Iron Bridge landed a poignant success when becoming the first horse to win in the famous colours of Trevor Hemmings since the owner’s death earlier this month.
The five-year-old son of Milan made a winning debut over jumps in division two of the Call Star Sports On 08000 521 321 Maiden Hurdle at Ffos Las.
Leading at the second-last flight, the Jonjo O’Neill-trained gelding kept on in game fashion to hold Bill Baxter by two and a half lengths in the hands of Richie McLernon at odds of 9-2.
“He likes the soft ground, and it was just nice to get the colours in the winner’s enclosure,” said O’Neill, who was naturally delighted to send out a winner in the familiar yellow, green and white Hemmings silks which have prevailed in so many top jumps races for a multitude of trainers over the years, including three Grand Nationals.
“It’s quite emotional really. He was such a great old character, Trevor. This lad won (a bumper) at Tipperary in soft ground, and Trevor rang me and said ‘will he be good enough for you?’
“I just said whatever you send is good enough, so it’s nice he came out and won – I’m delighted for everybody really.
“They are great colours, and I’m delighted to have a winner for them. Everybody loved Trevor, so he’s a popular winner.”
O’Neill and McLernon struck in division one of the same race, with Monbeg Genius (6-1), while the yard’s Cawthorne Lad (25-1) also scored under Alain Cawley in the Charlotte Cole Memorial Handicap Chase at Stratford – for a 1000-1 treble for the Jackdaws Castle trainer.
Jonjo O’Neill hopes Cloth Cap can realise his late owner Trevor Hemmings’ plan and secure back-to-back victories in the Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury next month.
The nine-year-old crept into the field off bottom weight of 10st in 2020, and powered home by 10 lengths in the hands of Tom Scudamore.
Cloth Cap went on to win a Listed race at Kelso before being pulled up when sent off favourite for the Grand National at Aintree in April.
The Beneficial gelding satisfied O’Neill on his seasonal bow when finishing fourth at Cheltenham last Saturday, and the Cotswolds trainer believes the outing should have primed his stable star for another crack at the famous Grade Three handicap on November 27.
He said: “If I run anything in the Ladbrokes Trophy, I always try and get them a run first. It’s a pretty hard race early in the season, and in my opinion they need a nice rest after that. Lots of good horses have won it.
“I don’t think we will have 10st this year unfortunately, but it’s a good race to win. It’s great prize-money. It’s probably ‘the’ long-distance race of the early part of the season. We would love to pull it off again. It would be great for the Hemmings family. It is the aim, so we will try.”
Cloth Cap is one of 42 entries for the race – and with a handicap mark of 154, some 18lb higher than last year, O’Neill is well aware he will be nowhere near bottom weight this time.
He said: “He was a very well handicapped horse last year, and the big problem then was we were worried that he wasn’t going to get into the Ladbrokes Trophy. He scraped in at the bottom. He did everything well on the day, and Tom got on great with him, so it all worked out really well.
“Obviously he is not as well handicapped this year, but he ran a nice race at Cheltenham. We were very pleased with him and hopefully we can keep him like that, and he will be able to handle the weight.
“He’s not a big horse, but I’ve had plenty of horses like that. Sunnyhillboy was only a handy little horse and only just got beat in the National, so I am not so worried about that.”
Cloth Cap was a third Ladbrokes Trophy winner for Hemmings, following Trabolgan in 2005 and Many Clouds in 2015. After his death earlier this month at the age of 86, his loss is keenly felt by O’Neill.
He added: “Trevor was very important. People like him are the backbone of jump racing. They love it, they are passionate about it. It’s a shame to be losing him.
“He loved the Ladbrokes Trophy. He nearly always tried to have a runner in it. Long-distance chases were his passion.
“This was the plan when the horse came back, to go down the same route as last season.”
The Venetia Williams-trained Cloudy Glen may also carry the famous Hemmings silks next month, with his trainer also having the Susannah Ricci-owned Royal Pagaille in the mix.
Ireland’s champion jumps trainer Willie Mullins has entered recent Munster National winner Ontheropes as well as Annamix and Brahma Bull, while Henry de Bromhead has nominated Chris’s Dream and Eklat De Rire.
Lostintranslation is one of six for Colin Tizzard – along with Copperhead, Fiddlerontheroof, Mister Malarky, Slate House and The Big Breakaway.
The first three from a contentious finish to the Bet365 Gold Cup – Potterman, Kitty’s Light and Enrilo – are all entered, with the latter possibly seeking to avenge that Sandown result, when he was demoted from first to third.
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Tom Scudamore will feel privileged when he wears the colours of the late Trevor Hemmings as Cloth Cap makes an emotional return to action in the 888Sport What’s Your Thinking Handicap Chase at Cheltenham.
