Tag Archive for: Monmiral

Fergie time comes to Cheltenham on afternoon to remember

Sir Alex Ferguson enjoyed not one but two Cheltenham Festival winners in an unforgettable afternoon on Thursday.

Alongside co-owners John Hales and Ged Mason, former Manchester United boss Ferguson was delighted to see the Paul Nicholls-trained Monmiral land the Pertemps Network Final Handicap Hurdle under Harry Cobden.

That victory was not the first time Hales and Mason have been lucky enough to encounter good fortune at the showpiece meeting – but it was a new experience for Ferguson after years of patience.

“I’ve finally had a winner here, I can’t believe it,” he said.

A big pat for Monmiral from Sir Alex Ferguson
A big pat for Monmiral from Sir Alex Ferguson (Adam Davy/PA)

“The jockey was absolutely brilliant on him. What I was thinking at the tapes was ‘what the hell is he doing at the back’, but he crept forward and judged it perfectly.

“I couldn’t understand why before he came to the last John was saying he had won, but that is experience for you. I was just saying ‘just jump the bloody last!’.

“What a jockey, he was right at the back, he’s definitely champion material.

“It has been probably 20 years that I’ve wanted to have a winner here, as when I first started I just had Flat horses and no National Hunt ones.

“I got interested in the jumps with Ged and John. It 100 per cent makes it more enjoyable having a winner with friends. Everyone looks forward to Cheltenham, while on the Flat you have the Derby. These two events are unsurpassed.

“It’s special here, it’s like the Derby or the FA Cup final and I’ve waited a while to experience this.

“A lot of people who buy horses have never had a winner, never mind here. It’s a feeling of elation.

Yes! (Joe Giddens/PA)

“Of course it’s not the same as winning at football, that was my life, I was immersed in that, this is what I do for pleasure so it’s a different feeling. I don’t have to worry about it, I leave that to the trainer.”

The afternoon only got better as Protektorat then galloped home with the Ryanair Chase for the same owners but a different trainer-jockey combination in Dan and Harry Skelton.

After standing on the podium a second time to claim the winner’s trophy, Ferguson said: “In terms of horses it’s the best (day I’ve had), it’s fantastic. You can’t compare it with the football because it’s a different thing because of the sacrifice of football, I just enjoy this.

“I’ve waited a long time for a winner here, it’s very special.”

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Monmiral records famous success for co-owner Ferguson

Sir Alex Ferguson was in the Cheltenham Festival winner’s enclosure as Paul Nicholls got off the mark for the week when Monmiral hunted down Kyntara in the Pertemps Network Final Handicap Hurdle.

Running in the famous yellow colours of Ferguson’s co-owner John Hales, the seven-year-old has always been held in high regard by those at Ditcheat.

Despite that, he was sent off at 25-1 in the hands of Harry Cobden, sporting first-time blinkers as he was given a patient ride by his title-chasing jockey.

Sir Alex Ferguson celebrates with Monmiral
Sir Alex Ferguson celebrates with Monmiral (Mike Egerton/PA)

Cobden edged his mount into contention heading down hill for the second time, but it seemed the bird had flown when the bold front-running Kyntara set sail in his bid to provide Mel Rowley with a first Festival success.

However, Monmiral still had plenty in reserve and emerged as Kyntara’s sole challenger at the last before storming home to crush the long-time leader’s dreams.

A clearly thrilled Ferguson said: “That was fantastic. Brilliant. What a jockey, deary me, he was brilliant. It’s my first winner here, John is the master, he chooses the horses and we back him all the way.”

Nicholls said: “A couple have run ordinary the last couple of days, but it’s tough here and they basically weren’t good enough on the day.

Harry Cobden celebrates
Harry Cobden celebrates (Adan Davy/PA)

“I thought Ginny’s Destiny would win today and he ran a blinder, and this horse has loads of ability. We’ve been trying to make a chaser out of him, he didn’t like it and I just thought I’d qualify for him for this race at Chepstow a couple of weeks ago and he actually needed the run that day.

“I thought he’d run OK today, I didn’t necessarily expect him to win. I told Harry to give him plenty of space as he’s a bit timid and doesn’t like to be boxed in and he gave him a beautiful ride.

“He’s had loads of problems and didn’t want to jump fences. Today worked out really well.

“Whether the blinkers made a difference or not I don’t know, but he’s obviously come back to himself a little bit.”

There was also a first Festival victory for West Country handler Jeremy Scott as his high-class mare Golden Ace claimed the scalp of Irish hotpots Brighterdaysahead and Jade De Grugy in the Ryanair Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle.

Golden Ace and Lorcan Williams
Golden Ace and Lorcan Williams (Mike Egerton/PA)

Sent off 10-1, jockey Lorcan Williams appeared to be holding on to plenty of horse as the duo travelled into contention in supreme style.

Still to push the button jumping the last alongside the main market principals and fellow Irish challenger Birdie Or Bust, all it took was a shake of the reins for Golden Ace to scoot clear in the closing stages.

Scott joked: “I wasn’t too worried about the Irish, they’ve been struggling all week haven’t they, so I don’t take a lot of notice really!

“I thought coming second last year with dear old Dashel Drasher was something, but this is very, very, very special.

“She was travelling so well, her jumping wasn’t great but she jumped the last one probably the best of the lot. She travelled well and always looked to have them covered, didn’t she?

Jeremy Scott celebrating Golden Ace's victory
Jeremy Scott celebrating Golden Ace’s victory (Adam Davy/PA)

“She’s not one that tears the gallops up in all honesty, but her racing has always been really good and she was so cool and calm in the paddock. She takes everything in her stride, which is such an asset.

“It doesn’t look like she’ll jump a fence, so we’ll stick to hurdles. We’ve got a lot to dream about and we’ll enjoy this moment, reflect on it tomorrow and think about a plan.

“Lorcan is such a talent, he’s got a really cool head on him and he’s a natural horseman. I’m really glad that he’s had the opportunity to shine a bit and hopefully other trainers will use him as well.”

Gavin Cromwell’s Inothewayurthinkin was tasked with carrying top-weight in the Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup Amateur Jockeys’ Handicap Chase, but made light work of that burden to oblige favourite-backers who had sent the six-year-old off the heavily-backed 13-8 market leader.

It was a second winner of the week for jockey Derek O’Connor, who kept his mount hidden in rear for the first three-quarters of the contest, before sluicing his way to the front and on for victory in facile style.

Inothewayurthinkin and Derek O'Connor
Inothewayurthinkin and Derek O’Connor (Adam Davy/PA)

Cromwell said: “He jumped the first awkward and got shuffled back, but they went quite hard in front which stretched the field. It all went to plan after that. He was nice and relaxed and within his comfort zone.

“Derek was so cool on him, having him on in races like this is invaluable really, he makes it so comfortable to watch, you know you are in safe hands.

“He could be an Irish National-type one day maybe.

“It’s great to get a winner here. We came last year and all of them ran well but we left with no winner. We’ve had a great season but to have a winner at the Festival caps the whole season.

“Some people say it’s not all about Cheltenham, but it is!”

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