Top-weight of 12 stone proved no bar to I Like To Move It (17-2) as he powered to an impressive victory in the Unibet Greatwood Handicap Hurdle, the extended two-mile Premier Handicap and feature contest on day three of The November Meeting at Cheltenham today.
The five year old son of Trans Island was in front after two flights and saw off all challengers to take the honours by five and a half lengths from 4-1 Favourite Gin Coco.
Successful trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies was winning the contest for the second time after Khyber Kim (2009), who went on to enjoy Grade One success as well as finish runner-up in the Champion Hurdle. I Like To Move It becomes only the second horse to win the Greatwood Hurdle under 12 stone following Leotard in 1993.
Winning trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies, who is based locally to Cheltenham, said: “It was absolutely superb off 12 stone around there. Taking the hurdles out didn’t help him but he was awesome. He (Sam) was very positive on him. He definitely would like softer ground and he stays the two miles well. He was unlucky in the Betfair. He is a proper horse.
“The International Hurdle (Saturday 10th December) here will be next. He will follow in the hoofprints of a good horse we had called Guard Your Dreams and The New One used to frequent this race before that. It looks quite busy the Champion Hurdle but that is the idea at the moment.
“His jumping is always good but there wasn’t much of it. He is a chaser in the making and he jumps really well. He is not a hurdler. It was no mean feat but he was top-weight as he is the best horse. I was never too worried about the weight just I’d have preferred the softer ground.
“He is only five and biologically (back in the County Hurdle) he would have just been four as he was a late foal. It was just one race too many last season. He has come back better and stronger this season. He is very much in the bracket (of the likes of The New One). Let’s hope he can be better of keeps on improving but it will be a hell of an ask.
“He has always been an amazing work horse but that just showed he has improved and strengthened up. It is an amazing day for the owners. They are local from near Witney not far from us. They have been really strong supporters and we have some lovely horses for them.”
Sam Twiston-Davies, the successful rider who was winning the race for the first time, added: “Dad loves having winners and runners here. When they win it is fantastic, when they lose it can be trying.
“At the end of the day you have to take today as fantastic but would you imagine a 142 horse as top-weight in a Greatwood so it was probably not the strongest of renewals.
“Physically though to lump 12 stone around and get it done and do it the way he has done is a fair effort. I’m delighted with him. He has been exciting since day one and we can really start to dream now.”
Jamie Sheppard, joint-owner of I Like To Move It, said: “That was a performance that showed he has stepped up in class. His days of handicap racing are behind him now but that is what we dream of with horses to run against the best.
“We were very confident he would be up there it was just with the hill and 12st and the hill would he be able to lug it up it. At home he trains on a stepper hill and that paid huge dividends for him. Sam has ridden him out at home as he was concerned he wasn’t fit enough but he got a nice surprise he was on top form however he has had a really good summer.
“He has grown in stature and he has filled out. We are really looking forward to the future ahead with him. We have four other great horses all with Nigel. He has been great, Willy has been great and Sam has been very good as well. With Nigel, Willy and Ian Ferguson doing the buying for us and having their connections in Ireland and other places and being able to spot a horse that can give you a great journey I can’t praise them enough.
“Hugh Doubtfire, who part owned Imperial Commander, introduced us to Nigel. He is 35 minutes down the road from us which is a perfect distance for us. We can pop down to the yard and he has got a very relaxed yard and he is very welcoming to owners and you become part of the family which is great.”
Harry Fry, trainer of runner-up Gin Coco, said: “Everything has gone smoothly, we’ve just bumped into a better horse on the day. It was a smashing run though and we have no excuses, congratulations to the winners.
“He does like better ground – and all of his better form is on that – so we’ll get him home and I’m sure there’s a good race in him. We’ve finished second at the Punchestown Festival and second in this, so hopefully there’s a big one in him before the season is out.”
Alan King, trainer of the third Harbour Lake and fifth Nina The Terrier, said: “I thought at the last one they jumped that he could drop out but he’s stayed on all the way up the hill. He probably wants a bit further and I’d like to think he could be a Coral Cup horse, so we’ll probably work back from that now.
“Nina has run a smashing race to finish fifth as well, again she probably wants further and we’ll go down the mares’ route we’ll find a suitable race – they both ran very well.
“Harbour Lake will have learned plenty from that, it was the biggest field he’s ever run in and I loved the way he finished.”