Based just a stones-throw from the M1 near Newport Pagnell, Stuart Edmunds has been training horses for more than 30 years, and was assistant to the late Renee Robeson. Last Thursday at the Cheltenham Festival he had his proudest moment as a handler, when Domesday Book caused a 40/1 upset to win the Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup Handicap Chase.
With less than 30 horses at his disposal, this was an extraordinary success for the yard. The seven-year-old was previously trained in Ireland by Henry De Bromhead, and was delivered with a storming late run by 25-year-old amateur Gina Andrews, to deny Pendra in a thrilling finish. The runner-up looked to have got the better of a prolonged duel as the pair turned for home. But Pendra’s stamina began to run-out from the last, and less than a length separated the pair at the line.
Edmunds could hardly believe his good fortune, and speaking after the win said: “It's unbelievable, it hasn't sunk in. I think it's as big a surprise to me as everyone else. He was recommended to me by a late friend. He ran okay at Leicester on his first run, and we thought the further the better, so we put him in this and told Gina to be forceful on him, and he just kept responding. I thought he was beat but she gave him a smack and he's always behind the bridle, the blinkers did their job. I came here thinking if he finished mid-division we'd be happy.”
For the young jockey, the result was a dream come true: “This has literally been my lifetime ambition, just to ride here never mind win. Stuart told me he'd never be on the bridle, but to be honest he was never off it until we turned in, so that was a pleasant surprise. He rallied well, but I thought I'd be second jumping the last, the loose horse helped - I'm delighted.”
Wolf Of Windlesham had been the star of the Fences Farm stable in recent times. A talented young hurdler, he’d won three of his four starts as a juvenile, including a Grade 2 at Cheltenham and a valuable handicap at Sandown last April. He was still going well, when coming down in the Greatwood Hurdle in November, though has not been sighted since finishing down the field at Ascot in December.
Edmunds has his team in good order, and Apasionado has become another yard favourite, having won three of his six starts since arriving from Ireland. A novice hurdler now rated in the mid-130s, he was a fast finishing runner-up at Kempton a few days back, and looks more than capable of going-in again before the season ends.
The handler also has some decent mares in the yard, few better than the promising youngster Maria’s Benefit. A win and a second-place finish from her two bumper outings, she looked a nice prospect when winning cosily last time at Huntingdon. She has an attractive pedigree, being by Beneficial out of an Anshan mare. Her breeding gives hope that she’ll make into a smart staying hurdler in time.
Molly Childers is another with potential, though she’s struggling to get her head in front. Three seconds, and a hugely promising fifth in a listed event at Sandown last time, suggests she’ll be winning soon. She appeared to find the soft ground an issue in her latest run, but the daughter of Stowaway looks a nice sort.
Grey Warbler is another that looks sure to be in the winners’ enclosure soon enough. Runner-up in both her bumper starts, she possibly lacks gears, and is another that will probably need a trip when sent over hurdles. She also has a smart pedigree, being by Notnowcato, out of a Sir Harry Lewis mare.
A festival winner is sure to boost confidence throughout the yard, and Edmunds will be hopeful that the success will attract new owners, looking to put their trust in the small yet beautifully formed Buckinghamshire outfit.