A thrilled Kerry Lee credited an ‘incredible’ ride from Richard Patrick as the recipe behind Magic Dancer’s (7-2) fine performance to win the Glenfarclas Veterans' Handicap Chase at Cheltenham today, day one of The November Meeting – and provide the yard with a first victory since May in the process.
Lee has plenty of happy memories at this meeting, winning the 2019 renewal of the Paddy Power Gold Cup with Happy Diva, but you have to go back to the 29th of May to find the Hereford trainer’s last success, with Demachine at Uttoxeter.
Magic Dancer arrived here in fine heart however, having won on his most recent start at Ludlow in April, and was also a dual winner at Cheltenham, including in a novices’ handicap hurdle at The November Meeting back in 2017.
The son of Norse Dancer travelled ominously well into matters under an ice cool Patrick. The pair took over courtesy of a fine jump at the final fence before going on to score by a length to the delight of Lee, who was quick to credit the hard work of her team for making this victory possible.
She said: “This is incredible. It has been quite a dry spell over the summer, Demachine was my last winner back in May, and the horses haven’t been firing into the autumn.
“I screamed this one home but I’m so lucky I’ve got a great team at home. It is really lovely everyone can pull together and that we can get a great result on the big stage.
“It was incredible (the ride). They went a very fast pace which was slightly too quick for him and his jumping wasn’t quite perfect. I thought at about five out oh dear that is not a great place to make a mistake but he took his time and as soon as he winged the last, after getting the most incredible jump two out, I have to say all credit to Richard Patrick as he gave him the very best ride.
“He is just such a lovely horse to have on the yard. He is just one of our favourites and he has got such a great personality. I drove him here and unloaded him and he marched into here and was so pleased to be at Cheltenham it is fantastic.
“Yesterday BBC Midlands came to do a feature and he was like ‘they’ve come to see me’, which is just lovely. He holds a huge place in our hearts just like Happy Diva and the likes.
“You could be no more than hopeful given the form of the horses over the last few weeks so it was with mild trepidation as much as anything. It is a big step up to come here and go in a 0-150.
“We bypassed Worcester and somewhere else as it wasn’t quite right and we’ve waited and waited. We scoped him earlier in the week and we should run so on we go. I just started screaming at the last. You know he will love the hill but it seemed an awful long way from the last when we were in front. We have been beaten a few times coming up that hill so it was nice to see him come up in front.
“We’ve had him at least five years now. He is one of those happy horses. If he can’t put a smile on your face nothing can. This was the plan and it was only the plan when it was announced this was in place of the cross country so we are very lucky it is on. It is an absolute joy and I’m so proud of Magic and the team.”
Meanwhile, winning jockey Richard Patrick added: “He has been class. He won on this card five years ago and he has been second in a Betfair Hurdle and the likes.
“He has just been ultra-consistent. It was his third win around here and he always runs his race. He is a bit of a legend. I was hopeful but we were taking on horses coming back in trip so that was my only concern but it all worked out well in the end.”
Unanswered Prayers wasted no time in getting off the mark over fences after finding extra in reserve late on to register a battling front running success in the SSS Super Alloys Novices’ Limited Handicap Chase.
A triple winner over hurdles the six year old hit the ground running on his chasing debut following a game performance under Tom Cannon to get off the mark for the campaign in the two and a half mile contest.
Having been as big as 6-1 yesterday with one betting firm the gelded son of Ocovango was sent off 9-4 Favourite to make an instant impact over fences-and he did not disappoint after taking a significant step forward for his comeback run over hurdles.
Although looking somewhat of a sitting duck to the strong travelling Railway Hurricane over the last Unanswered Prayers was not to be denied after pulling out more when required to prevail by three-quarters of a length.
Gordon said: “That was really good and I loved the way he jumped. I thought he was a bit big over the first one but the only disappointment was going up that run-in he was looking where the exit was and not really getting on with what he should be, but he jumped well.
“To come here and have a winner for a loyal supporter is absolutely fantastic.
“I’m not looking too far ahead, I’m just happy with that! I’ve got a lovely horse called Leave Of Absence who won at Ascot last month and all people could talk about was the next time and the next time, sometimes you’ve just got to enjoy the moment and that’s what we’re going to try and do.
“He’s run a lovely race here first time today, we’ll see how his legs are in the morning and it’s great to come here and have a winner.
“I think he could have done with somebody out in front, but he probably wants more of a trip than this.
“We just thought that his jumping seems smashing, so we got out there and used the jumping and got on with it. You can see he had a little bit of a look around at the end but it was good and hopefully the handicapper doesn’t put him up too much for that.
“The owners are marvellous and great supporters of ours so it’s great for them.”
Equally pleased with the display was winning rider Tom Cannon, who believed the victory vindicated connections decision to go to Cheltenham as opposed to heading to Plumpton.
Cannon said: “It’s a nice track to come to for a novice, Chris asked me about here or Plumpton and this was probably slightly easier than the one at Plumpton so even though we were wrong at the weights we decided to come here.
“He’s an Irish point to pointer so he’s had experience in that and he’s had a year in handicap hurdle races so he knows where to put his feet and he proved that today.
“He was a bit big at the first and I thought I was going to be in for a hairy ride, but he was good after that.
“We got in a good rhythm out in front and his ears were always twitching back and forwards so we weren’t over doing it and he kept going to the line.”