DATSALRIGHTGINO (2nd from far right, Gavin Sheehan) in rear at halfway on his way to winning The Coral Gold Cup as CLOUDY GLEN leads Newbury 2 Dec 2023 - Pic Steven Cargill / Racingfotos.com

Monday Musings: Snowden’s Gino Beats the Snow

I remember many years ago, walking out of my office in Fleet Street to be greeted by a healthy, or rather unhealthy, fall of snow, writes Tony Stafford. It was just before Christmas and that winter racing was decimated.

Some years we escape snow until well into the New Year and the jumps season appears to continue largely without meaningful interruption. With global warming and all that, you would have thought temperatures at the end of November would be temperate enough.

But here we were on the opening weekend in December, with the far north of England suffering large deposits of the white stuff, causing the formality of the cancellation of the Fighting Fifth Hurdle. With it evaporated the chance for Gosforth Park’s jumps adherents to get a second view of the great Constitution Hill as he sets off on his ceremonious way to a repeat Champion Hurdle, only three and a bit months from now.

My fear is that such an early start to freezing and snowbound conditions could set in for quite a while. With still three weeks to go to the shortest day, there is so little time in the mornings to address frozen tracks, so inevitably more meetings will be lost.

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Yesterday’s unfortunate abandonment of Southwell’s all-weather (sic) card because of frozen hailstones must make the BHA wary of too many panicked extra flat or jumpers’ bumpers fixtures. Carlisle’s jumps card yesterday meanwhile was little short of a fiasco with 18 non-runners, mostly due to travel problems that reduced a 40-horse card almost in half. Three matches hardly made for value for money for racegoers.

Nicky Henderson was relieved to hear that the Fighting Fifth Hurdle was preserved – added to the Tingle Creek Chase card at Sandown next Saturday.  It wasn’t all positive in compensational terms for the Seven Barrows trainer though, as Shishkin’s planned attempt at rehabilitation in the undercard featured Rehearsal Chase is apparently unlikely to be rescheduled.

It was more than something of a cliff-hanger before Newbury’s superb, effective deployment of frost covers and the three hours it takes to lay them – just an hour to remove them – that enabled both Friday’s and Saturday’s cards to proceed.

With snow in the north, how appropriate was it that the Lambourn trainer Jamie Snowden – pity the Welsh mountain isn’t spelt correctly! – took the biggest slice of the 250 grand on offer for the Coral Gold Cup. In its days as the Hennessy, Betfair and Ladbroke before its present identity, it has always been one of the races that trainers and owners most wanted to win and clearly nothing has changed.

Snowden had two runners, both second-season chasers, in the race - the Ayr Grade 2 winner from last year Datsalrightgino, and last year’s Paddy Power Gold Cup hero Ga Law - as the local trainer chose the most valuable chase handicap of the season at his home track to explore his pair’s stamina.

Over the years, I’ve always maintained that the perfect formula for the Hennessy was a seven-year-old in the lower half of the handicap and in its second season’s chasing. Thatsalrightgino fulfilled all three requirements. Stablemate Ga Law, whose career has revived splendidly after a near two-year injury hiatus, is a year older.

Six of Saturday’s 20 runners were age seven, including the first three home. Datsalrightgino was a 16/1 shot, getting the better of a splendid tussle from the final fence with the Irish gelding Mahler Mission (15/2) with the Jonjos’ Monbeg Genius a respectful six lengths behind after running out of puff from the final fence.

Jamie Snowden was full of praise for his jockey Gavin Sheehan who waited in the pack with his mount before making his move near the inside and challenging at the vital moment. One fellow jockey that might not have been quite so chuffed was Tom Cannon, due to ride Datsalrightgino until Newcastle’s abandonment enabled Snowden’s regular rider to change direction. A share of £142k doesn’t crop up too often for even the top jumps riders.

The bookmakers would presumably have accepted forecasts and tricasts on the race, and I recently joined with my vote against the affordability checks – funnily enough from a Nicky Henderson email.

