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11th November 2022 Cheltenham

Kieren Buckley did not hold back on the celebrations after enjoying a moment he had dreamt about since starting out riding when tasting victory at Cheltenham for the first time aboard Sweet Will (8-1) in the Markei Insurance Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle today, day one of The November Meeting.

Out of luck on his 10 previous rides at the track, the 26 year old was not to be denied on this occasion when guiding the Gavin Cromwell-trained Dragon Pulse gelding to glory, which was his second victory in the space of a week.

Having scored at Fairyhouse on Tuesday the five year old showed no ill effects for that performance when demonstrating that stamina is very much his forte in the opening two miles and five furlongs contest to give Buckley his first winner in 184 days. 

Sweeping around the final bend victory looked to be heading the way of strong travelling 4-1 Joint-Favourite Fine Casting, who swept past long-time leader Hector Javilex, to move to the head of affairs on the run to the last. 

However, although still holding every chance over the final flight Fine Casting had to settle for second best with Sweet Will storming by up the run in before going on to score by three and three quarter lengths.

Buckley said: “Relief or elation, I don’t know how to describe it!

“It’s a moment I’ve dreamt about since I’ve started riding. I just couldn’t believe how I went away from the rest of them when I pinged over the last. I couldn’t believe it, I’ve come here with chances before and for one reason or another they’ve all got beat - I was waiting for that to happen again today and it never did.

“I’ve been with Gavin since May and I was with Nigel (Hawke) before. I don’t know if it’s a bit poetic or what, but I had a ride here for Gavin in the County Hurdle and got offered the job on the back of that - so to come back here six months later and ride my first Cheltenham winner for Gavin is amazing and I owe the man a lot.

“My career wasn’t really going anywhere – for all I was getting a lot off Nigel – so the move to Gavin’s has seen things completely taken. I’m 26 now so I’m not a spring chicken so I’m just really thankful.

“The feeling definitely lived up to my dreams and then I took as long as I could coming back along the walkway! I soaked it all up because you don’t know when the next one is going to happen, I can’t believe it.”

As for winning trainer Cromwell he heaped praise on the triumphant jockey.

Cromwell added: “Kieren was just saying that he thought his riding had improved since he’s come to Ireland and that the old Kieren wouldn’t have won on him.

“He sat going down the hill and gave him a beautiful ride, so it was good.”

The second race was the £50,000 Mucking Brilliant Paddy Power Handicap Chase over two miles, which saw Amarillo Sky (7-2) provide trainer Joe Tizzard with his first Cheltenham winner since taking over the licence from father Colin in May.

The six year old was a fine fifth as a novice in the Johnny Henderson Grand Annual at The Festival March and after finding Grade One company too hot on his final outing at Aintree last season he looked a different proposition here, showing plenty of guts to lead from pillar to post for a length and a half success under Brendan Powell.

It was a performance which pleased Tizzard, who admitted that it was something of a relief to be back in the winner’s enclosure at Cheltenham. He said: “He bounced out real good and positive and he was able to dictate it. Sam Thomas’ horse (Only Diamond) took him on down the hill but he battled well for it.

“For one second after the last I thought he was going to get passed but he stuck his head down well. He is a progressive six year old and I’m chuffed to bits with that.

“That is my first Cheltenham winner in my own name, but I’m not sure when we had our last Cheltenham winner as a team to be honest either but it is nice to get one in the bag. It is brilliant for Jon Romans as he is a huge supporter of ours and these horses are in his own name now.

“I thought he was off a workable mark and I thought he deserved to be near enough favourite as it was the right race for him.

“I just wanted him to be very handy but I didn’t expect him to make every yard. I love Brendan riding that way as they like being ridden that way. Once he was in front he could just fill him up. He jumped great and didn’t put a foot wrong.

“There is a nice race at Newbury in two weeks’ time so I will probably take him there. He (Thomas, son) is here today but he might have to come every day of the week now!”

Winning jockey Brendan Powell added: “There was plenty of pace in the race on paper but he is a horse that likes to be up in the van. He has got a bit of early speed so once I got to the front I was able to do my own thing. He has won from the front before so I thought I might as well keep it simple.

“I felt like I was going easier enough most of the way round and that I saved a bit for after the last. You can never be confident but I was pretty sure I had the others covered up the run in.”


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