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Press Release 28th January 2023 Cheltenham

By Graham Clark & Nick Seddon

An added bonus on Festival Trials Day in 2023 was the Grade One Albert Bartlett Clarence House Chase. Having been abandoned due to frost at Ascot a week ago, the two-mile contest was added to Cheltenham’s programme today.

The change of venue was certainly no problem for Editeur Du Gite (14-1), who having made the running was headed on the run-in before rallying to defeat Edwardstone by a head with 4-9 Favourite and 2022 Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase winner Energumene another six and a half lengths back in third.

Josh Moore, representing the winning stable of Gary Moore, said: “It is a pleasant surprise I suppose. He does love it around here. I was annoyed with myself doing the decs a year ago for the Champion Chase as I said the best chance he has got is in the Grand Annual and at the time I wish we would have run in the Champion Chase.

"He showed he was a good horse at Kempton Park. It is not surprising he has won that today but in Edwardstone and Energumene it didn’t look like they could get beaten. At the top of the hill I thought he was going very well when you were expecting them to come at you again. From jumping two out I thought he has won this now. He is a tough horse and he does stay well. We have only run him over two and a half once but he didn’t perform that well that day. He is a strong stayer over two miles.

"I didn’t have anything to do with Sire De Grugy but it is good that those colours are back going again. One of the owners Trevor Jacobs has been in a hospital for nearly six months so it is good for him. He is making progress which is good though. I guess we will look at the Champion Chase now but he won’t be a 14-1 chance for that. It is a big win for Niall as that is his first Grade One and it was probably his first big winner he rode aboard this horse at Kempton Park so it is nice for him. If I’m honest with you he is an absolute gentleman to ride in a race.

"Niall has got confidence him as well so it works out well. I remember I won a novice chase on him at Newbury and I said to dad we should go for the Red Rum at Aintree now. I know that was a handicap but he won that race well that day. I’ve always thought he is up to this level. Dad is watching at home today. He would be jumping up and down screaming but I don’t know if he would be in tears.”

Niall Houlihan, the winning rider, said: “It is unreal really. The horse tries so hard and for you. Everytime a horse came to me he stuck his neck out, especially when he got headed after the last.

"To come from behind up the hill here shows true guts. I felt about 50 yards from the line he was coming for me and trying for me and he stuck his head out. I wasn’t sure crossing the line but thankfully they called my number. From the back of four I thought I could win. He had a lovely lead and jumped brilliantly and I thought they will come to me now but he ran down the hill and jumped three out brilliantly. He is so quick on his feet. Right or wrong he is always quick over a fence and I thought I had a sniff of glory then. He got into a great rhythm and I always felt he rode better on the Old course but he has put up two very good performances on the New course.

"I’m chuffed. It is brilliant that they put the faith in me on a horse like him and to pull it off is great. You just sit on him and he does a lot for me. He jumps brilliantly and travels well. He is just a jockey's dream really. I thought we are taking on the two best two-milers in the world really if you look at it. I thought if he puts up a good performance he can go for the Champion Chase, where he goes next I’m not quite sure. He has done that the hard way.”

Ryan Jacobs, son of part owner Trevor Jacobs, commented:  “It is one step at a time Kempton Park, here and then what is next, maybe the Champion Chase. I’ve just spoken to dad and he was absolutely over the moon and he was crying his eyes out.

"It looked like he was still going well and Edwardstone came from nowhere really. When they passed the line I thought he has got second, brilliant, but he has battled on and got up. It is unbelievable. We owe Gary and everyone such a big thank you for what he is doing at the moment. He has always been a brilliant jumper but sometimes you think when one gets past him he weakens but he has shown what he has got in the locker now so that is a plus so bring on March.

"There is no reason why he won’t come back in March but Gary will decide all that. Hopefully it will be another good day out.”