It will be the first time the iconic silks have been seen on a racecourse since the triple Grand National-winning owner died earlier this month at the age of 86.
Cloth Cap was strongly-fancied to give Hemmings a fourth win in the Aintree spectacular in April, after winning the Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury and the Premier Chase at Kelso, but was pulled up by Scudamore before the third-last fence after running well for a long way. He was found to have a respiratory problem and underwent wind surgery a few days later.
“It will be lovely to put those colours back on again. Let’s hope it’s very fitting to Trevor, and we can go and do him proud,” said Scudamore.
“I’ve not sat on him so far this year. I’ve been into Jonjo’s (O’Neill, trainer) but I didn’t get to sit on him – but that doesn’t bother me at all. Jonjo’s very happy with him.
“Let’s hope we can get back on track tomorrow. There will be lots of different emotions, mainly for the Hemmings family, and we just want to do Trevor proud.
“It was a tremendous thrill (to win at Newbury). He jumped from fence to fence. He gave me two great days and gave me such a great ride in the National for a long way as well – and he was fabulous at Kelso.
“There’s plenty more in front of him. He’s in his prime. The way he went through last season showed us he’s got plenty more to offer.
“He had a great year last year, and let’s hope he can do more of the same this time.”
Among Cloth Cap’s opposition, John McConnell reports Go Another One to be in fine shape after a successful summer campaign.
“It’s competitive. He ran very well in the Kim Muir in the spring. That’s pretty good form to bring into the race. He’s obviously in form after his win in Perth,” said the County Meath trainer.
“We haven’t got much up our sleeve handicap mark wise, but he should run another good race. He’s in great nick.”
Oliver Sherwood feels Jersey Bean will come on for the run. although he expects the eight-year-old to do himself justice on his first start for 192 days.
“He did us proud last year. He does love the better ground. He’s won at Cheltenham. This is a big step up – he’s on a career high (over fences) at the moment,” said the Upper Lambourn handler.
“Whether he’s up to this, I couldn’t tell you. He stays well – his jumping has got good.
“He’s not wound up. He will definitely improve for his first run. He’s entitled to be there – and where else do you go when you’re rated 137? It’s nice to get him back on the track. He’s been a good servant.”
Paul Nicholls has warned he may not run Truckers Lodge if he considers the ground is not soft enough.
“He is a regular at Chepstow, where he excels in the mud, and he was due to run there a fortnight ago until I withdrew him with the ground drying out,” Nicholls told Betfair.
“Although he has been dropped a couple of pounds recently, I fear he is still too high in the handicap to be competitive. But he is ready to run, and his long-term aim is another crack at the Coral Welsh National – which he so nearly won in 2019.
“I hope they have had enough rain at Cheltenham for Truckers Lodge and will check out the going when I get there. If there are any doubts I will pull him out again.”
Alan King is delighted to get Tritonic back for his second season over jumps, in the Masterson Holdings Hurdle.
The four-year-old was a leading juvenile last term, winning the Grade Two Adonis Hurdle. He was only fifth in the Triumph at Cheltenham, but had a legitimate excuse.
“He was under the weather after that race (Triumph Hurdle) and scoped badly,” the Barbury Castle trainer told www.alankingracing.co.uk.
“It took him a long time to get over that, and he hadn’t recovered in time for Aintree, so we drew a line through that jumps season.
“We’ve been happy with Tritonic this autumn, and the ground could well be good at Cheltenham, which will suit him because he has plenty of pace.”
Dan Skelton has aimed Stepney Causeway at this race for some time, after he chalked up a four-timer in the spring.
“I’m looking forward to it – he’s in great form,” said the trainer.
“He goes well left-handed. He’s facing a hot one in Tritonic, but this is where we were always going to go.
Skelton expects Hatcher to put a disappointing run behind him when he lines up for the 888Sport Handicap Chase.
The eight-year-old was a tailed-off last of six when bidding for a four-timer at Cartmel in August, but Skelton put that down to Hatcher not taking the long journey up to Cumbria well.
“He’s hiding nothing from the handicapper off 150, but he loves decent ground,” said the Alcester handler.
“He was below his best the other day – he didn’t perform at all.
“He’s better not travelling too far from home, and this is only down the road. For him, that’s a good thing.”
Among the opposition is the O’Neill-trained top weight Sky Pirate, who has not run since lifting the Grand Annual Challenge Cup at the Cheltenham Festival.
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Sir Anthony McCoy was among those to take to social media to pay his respects to leading owner Trevor Hemmings, who died on Monday evening, aged 86.
McCoy won 11 races on Albertas Run, arguably the classiest horse Hemmings ever owned given he won the 2008 Royal & SunAlliance Chase and the Ryanair twice, in 2010 and 2011.
