Wiltshire-based trainer Milton Harris landed the Grade Two JCB Triumph Trial Juvenile Hurdle 12 months ago with Knight Salute and he repeated the feat with Scriptwriter (4-1), who landed the 2022 renewal of the same extended two-mile contest at Cheltenham today, day two of The November Meeting.
Travelling ominously well entering the home straight, the son of Churchill was delivered perfectly by Paddy Brennan to take the lead just after the final flight and he ran on well to hold off the late challenge of Perseus Way and take the honours by two and a quarter lengths.
Last year’s winner Knight Salute went on to land the Grade One Jewson Anniversary 4-y-o Juvenile Hurdle at Aintree and Harris holds similarly high hopes for Scriptwriter, who is now unbeaten in two starts over hurdles having won on his jumping debut at Sedgefield last month.
He said: “They are different (Scriptwriter and Knight Salute). The other horse is a bonny little horse rated 75 on the Flat and this horse is rated 102 in that sphere. He went to Sedgefield like the other fellow but we wanted him to win a race and believe in himself. He just does enough doesn’t he?
“It is quite an emotional day as the owner (Mark Adams) has been loyal. It is important. I’d stop the day that this doesn’t mean anything. He is a good horse and we have got a few others at home that are similar so we might be okay with the juveniles this season.
“He is a good horse. Nobody wants to buy off Aidan (O’Brien) as he is a good trainer and people say you can’t do this or that and it is a pleasure when you do something they tell you that you shouldn’t be doing.
“He was a rig when we got him and we knew that and we negotiated, me and Mark (Adams) whether it was the right thing for us to do and we did (decide to get him). The horse is talented.
“He would have had a tough time as a young horse working with Group horses. It is good to see them win. I’m so pleased for the horse. He and Knight Salute aren’t difficult. We work them, turn them out and make them have a happy life. It is a different environment. This horse is lazy and does as little as he can do. You would be disappointed if this horse couldn’t go further as he is a 102 rated Flat horse. He is bred to be a good horse. We are pleased to be here.
“Paddy was confident and said when I went to get the saddle this is a bouncing ball. I said can you win and he was adamant he could. That is really pleasing.”
Both Knight Salute and Scriptwriter were purchased at the Tattersalls July Sales in Newmarket, although the latter cost considerably more – 62,000 Guineas as opposed to 14,000 Guineas.
Successful owner Mark Adams added: “Both were out the same sale but he was a fair bit more expensive than Knight Salute was. It is just fantastic they have done this.
“We both felt if he jumped a hurdle he would take some beating and that has proved the case. It looks like he will get further but we will dream about this season before we go on to next.
“I was confident he could maintain his unbeaten record but you don’t ever say that to people, you just keep that to yourself. It is not dissimilar to Knight Salute last year. Everybody kept knocking him and the credit they deserved, I’m not saying they haven’t given this horse the credit he deserves, but we felt quite confident however everybody was talking about Paul Nicholls horse saying it was a superstar and you kind of begin to believe that. I’ve believed since we got this horse, especially after the first run, while he ran green he showed he could jump, and Paddy was super positive afterwards.
“We have got a good relationship (me and Milton). We are friends as well and we have an open and frank relationship which I think is healthy. We both say what we feel and we don’t ever fall out about it. We just express our opinions and he reaches a plan most of the time! He is passionate about it and he is on his comeback as he is always saying and it is nice to be on that journey. He is a very genuine guy and trainer.
“The dream is always to come here for the Triumph Hurdle and come up the hill similar to how he did today. There is a lot of time between now and then but he is on the right path.”
Scriptwriter was introduced at 33-1 for the JCB Triumph Hurdle at The Festival™ by Betfair and Paddy Power.
Olly Harris, owner of runner-up Perseus Way, said: “It was a good run, he was obviously quite a nice Flat horse but I was surprised when Gary (Moore) entered him in a Grade Two race first time up.
“He’s done well though, he’s tough and will come on loads for that so I’m really happy.”
A magnificent leap at the final fence sealed the second race on the card, the Celotex Thermaclass Amateur Jockeys' Handicap Chase, for Anightinlambourn (5-1).
Partnered by Jack Andrews for trainer Ben Pauling, the eight year old Gold Well mare came home the length and three-quarters winner over Irish raider Punitive in the three miles and a furlong contest.
Ben Pauling said: “That was a great ride and a great result.
“It was quite amusing as Gina (Andrews) rode her last time and I wanted Gina to ride her again but Gina wanted to ride Kim’s (Bailey) horse and that became a non-runner. She rang me today and said can I get back on it and I said ‘not a chance’ so Jack had a point to prove. He held on to her beautifully and produced her to win at the last. She just got lonely there last time and did not deserve not to win. It was a cool ride from a jockey you would expect that sort of calibre from.
“Jack is not an amateur. He is a professional and he is a seriously good jockey. He is just 6ft 4ins and he has very sensibly decided to go back amateur but he is far and away a very able pilot and we are thrilled to have his services.
“There is a race back here for her in December but I think she has blown her chances of getting into it as it is a 0-125. She will have to have a break at some point as she has been on the go for 15 or 16 months. I was fairly optimistic she could turn the form around I didn’t necessarily think she would win off this mark. I thought going up seven pounds for coming second was pretty horrific. She has been a revelation this season. She continues to improve and that was a good run.
“It is huge for these owners (The Megsons). They are big supporters of mine now and they put a lot of investment into the game. They are great people and they are in it for the right reasons. They love it and these days are important.”
Successful jockey Jack Andrews added: “I was just saying to Ben (Pauling) that I don’t know where that’s come from looking at her form beforehand, but in her last four runs she’s improved no end and I don’t think she’s finished improving.
“She travelled great and jumped fantastic and she was so brave for me at the last, even up the run-in she was flicking her ears so hopefully she’s not done with her improvement.
“That’s my second Cheltenham winner so it’s brilliant, especially on a big day like this. My first one was during Covid so to have a winner in front of a crowd like this is what we do it for. It certainly lived up to the expectations – I just need one in March now!”