Alan King, trainer of the second-placed Edwardstone, said: “I’m not happy to have been beaten but I’m happy with the run. He was just a bit fresh and he started to tank down the hill and Tom (Cannon, jockey) said he just had to bring him back to him a little bit. He’s probably used a bit of energy up getting there and I thought after the last that we’d go away and win but full marks to the winner. I’m happy and I needed to get this into him today to try and get him ready for the March meeting.

“The Game Spirit is too soon now so he’ll go straight to The Festival. I didn’t want to wait for Newbury because he needed a run and if Newbury was abandoned I’d have been in a bit of trouble! He’s perfectly fit don’t get me wrong, he probably just needed this to take the edge off. He only managed five fences at Kempton so that did nothing and he was just a bit gassy today. I did stress to Tom beforehand that this wasn’t the be all and end all today and I’m perfectly happy.

“There’s three in the Champion Chase now, isn’t there!”

Willie Mullins, trainer of third-placed Energumene, said: “Up to the second last we were running a really good race. The winner (Editeur Du Gite) won on merit and I loved the way that he won after being passed and it was a great performance from the second (Edwardstone) too.

“Hopefully that run will get him used to the new English white fences, we’ve schooled over them at home but he didn’t seem as happy over them today as he did last March. You saw what he did at the first and he was a little bit long at one or two. It’s different and I didn’t expect him to be that way as he’d done plenty of schooling but he obviously did.

“I think the winner set the pace and won, it was a great performance and I’m not going to take anything away from him. We weren’t able to beat him on the day. We just hope that there’s a different result on the next day for us.”

Paul Townend, jockey of the third-placed Energumene, added: “He missed the last and got tired after. It’s disappointing to get beat but it was an encouraging run.”

The combination of trainer Paul Nicholls and jockey Harry Cobden brought up a 19.6-1 double when Il Ridoto (9-2) took the Paddy Power Cheltenham Countdown Podcast Handicap Chase.

Paul Nicholls, the winning trainer, said: “I thought he had a big chance of winning here the last day (when fourth in the Paddy Power New Year's Day Handicap Chase) but he sort of ducked in left handed and fell through the last and that sort of cost him any chance really. I think few were doubting about whether he wanted a flat track and whether he truly stayed. I thought he was kidding us a little bit as he was coming out of his races so well and the cheekpieces have focused his mind today. He travelled and jumped brilliantly and had a great ride so it’s superb.

“When you’re fit and well you’re better off on the speed around here and I said to him to go out and ride him like he rode Stage Star. If it happens great and if it doesn’t so be it. I said if he didn’t win today we’d have to go for a flat track but I thought he’d gallop up the hill – he’s just been kidding us and today he did it nicely. I haven’t really got a plan for him to be honest, if he hadn’t have won I was going to go for a race at Newbury just before the Festival on a flat track but now he has I suppose we’ll come back here. I wouldn’t be afraid of possibly considering the Topham Chase for him, as I think two miles and five furlongs around Aintree would suit him nicely.”

Harry Cobden, the winning rider, added: “The cheekpieces made a big difference today and I just thought on his last two runs he was just holding something back and it didn’t feel like he was giving his all. He’s still only six and he’s still improving and the cheekpieces just got the best out of him today. When Gavin (Sheehan) came to me (on the runner-up Fugitif, 7-2 Favourite) we quickened right the way to the second last and right the way to the line – so he’s certainly improving.

“I don’t think being more forceful was the factor, I think it was the cheekpieces. When he ran here last time behind the Skelton horse Midnight River, I thought I had the measure of him and whether he ducked away from the crowd I don’t know but he didn’t want to go up the hill – and that day I thought he definitely saved something. The cheekpieces has just edged out that bit of improvement.

“We haven’t had much success at Cheltenham over the last four years but this year we’ve won a few bumpers, handicaps and chases around here and it’s nice to be competitive. We came here a couple of years ago at the Festival and none of them really ran very well and you go home and you scratch your head, but now you look back and you think the honest answer is we didn’t have fast enough horses to be competitive on the day. Now we’ve got some real quality coming through and it’s starting to tell.”


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