He also won the Grade One Melling Chase at Aintree in 2010.
McCoy took to Twitter to say: “Desperately sad news that Trevor Hemmings has died. I’m very proud to have worn his iconic colours on many wonderful days. He was a great friend to many but a greater friend to our sport and that of his beloved @pnefc. Thoughts with all his family and friends.”
Paul Nicholls won back-to-back Scottish Nationals for Hemmings with Vicente in 2016 and 2017, and said: “Incredibly sad to learn of the passing of Mr Hemmings. A truly fantastic supporter of National Hunt racing for decades who will be sorely missed. All of team Ditcheat’s thoughts are with Mr Hemmings’ closet family and friends. May he rest in peace.”
Oliver Sherwood famously trained Many Clouds to provide Hemmings with a third Grand National in 2015. He also won the Hennessy Gold Cup (now Ladbrokes Trophy) in 2014.
“RIP ‘Boss’ – a true legend of a man but as important he was a true gentleman #trevorhemmings,” said Sherwood.
Tom Scudamore was on board Cloth Cap who won the Ladbrokes Trophy last November.
He posted: “Very sad to hear the passing of Trevor Hemmings. A gentleman to deal with and one of jump racing’s greatest supporters. Condolences to his family. RIP”
Mick Fitzgerald rode the likes of Afsoun, Blue Shark, Trabolgan and Juveigneur to big-race wins in Hemmings’ famous colours. He tweeted: “Sad to hear of the passing of a true gentleman of the game. Trevor Hemmings loved this sport and I shall miss his phone calls when he had a winner on big days. I had some great days wearing his colours. RIP.”
Sam Twiston-Davies rode Vicente to both of his Scottish National successes and added: “Incredibly sad to hear the passing of Trevor Hemmings. An absolute gentleman to deal with and did so much for racing. Condolences to his family. R.I.P.”
Sue Smith trained more winners for Hemmings than any other trainer. The likes of The Last Fling and Vintage Clouds – a winner at the Cheltenham Festival this year – were among the best of them.
“Very sad news. A great owner but more importantly a great friend,” said Smith
Nick Alexander trains Lake View Lad, an emotional winner of a race named in memory of Many Clouds at Aintree.
“A gloomy damp morning here at Kinneston and a sombre atmosphere on the yard having learnt of the passing of Trevor Hemmings yesterday. I cannot thank him enough for his support, thoughts and prayers with his family and friends,” said Alexander.
Tim Easterby was another northern trainer to provide Hemmings with a Cheltenham winner, when Hawk High won the Fred Winter in 2014.
“We are deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Trevor Hemmings, a true gentleman and great support of racing. Our thoughts are with his family and friends,” said Easterby.
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Donald McCain has led the tributes to three-times Grand National-winning owner Trevor Hemmings who died on Monday evening at the age of 86.
McCain trained Ballabriggs to provide Hemmings with a second Aintree success in 2011 following on from Hedgehunter (2005) and added to by Many Clouds (2015).
Having also had horses with his father, Red Rum’s trainer Ginger, McCain explained while also losing a huge supporter, his family were mourning the loss of a friend.
“It was a huge shock. He’d been in touch fairly recently and he even used to ring my mum now and again just to keep an eye on her,” said McCain.
“Obviously he was fantastic to me. Dad trained for him in his latter years but for me as a first-season trainer to have horses for Trevor Hemmings was a huge thing and he supported me every year through thick and thin for every year that I’ve been training.
“He’s been a wonderful man for me and a lot of other trainers. He was very fair and while it’s corny, he was just a gentleman. He was a wonderful supporter to me, you can’t underestimate the reason why he was so successful and that is because he allowed you to train horses the way they should be trained.
“He was not just a great man but he was a great friend to the family as well.
“Cloudy Lane was the first good horse I had for him and Mr Hemmings bred him as well, we had some great fun with him even before Ballabriggs came along, he won at the (Cheltenham) Festival and was favourite for the National the following year (finished sixth).
“It was no fluke that he won three Grand Nationals, he allowed you to do the job, he never rushed you.
“He’s a great loss to National Hunt racing but in particular the northern National Hunt racing scene, that can’t be underestimated as he was a great supporter of many trainers in the north.”
Oliver Sherwood described Hemmings as the “perfect owner”.
He told Sky Sports Racing: “It was a real shock to get a text from David Minton (bloodstock agent) last night. He’d been in really good form recently, he hadn’t been in any ill health, so it was a huge shock.
“We had some great days with Many Clouds and I’ll be forever in their debt. Without Trevor’s input I wouldn’t have even run him in the National because I thought it was a year too soon.
“After his slightly disappointing run in the Gold Cup, Trevor said we had nothing to lose and the rest is history.”