It takes 30 bets for a six-horse straight forecast combination and £120 for a full-cover £1 tricast. The bookies’ version of the two paid not extravagantly generous with respectively £129 and £859 for a £1 stake, The Tote version was close to twice as productive with £230 for the Exacta and £1,539 for the Trifecta. Of course, I forgot all about it.

Thirty-one years ago, I found what I thought to be the handicap certainty of all time. Datsalrightgino carried 10st7lb on Saturday, 5lb more than the Peter Beaumont-trained and Mark Dwyer-ridden Jodami, who had slipped into the 1992 race with 10st2lb.

He started favourite but could not cope with the gutsy Ferdy Murphy runner Sibton Abbey, who was 21lb out of the handicap. In a preview of the race three decades later, the first two came six lengths clear of third-placed The Fellow, trained in France by Francois Doumen. The winner was owned by Geoff Hubbard and ridden by Adrian Maguire, the best jump jockey never to win the championship. Blame Richard Dunwoody and then A P McCoy for that.

All three (among five in the race) that year were also seven-year-olds and the runner-up, amazingly, went on to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup just over three months later. I’ve never actually asked Mark Dwyer all the times we’ve met since, “What went wrong?” merely because when he shakes your hand, it stays shaken for minutes afterwards. Such a question might cause permanent injury! I’ll check again when I see him at the Tattersalls mares’ sales sale tomorrow when seven-figures will be a feature of the Sceptre section during the afternoon.

After his Gold Cup win, Jodami returned in 1994 and finished runner-up to The Fellow. You could say the form stood up and no doubt Saturday’s will, too, though whether Snowden will be thinking Gold Cup is another question.

Jamie Snowden may be a less high profile member of the jump trainers’ firmament, but he certainly knows how to exploit the material in his yard. Last season You Wear It Well went through the grades and impressively won the mares’ novice hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival. The way she resumed her winning ways by beating a Nicky Henderson hotpot in Listed company at Wetherby suggests the big prizes will continue to come her way.

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Formerly for a brief time in the Army, but long enough to qualify for the Military races at Sandown, where he was a multiple winner of the two top races, Snowden had a year as a pupil assistant to Paul Nicholls before spending three years as Henderson’s assistant trainer and amateur rider. You could hardly ask for better schooling than that.

Over the 15 years since taking out a licence, Jamie has developed to the level where he routinely trains between 40 and 50 winners (his best in 2021-22) and last season he passed the £700,000 mark in earnings for his horses, easily his best. These are exciting times ahead.

There are also exciting times – not that they’ve been short on them already – for the Geegeez syndicate mare, Coquelicot. When this column’s editor reminded me last Monday of his invitation to join him at the Horserace Writers’ lunch in London later today, he neglected telling me the seven-year-old mare would be returning to action in Listed company at Kempton that afternoon.

Usual result, she made all and won pulling away for a six-length margin over odds-on shot Kateira. In winning that race she was overturning a 10lb ratings deficiency, and her 127 mark is sure to go up by at least a few pounds in tomorrow’s updated list.

If it still leaves her a little short of, for instance, You Wear It Well, on 140 after her Wetherby success, I’m sure the always-adventurous Anthony Honeyball would not be averse to a tilt  at the younger lady as the season progresses. They would need to come a bit nearer to three miles with the Snowden horse though, for that to happen.

- TS

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1 reply
  1. Mugpunter
    Mugpunter says:

    I would like to take issue with just one comment. When Adrian Maguire had to retire extremely prematurely Tony McCoy said how sorry he was: “But I won’t miss competing against him.” I firmly believe something that I cannot prove, which is if Adrian Maguire had achieved another decade in the saddle I doubt McCoy would have had a 20 year unbroken reign as champion. Maguire in his career suffered from being stable jockey to David Nicholson, who provided him with some fantastic wins but was, in the era of Martin Pipe and the upcoming Nicholls, becoming a small trainer, belonging more to the Fulke Wulwyn and Fred Winter mould and era. If Maguire had become stable jockey to Pipe I think it would be inconceivable that he would not have been a champion at least 3-5 times. McCoy would still have come out on top. I think the most competitive jockeys I have ever seen are Piggott, Dunwoody, McCoy & Maguire and I imagine, before my time, Gordon Richards would have to be up there.

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