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15th March 2024 Cheltenham


Friday 15th March

Stellar Story came with a strong late run to deny longtime leader The Jukebox Man by a head in the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle.  It was a first Festival victory for his jockey Sam Ewing.

Sam Ewing  told ITV Racng: “Absolutely brilliant. He is a horse who jumps very well, he loved that ground today and he battled very hard for me. He was brilliant at the last as well, when I needed him. I can’t believe it, it’s brilliant.

“The way the week was going, you think it’s never going to happen and I couldn’t wait to go home. It’s unbelievable.

“Fair play to the horse, he stuck his head out, he tried hard the whole way to the line. He did everything right the whole way around. It’s brilliant for everybody, and for Eliece who rides him every day.”

The jockey went on to say: “It hasn’t really sunk in, to be honest. Fair play to Gordon and Michael O’Leary for putting me up. He’s a horse who’s been in good form all season; he was only five lengths behind Slade Steel. It was right up his street today, he jumped brilliant everywhere and galloped right to the line.

“Kielan did his own thing in front and I was happy sitting a couple off him. I was well within my comfort zone and I was jumping brilliantly everywhere. Only halfway up the run-in did I think I’d get to him, to be honest. There was nothing there [at the last] and I left him to it. To be fair to him, he knew what he was doing and he came up - he wanted to win. I was 90% I’d got it but I had to look at the screen to be 100%.

“It’s a big relief to finally ride a Cheltenham winner. The team have been very good to me - this is only my second season riding over jumps, and it was hard to get going; I had no claim when I finished riding on the Flat and I’m so thankful to Gordon Elliott, Noel Meade and Peter Fahy, who have all helped me along the way. To get a ride in a race like this is great, but to win it is unbelievable.”

Winning trainer Gordon Elliott said: We didn’t think he was a 33-1 chance to be honest, but we only made the call at ten to ten on Wednesday to run him. He was going to go to Aintree but another horse had a niggle and I couldn’t run him.

They went no gallop and Sam was in the right position. I’m absolutely delighted and it’s great for Michael and Anita. They are massive supporters and to get a Cheltenham winner for them is massive. You don’t realise how good a man Michael is.

Sam is a great lad and a big part of my team. He’s been coming into my place since he was a young lad and he rode Tiger Roll on the Flat when he was 16. It just goes to show, as Jack (Kennedy) is my first jockey and the lads pick the pieces up when he can’t ride them. It was only a toss of the coin between Sam and ‘Geordie’ (Danny Gilligan) who would ride him and I found them a couple of rides apiece.

“He’s a quality horse. He’s gorgeous and a chaser for next season.2

Winning owner Michael O’Leary said: “We were very surprised, it makes up for a disappointing day yesterday – my wife kept presenting trophies to other owners.

“It was wonderful, a great training performance by Gordon. This horse was supposed to go to Aintree, Gordon put him on the box two nights ago because Croke Park was taken out, so he was very much the reserve. It was a very strange race, we thought something would come from the back and the front two horses steered the whole way round. It was very strange.

“We have four children at home sending me very negative text messages every time one of our horses is beaten, so I’m hoping we will get a congratulatory text now!”

Harry Redknapp, owner of runner-up The Jukebox Man, said: “That was unlucky. That’s racing though innit. Yesterday we got home and today we just missed out, but I’ve had a great time, with two fantastic runs from two lovely horses.

“I thought he was home. He was going away from them going to the last. He looked sure to win, but he didn’t jump the last great and just got caught. Kielan rode a blinder, didn’t he. Absolutely. He led from the front and made all until the last stride. It was a great run wasn't it, and we’ve got a very nice horse there.

“If you’d said to me that I’d come here and have a horse win and another that ran that well I’d have been delighted. It’s been a smashing coupe of days and I couldn’t ask for any more.”

Ben Pauling, trainer of runner-up The Jukebox Man, said: “It was a brilliant ride, and he did ride a beautiful race, he just got slightly underneath the last which stopped our momentum,and with three miles… the winner made a mistake at the last; there wasn’t an awful lot in it and I thought we’d nicked it, but it wasn’t to be. I’m thrilled with the horse and he’s done nothing but run an absolute blinder.”

Kielan Woods, rider of runner-up The Jukebox Man, said: “I got a soft lead out front and got to fill up everywhere and got the run of the race. I did think I was home and hosed, but unfortunately we got pipped late on.

“We always had the plan to come up the left side of the track as he can hang left under pressure, and I didn’t see the point in being up along the rail and then hanging out to the middle of the track. He’s a smashing horse, it’s just a shame we didn’t get him home. It’s been a tough few months for me and missing out yesterday through nobody’s fault but my own - this would have been nice. I’m incredibly grateful for the support [from Ben Pauling] and I’ve just got to keep my head down and drive on.”

2.50pm Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle (Grade 1) 3m

  1. Stellar Story 33-1

2 The Jukebox Man 18-1

3 Dancing City 8-1

13 ran

Distances: hd, 7l

Time: 6m 24.40s

1st winner at The Festival for jockey Sam Ewing

39th winner at The Festival for trainer Gordon Elliott

34th winner at The Festival for owner Gigginstown House Stud


Ireland 15

Great Britain 8


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