Reflecting on that National success, Sherwood added: “I won’t forget that weekend for as long as I live. Trevor flew down the next day in his helicopter and celebrated with all the locals in Lambourn and paid for everybody to have a drink.
“It was a huge turnout in the centre of Lambourn, which will stick in my mind forever. We’ve still got a huge picture in our yard now of ‘Clouds’ in the square in Lambourn. They were very special days.
“Many Clouds was one of many good horses Trevor owned. I think he had a soft spot for all his National winners.
“Trevor would be the first to say he was a very lucky man to have the horses he did, but then he enjoyed the highs and knew the lows that came with owning racehorses. He knew the game inside out as well, which is very important.
“He was the perfect owner. He let us get on with it and knew we knew the horses better than anybody.”
Hedgehunter provided Willie Mullins with his first and only victory to date in the National 16 years ago under Ruby Walsh.
Mullins said: “We had a great day with Trevor Hemmings and Hedgehunter.
“It was a dream come true to win the National – it gave us one of the great days in my training career.
“He (Hemmings) was a man who it was an honour and a pleasure to train for.”
Former champion jockey Richard Johnson, who rode many winners in the Hemmings silks, said: “I was very, very lucky, Trevor was a big supporter of Philip’s (Hobbs) and Henry Daly’s.
“I rode a lot of winners for him over a long period of time, he was always a great character.
“He was self-made, he’d done everything and I think he loved all sport, he loved racing and he understood the good and the bad.
“He always loved the Grand National and he bought those lovely big chasers that he knew took a lot of time, he used to joke ‘I’ve had him forever, one day we might win a race’ – a character like that, you’re really going to miss him.
“It (racing) was his enjoyment, his hobby, he just loved to be a part of it and when he was at Haydock or Uttoxeter or Cheltenham, he was telling jokes rather than worrying about what going to happen in 10 minute’s time.
“It was very sad to hear the news that he’s passed away.”
Trevor Hemmings’ love of horses was born when, as a child, he was entrusted with the Chorley greengrocer’s cob – to whom he attached a cart of potatoes, dampened to increase their weight as they were sold by the pound.
There was something prophetic about his early memory, a young Hemmings delighting in horses while sharpening the business acumen that would earn him a future somehow foretold by the name of his first equine love – the cob called Klondike.
It is certainly accurate to depict Hemming’s adult years as a ‘gold rush’ – but the circumstances of his early life were a world away from the billionaire businessman and three-time Grand National-winning owner he was to become.
Born in Woolwich in 1935, Hemmings was the working-class son of a Royal Ordnance factory worker, with the company’s World War II relocation to Lancashire necessitating a family move to Leyland when he was five.
Hemmings witnessed his parents’ struggle to balance financial stresses with a determination to avoid debt – something which perhaps shaped his own principles.
On leaving Leyland Secondary Modern School at 15, Hemmings was faced with four employment options – Leyland Motors, working alongside his parents at the Royal Ordnance factory, the declining weaving mills or the police force.
Instead, he went to Lancashire College night school to study business – alongside a variety of daytime roles, such as cleaning diesel trains and boiler-making, before beginning an apprenticeship in building.
From there, he forged a lucrative path in the construction trade – first profiting from house-building before forming an alliance with Fred Pontin and the expansion of Pontins Holiday Parks.
Gaining a seat on the Pontins board, Hemmings negotiated the partial sale of the company to bookmakers Coral – in return for 500,000 shares in their business.
Coral lost casino gaming licences and the value of those shares plummeted.
But in 2000, Hemmings bought the company back from brewer Scottish and Newcastle, then sold it on a second time at a price of £46million.
That business acumen was serving him well, including as a one-time majority shareholder in Center Parcs, introduced to Britain by S&N.
Also in the millennial year, Hemmings spent £100m on 361 pubs previously owned by S&N and acquired the leisure division of retailer Littlewoods for £161m.
The portfolio was not done yet, though – because Hemmings had big plans for Blackpool, buying town-centre land including the famous tower and Winter Gardens.
His hopes to build a Las Vegas-style ‘supercasino’ at the tower foundered on the absence of Government approval – but in 2010, the sport-loving Hemmings bought the financially-troubled Preston North End Football Club.
After decades of investment and trading, at the age of 85 in 2020, Hemmings’ wealth was reported to total £1.025 billion by the Sunday Times – shortly before his October acquisition of Cork City FC.
Throughout, alongside the mammoth work ethic, his love of horseracing took hold.
“That’s why I went into horses – to have another interest,” he said.
Hemmings’ first National triumph came in 2005, when the Willie Mullins-trained 7-1 favourite Hedgehunter surged clear by 14 lengths under Ruby Walsh.
Hemmings described it as “the happiest day of my life with the horses” – and one he felt would never be repeated.
