s Solihull base.
His first start for new connections was at Cheltenham in October when belying odds of 66-1 to grab the bronze medal in a Pertemps qualifier and he then excelled himself in even deeper waters when a close-up third behind staying stalwarts Dashel Drasher and Paisley Park at Newbury.
Those two performances have seen Flight Deck – who runs for The Steve, Joe And Steve Syndicate – more than cover his purchasing costs, with the past few months very much a blur for the trainer, who is still trying to let Flight Deck’s underdog achievements sink in.
For now though, she is content to continue letting the dust settle while the horse recharges his batteries ahead of a return to the track in the new year.
“We haven’t really made a detailed plan yet, we’re just seeing how he is and it’s been a bit of a fairy story with him really,” said Cole.
“He’s fine, he’s really well. Next on the agenda will probably be a little break and I think he is a horse you have to keep sweet and happy.
“It’s all a bit surreal and when he ran so well at Cheltenham we were a bit surprised, and then when he backed it up at Newbury, only beaten by two exceptionally good horses, and not beaten that far really, it was just amazing.
“To have a horse of that quality and for that cheap is just amazing and we feel very lucky. People are paying hundreds of thousands of pounds for these horses and there is never any guarantee, is there. He just slipped through the net, I think.”
Flight Deck’s stellar display in esteemed company at Newbury has Cole considering continuing on a Graded level journey for his next start, with Cheltenham’s Cleeve Hurdle on January 27 a possible option.
However, the West Midlands handler concedes she has never had to consider these calibre of races previously and is very much taking it one day at a time, while also embracing the challenge of mapping out Flight Deck’s next movements.
“It’s tempting (to stay at Graded level) and he’s obviously got a lot of ability,” continued Cole.
“We may do, but it is all new and we’ve never dealt with horses who would go for Graded races up until now, so it’s a bit of a learning curve really. We’re enjoying it though, obviously!
“We’re not in any rush with him and there’s plenty of time. We’ll probably have a look in the middle to the end of January and see what there is then really.
“There is that (the Cleeve) and we have pondered on that, but I don’t know. I think we’re still trying to keep our feet grounded because he could put in a stinker, but who knows.
“He’s obviously in a very happy place now – and for all our horses, that is very important.”