Fergal O’Brien hit a career-best tally of 120 British winners for the season when recording a 23.4-1 double at his local course today, which came courtesy of Captain Cattistock (15-2) and the progressive Pull Again Green (15-8 Favourite).
O’Brien has enjoyed yet another fantastic campaign and while he suffered more near misses at the Cheltenham Festival he took little time to return to winning ways at the April Meeting, with Captain Cattistock completing a double with a game performance to win the Weatherite Handicap Chase (3m 2f).
The nine year old has been lightly-raced this term but has enjoyed a fine campaign and added to his victory in February’s Edinburgh National at Musselburgh with a stamina-laden performance here – much to the delight of O’Brien’s assistant trainer and partner Sally Randell.
She said: “What a day, we’re really chuffed and it’s a shame Ferg is not here, he’s with his family in Ireland. He’d have loved to have been here and I’m pleased to take the prizes back for the whole yard.
“We’ve learned how to train this horse for the last two years we’ve had him and you can’t over-do him. He’s got to be fresh every time he comes to the races and last year we were running him regularly to get Albi (Tufnell) to the Foxhunters and the four miler (here on Hunter Chase night) but actually the less you run the horse, the better.
“He’s got to be fresh and on good ground and if you put this horse out of his comfort zone he’ll get unsettled. Liam (Harrison) had to sit and suffer and that’s what he did, but you have to keep him comfortable.
“With today and the Edinburgh National we’ll give him a rest now and I think we might go now for the Summer Cup at Uttoxeter. We’ll put Pull Again Green away now too and he’ll stay over hurdles next year.”
The highly progressive Pull Again Green got the ball rolling when sealing a fourth victory of his campaign in the Citipost Novices' Hurdle (2m 4f 56y) and winning jockey Paddy Brennan feels he could be a good candidate for a tilt at a valuable handicap at Haydock Park on Betfair Chase Day in November.
He explained: “He did well at Newbury 13 days ago and we knew it was a quick turnaround, but when the ground dries up like this you can do things like that and he did very well today.
“He’s very straightforward and I think the step up to three miles would bring about more improvement. He’s benefitted from brilliant placing and he had a January break for a month when he came to mine, which I think has been a big help.
“It just gets them out of that training regime, even if they’re not riding out there’s everything going on around them. When they go to a smaller yard everything just cools down and he’s a fresh horse today and I think that’s what won him the race.
“To my eye we’d be having a look at going straight to that valuable three-mile race at Haydock.”
Elsewhere on the card, The Bull McCabe (17-2) showed the benefit of a return to fences when producing a battling display to win the Arkells Brewery Nicholson Holman Novices' Limited Handicap Chase (3m 1f 56y) for the Kim Bailey team.
The eight year old hadn’t been seen since disappointing over hurdles at Wetherby in October but Bailey had certainly done a good job of sweetening up the son of Yeats for this outing, who burst to the front at the second last fence.
David Bass had to get to work when his charge idled on the run-in, but he had enough to see off the late challenge of the favourite Big Nasty, with a run which pleased Bailey.
He said: “He had a long break and he's a summer horse, this was his prep race for a summer campaign. He’s a horse who wants fast ground so that was probably soft enough for him, but he doesn’t do a whole lot when he hits the front.
“At the end of the day he’s been a fun horse for me and he’s run consistently for us all season, he wouldn’t be the biggest trier in life but at the end of it he’s won a race at Cheltenham and that’s what owners get involved for.”
Winning jockey David Bass added: “He’s a horse with loads of ability but he’s by Yeats so he is quite quirky. He felt really good early on, he bounced out and was fresh and bowled at his fences and he was a different horse to when I rode him early season. He likes top of the ground and he didn’t do a whole lot in front but I thought it was good.”
The final race was the Cheltenham Pony Racing Authority Graduates Handicap Hurdle which unfortunately was delayed for around 15 minutes due to an incident in the penultimate race involving jockey Nick Scholfield, who has been taken to hospital for further assessment.
A Cheltenham spokesperson said: “Following assessment by the expert medical team on course, Nick Scholfield was conscious and transported to Royal Gloucestershire Hospital for further assessment. We extend our best wishes to Nick. Further updates will be provided as soon as possible.”
The final race was won by the David Pipe-trained Koi Dodville (5-1), who showed an excellent attitude to hold off the 15-8 favourite Herbiers in a pulsating finish. And winning jockey Jack Tudor feels the son of French Fifteen could prove to be a nice type for the summer months.
He said: “It was a great performance, I spoke to Tom Scudamore beforehand, and he said that if there was a nice gallop on he would be a lovely type to take a lead off. He jumped very well and probably got there too soon, but he stayed on very well.
“It was a nice run and he’s a good moving horse, so I’d think he should prove to be great fun for the summer.”