On the last count, however, he was wrong – because in 2011, the Donald McCain-trained Ballabriggs gave him his second National success.
Having won the Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup at the Cheltenham Festival the previous year, Ballabriggs was well-fancied and won at 14-1 under Jason Maguire.
Hemmings’ third win over the famous Aintree fences was provided by one of his classiest performers, Many Clouds, trained in Lambourn by Oliver Sherwood.
A winner on his bumper and chase debuts, Many Clouds landed the Listed Colin Parker Chase at Carlisle – following up with a three-and-a-quarter-length success in the Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury.
In January 2015 the Grade Two BetBright Cup followed at Cheltenham – and after a distant sixth behind Coneygree in the Gold Cup at the Festival, Many Clouds claimed the National under Leighton Aspell at odds of 25-1.
Many Clouds could finish only 16th in the 2016 National, but tenaciously recovered his form to win again at Aintree the following December, this time on the Mildmay Course.
Then came a January day at Cheltenham which presented the triumph and tragedy of National Hunt racing in the space of seconds as Many Clouds produced a remarkable performance to beat previously unbeaten top-class chaser Thistlecrack by a head.
Yet then, after the most gruelling of uphill finishes to the Cotswold Chase, the 10-year-old tragically collapsed on the Cheltenham turf and died with what was subsequently identified as a severe pulmonary haemorrhage.
At his peak, Many Clouds held a rating of 167, just a pound below the rating achieved by Hemmings’ three-time Cheltenham Festival winner Albertas Run.
Jonjo O’Neill’s middle-distance specialist Albertas Run, hero of Cheltenham’s Ryanair Chase in 2010 and 2011, also won both the Melling Chase and Old Roan at Aintree.
Albertas Run stayed three miles to win the 2008 Royal & SunAlliance Chase – a race Nicky Henderson’s Trabolgan took for Hemmings in 2005, before going on to Hennessy Gold Cup glory that same year.
Cloth Cap flew the flag for his owner more recently and was an impressive 10-length winner of the Ladbrokes Trophy Chase, previously the Hennessy, in 2020.
The success came after Hemmings announced he would be dialling down his investment in the sport, as the coronavirus pandemic took its toll on leisure-industry finances.
He vowed to keep around 25 horses in training, a relative handful compared to previous years when he would have a team of more than 100 in his famous yellow-and-green quarters.
Hemmings provided some context to that outlay in a 2000 Guardian interview, when he said: “It’s an expensive hobby, and I don’t know how much I’m writing off exactly. Perhaps I wouldn’t want to do it if I knew.
“But I measure it another way. I probably give about eight – or 10 – times more to charities in a year than I would spend on horses. So I think my perspective is fairly good.”
His philanthropic contributions were never made public, save for his funding of Preston’s SAFE centre for victims of sexual violence, but there were hints of a silent largesse at work.
Zara Phillips’ event horse High Kingdom, on whom she won a silver medal at the 2012 London Olympic Games, was owned by Hemmings and given the stable name ‘Trev’ – a hint at the rider’s fondness for the man himself.
Nor did he ever forget where he came from, his business interests always mirroring working class roots.
Hemmings’ investments in pubs, British holiday parks, football clubs and neglected northern towns suggested his attention never strayed too far from erstwhile peers.
Beginning with so little, his sound investments and industry accrued massive wealth – yet he remained unknown to the average person.
Something of an affable enigma, Hemmings said little and let his success, generosity and enormous contribution to sport speak volumes instead.
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Trevor Hemmings, one of jump racing’s greatest supporters and the owner of three Grand National winners, has died at the age of 86.
Famed for his big-race victories in his famous yellow, green and white colours, Hemmings was also the owner of Preston North End Football club, buying the then financially-troubled Lancashire outfit in 2010.
A statement from the club on Monday night read: “Preston North End Football Club can sadly confirm the devastating news that its owner Trevor Hemmings CVO has passed away this evening 11th October 2021.
“A further statement will be made in the coming days but in the meantime his family would ask that their privacy be respected at this difficult time.”
Hemmings first won the National in 2005 with the Willie Mullins-trained Hedgehunter, before Donald McCain’s Ballabriggs added a second Aintree triumph in 2011 and Many Clouds ran out victorious in 2015.
Trabolgan was a Hennessy Gold Cup winner for Hemmings, with other popular names to carry his colours including The Last Fling and Albertas Run.
A tribute from Aintree racecourse on Twitter read: “Desperately sad news to hear of the passing of three-times Grand National winning owner and true friend of Aintree and @TheJockeyClub, Trevor Hemmings. He will be sorely missed.
“Our thoughts go out to his family and friends at this difficult time.”
