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Press Release 28th January 2023 Cheltenham

By Graham Clark & Nick Seddon

Ahoy Senor (13-2) entered the picture for the Boodles Cheltenham Gold Cup at The Festival with a battling success in the Grade Two Paddy Power Cotswold Chase on Festival Trials Day at Cheltenham today.

The eight year old saw off Sounds Russian on the run-in to take the honours by a length and a half.

Successful jockey Derek Fox said: “I was always travelling fairly well. He made a couple of mistakes down the back and for a brief moment down the hill I had to scrub him along, but he always felt from the home bend he was going to win.

“He is a very talented horse and I feel very lucky to be riding him. He stayed on all the way up the hill. I just got a bit tight to the last and he had to pick himself up and go on again. He is a very talented horse and he obviously very tough with natural ability.

“He does throw the odd one here and there but on a going day he has a massive engine and is a very talented horse. I’d like to thank Lucinda, Peter Scudamore and the owners as I feel very lucky to be riding him.”

Winning trainer Lucinda Russell said: “He is just a monster and he is just fantastic. Beforehand I said to Derek (Fox, jockey) in my mind we would have taken a lead and then I asked what he was going to do and he said I’m just going to go forwards. He is just fantastic with the horse and they both trust each other and the confidence that he has got has been fantastic. I’m delighted and it is nice to see our monster back.

"I think he is starting to grow up and I think he is a phenomenal horse. I am so pleased for both of them and for Carron and Bruce (Wymer) and I’m so pleased for my mother as well. Everyone is screaming and shouting and it is so lovely for them. We said we would see what happens today but I think he has earned his place there now (Gold Cup).

"No it had not been frustrating at all (up until now). He is a lovely horse. I think everything that was  said before is right. He was a freak as a novice over hurdles and he was a freak as a novice chaser. He has just learnt to do his job. I think with Derek they have learnt together. It was great to see him back to form again.

"Coming to the second last (I thought he would win). We kept saying if he could do the same at The Festival where he just came around the corner and kept on galloping. That was just perfect. He settles better and jumps well but I’m surprised he acted on that ground but fair play to Bruce and Carron as they said he had to get practice of the track and he has had a good practice. The team at home is very important to us and we are trying to upgrade and it was dad who gave me the confidence to do that.”

Russell's partner and assistant Peter Scudamore added: “I’ve said he is the best horse we have ever trained then you begin to doubt yourself, but things eventually come right in the end and that is what sport is about.

“Using a cricket analogy when he gets it right he is like Ian Botham when he gets it wrong he can be back in the pavilion out for 10.

“I thought when he set off, great he is jumping, then he was just outpaced, as they were going a good gallop, then suddenly I thought Sounds Russian was going to win coming down the hill then when he straightened up I thought go on jump the last well.

“He didn’t quite meet it but he picked up well. I was hopeful as when he got beat in the novice chase in the Festival last year he stayed all the way to the hill.

“He is clearly a horse with a lot of ability but you just need a lot of luck. He is good enough to contest a Gold Cup whether it is this year or not I don’t know.

“His death (that of Russell's father and Ahoy Senor's part-owner Peter Russell) is bigger than a horse race. I remember riding a horse called

Gambling Prince whose owner died and I went and won on it. I do think they do sometimes smile down and that there is a God up there that helps.”

Ruth Jefferson, trainer of runner-up Sounds Russian, said:  “We’ve probably learnt a bit from that. He’s still in the Gold Cup and I really wanted to see him do something like that today. He’s entitled to have a go in the Gold Cup, obviously Protektorat and Noble Yeats were a long way ahead of us in the betting for that and we were about 125-1, so we won’t be that tomorrow morning. I suppose he’s a horse who could do what he did today and run well in a Gold Cup but whether he’s got the class to win I’m not sure – I think he’d need a lot of things to fall right. I think he’s a solid horse who always runs his race but might just find a Gold Cup horse a bit better than him.

“It’s the first time apart from Hexham – where I ran him unfit – that he’s run up a hill. I know Wetherby has a hill but not like this one though I still wouldn’t question his stamina for a Gold Cup, it’s a but further but I think we just change his running style. The Gold Cup is still under consideration, though I might not have a say in it as I may log on to eight emails from the owners tomorrow morning saying we’re going!"

Emmet Mullins, trainer of the third-placed Noble Yeats, said: “I’m very happy, he hit the line well and fingers crossed he comes out of the race well so we can take it from there. He didn’t disgrace himself there with the penalties he was giving away to the first and second placed horses, so he’s still exciting going forward.”

Dan Skelton, trainer of the fourth-placed Protektorat (5-4 Favourite), said: “We’re deflated on the day but I don’t think this means anything. It will mean a lot to his price and to the people who talk about him in all the previews leading up to Cheltenham, but in my heart it doesn’t mean anything and we’re still on for the Gold Cup.

“I had to get him really ready for Haydock and I did and I know how to do it, but if you come here as well as Haydock you ain’t going to come out of it in time to go and peak for a Gold Cup. His Haydock run will be overlooked because he’s finished fourth today and been underwhelming but I know why it’s happened. I trusted him and I thought I’d done enough but the evidence suggests that wasn’t the case.

“I was delighted that he stayed on after landing on the back of the last, he could have been out of the picture. He’s sound and happy afterwards and they’re all beating each other in this division. The only one constant is Willie’s horse (Galopin Des Champs) who runs next week, so I still have our hat in the ring. The victor today (Ahor Senor) is a fantastic story, Lucinda (Russell) lost her father in the week and it shows you that sport can write its own pages.”

Ahoy Senor will bid to become the only the third winner of the Paddy Power Cotswold Chase this century to go on to win at The Festival in the same season.

The Lucinda Russell-trained eight year old was one of five horses in the six-runner race with an entry in the Boodles Cheltenham Gold Cup in March.

Previous winners of this race who have gone on to Festival glory in the same season include Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Looks Like Trouble in 2000 and Frodon, who won the 2019 Ryanair Chase.

First staged in 1980, the race now known as the Paddy Power Cotswold Chase has been won by five horses who also landed the Cheltenham Gold Cup. Three of those won both races in the same season – Little Owl (1981), Master Oats (1995) and Looks Like Trouble (2000). See More Business won the Cotswold Chase in 1998 and 2001 as well as the 1999 Cheltenham Gold Cup while Native River won the 2021 Cotswold Chase (which was staged at Sandown Park after Cheltenham was abandoned) following his success in the 2018 Cheltenham Gold Cup.


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