Peaky Boy makes perfect Cheltenham start

Peaky Boy gave owner Olly Harris his first winner at Cheltenham when making a winning introduction to hurdles with an effortless success to kick off the New Year’s racing at Prestbury Park.

The six-year-old was contesting the Favourite From The Sun Now Daily Maiden Hurdle on his first run for Nicky Henderson, his first hurdling start after winning a bumper and a point-to-point previously.

Under James Bowen he was the 13-8 favourite and made an impression with a straightforward five-length victory, earning a 33-1 quote for the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle back at Prestbury Park in March.

“When we started with him, he just needed his wind attending to, but he’s very nice,” said Henderson.

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“He’s really laid back and we thought he had a bit of speed. You ask him a question and you always get the answer, but you do need to ask the question, so it is quite hard to judge on the way he does it.

“I think he’s very deep like that and there’s a lot there. He handles the ground and he jumps well and I’m sure he’s going to stay well, he finished strongly and travelled nicely.

“He’ll stay at two and a half (miles) for the time being and you would like to run in another race like this. If you get two into them before you have to go deep, then they are going to know a bit more.”

However, there is unlikely to be a trip to the Cheltenham Festival this term, with Henderson seeing his future lying over the larger obstacles.

“I’d probably say he wants another year before we think about that. It’s not like he’s beaten anything staggeringly, he’s just done the job nicely and he’s on the right road, which is good,” he continued.

“I think he’s a horse with a big future, especially over fences.”

Evan Williams’ Libberty Hunter continued in good form when landing the Close Brothers Novices’ Limited Handicap Chase under Adam Wedge.

A five-length winner at Wincanton last time out, the eight-year-old reeled in the race leader and 7-4 favourite Matata to come out on top at 3-1.

His trainer will now look to build up further experience over fences before a return to the Cotswold track for the Grand Annual in the spring.

Williams said: “I’m delighted. To be fair, there are times when you win in a style that you have no complaints (about a rise in the weights). I was just worried about coming here too soon after that, but we were happy he had a good school rather than a race last time.

New Years Day Racing – Cheltenham Racecourse
Libberty Hunter ridden by Adam Wedge (David Davies for The Jockey Club)

“I would say a Grand Annual would be something to look at, but I need to get another run into him beforehand. The Grand Annual or the Red Rum at Aintree I would say he would hold his own in, even as a novice.

“I thought some of his jumping was proficient and the way the novice chase campaign is these days, that is where you get pushed.”

Gavin Cromwell’s Stumptown came to the fore in first-time blinkers to take the Paddy Power Handicap Chase under rider Keith Donoghue.

A 5-1 chance for the staying contest, the seven-year-old stayed on best of all up the hill to prevail by five lengths, to ignite Festival dreams for his Cheltenham-mad syndicate of owners.

“He hasn’t run badly all year, he has jumped poorly and I think he got close to one second time round down the back,” said owner Ger Teahon.

“Keith said he jumped very well and made ground in the air, which is something we haven’t seen since last March. We’re delighted for him, he’s a dude of a horse, gives everything and I’m thrilled.

“I’m a Kerry man from Ireland, we always dream.

“We were gutted last time (at Newbury in the Coral Gold Cup). We really, really fancied him, he jumped the first and got hammered. That really set him back and I think our race was run then.

“But he doesn’t become a bad horse overnight, so I’m delighted for the horse, Gavin and the team – and it’s a dream come true.

New Years Day Racing – Cheltenham Racecourse
Stumptown ridden by Keith Donoghue (Nigel French/PA)

Stumptown was handed a quote of 40-1 for the Grand National but it appears the Cheltenham Festival will be given priority.

“We would love to come back to the Festival, but what is suitable for him I’m not sure. We’ll go home and have a look,” continued Teahon.

“You have five owners who come to Cheltenham every year, so I think that will get the priority if we can. It would probably be a bit too soon for the big one there.

“He made ground in the air nearly the whole way round, he stays very well and is a really honest horse, and with a pilot like Keith Donoghue, you can’t go wrong.”

Butch (right) winning under James Bowen
Butch (right) winning under James Bowen (Nigel French/PA)

Butch battled on doggedly to take the Paddy Power Handicap Hurdle for Olly Murphy and Bowen – a double on the card for the latter.

The seven-year-old was a 7-2 chance for the three-mile event and was one of a handful still competitive on the run up the hill.

Mel Rowley’s My Bobby Dazzler challenged and the two locked horns in the closing stages, but it was Murphy’s runner who held on to prevail and bring up a brilliant three-timer.

Murphy said: “He’s as tough as old boots and you know what I’m not afraid of doing, I will not bottom this horse and he will come nowhere near this place in March albeit he has a love for the place.

“He’s a horse for next year, he’s won twice round here and given his owners an awful lot of fun, but I don’t know where the ceiling is.

“I will probably go to Haydock for the Rendlesham and daft as it sounds, that could be him.

“He’s a big shell of a horse still and there’s sure to be lots of improvement and I cannot wait to jump a fence with him next year.

“He has a great attitude and I love this horse, I don’t like talking horses up and I’m not talking him up but if they all had an attitude like he had – the first three in that race will be graded horses in 12 months’ time and it was a strong race. I’m delighted.

“I can’t wait for next year and I couldn’t give a hoot about this year to be honest.”

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