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Cloth Cap cemented his place as ante-post favourite for the Randox Grand National with a dominant front-running display in the bet365 Premier Chase at Kelso.
Making his first appearance since landing the Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury in November, Jonjo O’Neill’s charge was sent off at 100-30 in the hands of Tom Scudamore – and could hardly have been more impressive.
Sent straight to the lead, Cloth Cap jumped accurately throughout and had his four rivals on the stretch before turning for home.
A bold leap at the final obstacle sealed his seven-and-a-half-length success over Aso, prompting his odds to tumble for next month’s Aintree spectacular.
“I was very pleased with him. He travelled away nicely and jumped well,” O’Neill told Racing TV.
“He always jumps a little bit left, that’s his make-up. So long as he comes home safe and sound now, we’ll be happy.
“He’s just in great old form at home – he’s a happy horse. He’s a bit of an old character, but he’s a year older and a bit stronger and things are going right for him at the moment. Fingers crossed it will stay that way for a bit longer.
“He jumps well and he stays well, which are two good things to have when you’re going for a National.
“The plan was to go and win the National last year. We don’t mind if it’s a year late!”
O’Neill, who famously provided Sir Anthony McCoy with an elusive Grand National success through Don’t Push It in 2010, is hoping Cloth Cap can secure owner Trevor Hemmings a fourth, following the previous triumphs of Hedgehunter (2005), Ballabriggs (2011) and Many Clouds (2015).
He added: “It would be special to win the National for him (Hemmings). He’s just told me off, because the horse will be too short a price now and he won’t be able to back him!”
An appearance at Aintree is also on the agenda for My Drogo after extending his unbeaten record over obstacles to three with a facile success in the bet365 Premier Novices’ Hurdle.
Trained by Dan Skelton and ridden by his brother Harry, the six-year-old was the 2-1 favourite to complete his hat-trick following previous wins in a maiden hurdle at Newbury and a Grade Two Ascot.
Carrying a penalty for that latest win, My Drogo was forced to concede weight all round in his bid to double his Grade Two tally.
However, he proved more than up the task, pulling clear in the straight for a nine-and-a-half-length victory over Do Your Job.
Dan Skelton, making his first visit to Kelso, said of My Drogo: “He’s very good and every question you ask of him he answers.
“He’s got all the ingredients. He’s tough and jumps nicely and has that pace I think all good horses need.
“I’m really impressed with how his season has progressed. He’s a very genuine horse and always a willing partner.
“We’ll step up in grade now and go to Aintree, hopefully. Next year he’s going chasing, so he’s got it all mapped out ahead of him.”
Irish raider The Shunter won the most valuable race of the afternoon, the bet365 Morebattle Hurdle.
The Emmet Mullins-trained gelding won the Greatwood Hurdle at Cheltenham in November, before reverting to fences to finish third in a handicap chase at Leopardstown’s Dublin Racing Festival.
Switching back to the the smaller obstacles for this £75,000 contest, The Shunter dug deep in the hands of Alain Cawley to see off Night Edition and Faivoir in a driving finish.
Mullins was at Navan, where he completed an across-the-card double with Noble Yeats in a maiden hurdle.
He said of The Shunter’s victory: “That was marvellous. It’s brilliant for Paul (Byrne, owner) as he’s put plenty of money into it and he has two nice horses there to look forward to.
“They went a ferocious gallop at Kelso and the pace collapsed halfway through. It turned into a war of attrition and ‘Squeaky’ (Cawley) was good and was strong on him.
“Anything we’ve asked the horse to do, he keeps coming up trumps for us. He’s a real star.
“Fingers crossed he’ll go to Cheltenham now. There is a huge bonus and it’s great to have a chance at it.
“I’d say we’ll have to take our chance once the horse is OK. He had a tough race there today, we’ll give him every chance to get over it and try to find one of the races in Cheltenham for him.
“He’s in plenty of them and we’ll keep all options open.”
https://www.geegeez.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/2.56837864-1-scaled.jpg12802560Geegeez Newshttps://www.geegeez.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/geegeez_banner_new_300x100.pngGeegeez News2021-03-06 15:43:462021-03-06 15:55:06National favourite Cloth Cap cruises to Kelso success
Randox Grand National favourite Cloth Cap warms up for next month’s Aintree spectacular in the bet365 Premier Chase at Kelso on Saturday.
A small but select field of six runners line up for the £45,000 contest, with the Jonjo O’Neill-trained Cloth Cap making his first competitive appearance since landing the Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury in November.
The nine-year-old is the 14-1 market leader to provide owner Trevor Hemmings with a fourth Grand National success on April 10, following the previous triumphs of Hedgehunter (2005), Ballabriggs (2011) and Many Clouds (2015).
O’Neill said: “He’s in grand form and it looks like the ground is drying out for him.
“He’s not chucked in the race – he’s not well-in (at the weights). We’re going there for the ground more than anything else.
“He has his little issues, but he’s fine at the minute and everything is going according to plan.”
Tom Scudamore, who steered Cloth Cap to big-race success at Newbury, is once again on board with a view to keeping the ride at Aintree.
“I hope that’s what will happen, as long as everything goes according to plan,” O’Neill added.
“I don’t want to ride him, anyway. I don’t think I’d do the weight, so he (Scudamore) won’t have a lot of competition!
“We’ve only got one plan in mind, which we’ve had for the last two years.”
The Hemmings colours are also set to be carried this weekend and at Aintree by Nick Alexander’s stable star Lake View Lad.
The grey beat Cheltenham Gold Cup contenders Santini and Native River when landing the Many Clouds Chase at Aintree in December, but finished a long way behind that pair in the rescheduled Cotswold Chase at Sandown on his latest outing.
“It’s a proper race and I’m pleased it’s a really good race. Kelso have put on some great prize-money and it looks like the number one meeting on the day,” said Alexander.
“It’s a slight step down in grade for Lake View Lad – this is more his grade than the Cotswolds Chase was, so hopefully he can run well.
“This has always been the plan. It’s a nice prize and a nice race.
“He’s not particularly well in at the weights – if everyone performs to their mark he’s going to be third or fourth, but hopefully he’ll run very well before heading back to Aintree.”
Last year’s winner Definitly Red is back to defend his crown for Brian Ellison, but does have something to prove, after finishing well-beaten in the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby before falling in the Rehearsal at Newcastle.
Ellison said: “This his prep run for the National, hopefully.
“Everything has been fine since the Rehearsal. He went to Wetherby last week for a hack round and we’ve just been waiting for this race.
“He’s in good fettle.”
Two For Gold (Kim Bailey), Aso (Venetia Williams) and Cool Mix (Iain Jardine) complete the sextet.
https://www.geegeez.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/2.56837864-scaled.jpg12802560Geegeez Newshttps://www.geegeez.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/geegeez_banner_new_300x100.pngGeegeez News2021-03-05 14:24:402021-03-05 14:24:40Premier prep for Grand National favourite Cloth Cap
Trevor Hemmings believes Cloth Cop represents his best chance of claiming a record fourth victory in the Randox Grand National.
The Isle of Man-based businessman is the joint most successful owner in the history of the world’s most famous steeplechase, having struck Aintree gold with Hedgehunter (2005), Ballabriggs (2011) and Many Clouds (2015).
The 85-year-old would dearly love to claim another victory on April 10.
“The Grand National is the ultimate in my life as far I am concerned,” said Hemmings.
“I built a holiday village next to where Ginger McCain used to bring Red Rum, the beach at Ainsdale. As a result of that and working with Fred Pontin (owner of 1971 Grand National winner Specify), I had to work the weekend Fred won the Grand National and that also captured me. I had to finish the holiday village at Ainsdale and he went off for the weekend and won the Grand National with Specify.
“If you look at the blue riband, which is the Cheltenham Gold Cup, it is probably the ultimate in the UK. If you look at the Grand National, which is worldwide – it’s the Wembley of all of racing.
“That’s why I cherish Liverpool and that wonderful few days you can have in Grand National week.”
Hemmings considers his first National success with the Willie Mullins-trained Hedgehunter as the highlight of his racing life.
He added: “My most precious moment is winning the Grand National in what I call the old stadium – the previous winner’s enclosure to what is used today.
“The history of all that had happened before was still in that winner’s enclosure. I was there with Willie and Jackie Mullins, Willie’s father Paddy and mother Maureen and his son Patrick, who we know now as a grown, mature jockey, but was a kid back then.
“I will remember the passion of everybody.”
The Jonjo O’Neill-trained Cloth Cap emerged as a leading National contender with victory in the Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury in November.
On a rating of 148, the nine-year-old is on a weight of 10st 5lb – and Betway make him a 16-1 co-favourite along with dual National hero Tiger Roll and Kimberlite Candy.
Hemmings could also be represented by Lake View Lad, winner of the Grade Two Many Clouds Chase over the Mildmay Course at Aintree in December, and Deise Aba, who returned to form when landing a handicap chase at Sandown Park on February 6.
“Of my three entries this year, Cloth Cap would look to have the best chance,” said Hemmings.
“We have two that should be in the race as they are number 13 (Lake View Lad) and number 46 (Cloth Cap) I think in the list. It usually goes down to about 80 to get a run and Deise Aba is 71. All being well, they should get in.
“Catherine, who looks after my business, came up with the name Cloth Cap. Everybody knows me in this cloth cap, although I have had to change it as my last one had a hole in it!”
Hemmings recently received his first Covid-19 vaccination, and added: “I was vaccinated at the end of last month and am due another a week from now. It is an easy thing to do and everybody should it – nobody wants to miss out on the chance of living longer.”
O’Neill has high hopes for Cloth Cap, saying: “I am very happy with him. The important thing for him is the ground. He needs good ground, so I hope they run out of water there!
“We were planning this last year really, but it didn’t happen. Unfortunately he just didn’t perform the way that we had hoped he would, but this year he came back in great form.
“He jumps and he stays well so the Grand National is the obvious race to go for.
“He has 10st 5lb, which is a really nice weight, and Trevor loves the race.
“We are hoping to get a prep race into him either at Kempton or Doncaster.”
https://www.geegeez.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/2.22699124-scaled.jpg12802560Geegeez Newshttps://www.geegeez.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/geegeez_banner_new_300x100.pngGeegeez News2021-02-16 12:23:212021-02-16 12:23:21Hemmings banking on Cloth Cap for victory in ‘Wembley of all races’
Dual Grade One-winning hurdler Petit Mouchoir will move to Gordon Elliott’s yard after being sold as part of the annual Gigginstown House Stud dispersal at the Goffs UK September Sale.
Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary, who announced last year that he was scaling back his racing operations, sent a large team of horses to be sold without reserve at Doncaster on Tuesday.
The undoubted star of the squad was the nine-year-old Petit Mouchoir – the winner of five races since joining Henry de Bromhead, including the 2017 Irish Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown.
While winless in almost three years, the grey has been running well in defeat in 2020, finishing placed behind then stablemate Honeysuckle in the Irish Champion Hurdle in February, fifth in the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham and third in the Galway Hurdle last time out.
Petit Mouchoir will return to Ireland after being knocked down to bloodstock agent Mouse O’Ryan and Elliott for £70,000.
“He’s been bought for an existing owner in the yard,” said O’Ryan.
“We (Elliott) actually had him as a four-year-old, when he won the Land Rover Bumper at Punchestown.
“He’s a star and as long as he stays safe and sound, he’ll be able to go for all those big races on a Sunday in Ireland.
“He’ll aimed at the Morgiana Hurdle at Punchestown in November.”
O’Ryan also bought the Gigginstown trio of Cuneo (£7,000), Or Jaune De Somoza (£24,000) and Fierami (£11,500), with all three moving to Elliott’s yard from De Bromhead’s.
Reflecting on the day as a whole, O’Ryan added: “I thought it was a very good trade. A lot of people have been giving out, but I think the trade has been brilliant, considering we’re in the middle of a pandemic. All credit to Doncaster for getting it on.”
Another Gigginstown-owned veteran to go under the hammer was De Bromhead’s 11-year-old Sub Lieutenant, who was bought by David Phelan on behalf of an unnamed client for £50,000.
Phelan said: “I’ve bought him for a friend with a view to him running in the Grand Sefton at Aintree and possibly ending up in the Grand National next year.
“He’s been second over the National fences in the Topham and ran a good race last time to finish second in the Galway Blazers.
“Horses like him don’t come along very often – you can sometimes pay £50,000 for a store horse who’ll never make the track.”
Grade One-winning hurdler and dual chase victor Mengli Khan, meanwhile, was bought out of Elliott’s yard for £65,000 by Highflyer Bloodstock’s David Minton.
An even bigger team of around 50 horses went through the ring for three-time Grand National-winning owner Trevor Hemmings.
The 85-year-old has been one of National Hunt racing’s most successful owners during a 36-year spell in the sport, but confirmed last month he was significantly reducing the number of horses he has in training, citing the impact of coronavirus on his personal life and business interests as a major factor.
The top lot from the Gleadhill House Stud dispersal was Stoney Mountain, who won six races in the Hemmings silks for trainer Henry Daly, including the Grade Three Stayers’ Handicap Hurdle at Haydock last November.
Leading bloodstock agent Tom Malone went to £140,000 to secure the seven-year-old services, and said: “He’s going into training with Jamie Snowden for a new owner in Anita Gillies and her husband.
“He’s a Grade Three-winning hurdler already, so he’s been there and done it. He’s a very likeable horse and should make up into a lovely novice chaser, hopefully.”
He added: “The trade has been extremely strong – I think this industry is nearly shatterproof.
“People are still willing to spend money, they still want to go racing and they’re still looking for Grade One horses, which is great.”
Trainer Donald McCain bought the high-class Mount Mews for £16,000. A Grade Two winner over hurdles for the late Malcolm Jefferson, McCain has trained Mount Mews for Hemmings for the past couple of seasons.
Burbank – a high-class performer for Hemmings and trainer Nicky Henderson – was snapped up by Jimmy Moffatt for £62,000.
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