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Press Release 3rd January 2023 Cheltenham

By Graham Clark

Ben Pauling is yet to saddle a runner in the Weatherbys Champion Bumper at The Cheltenham Festival but that might all change after Fiercely Proud carried the colours of Grade One-winning owner Tim Radford to glory in the JCB “Junior” National Hunt Flat Race at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day.

Purchased by Radford out of Don Cantillon’s yard for £125,000 after making a winning debut at Market Rasen 78 days ago, the gelded son of Iffraaj paid a small slice of that back when maintaining his unbeaten record in the one miles and six furlongs Listed contest.

Sweeping through from the back of the field the 17-2 chance forged his way between Dancing In Brazil and Meatloaf before holding the off the later by half a length to give Radford and Pauling their first winner together since teaming up.

Pauling said: “He wasn’t cheap but to be fair to Don he said he was a nice horse. The form of the race at Market Rasen was nothing and most people have picked up on that.

“We liked him at home but we are delighted to see him here. We had to drop him in as he was a bit keen at Market Rasen. They didn’t go a gallop and I thought he had it all to do but he turned in picked them off nicely and ultimately won a bit cute I think.

“To be honest we just wanted to get to him settle and if he did that we knew he had half a chance on his home work. It is always nice to have a bumper winner at Cheltenham and he did it in the style of a good horse from last to first which makes it even sweeter.

“Tim Radford, who is a big name of old, has just bought a few horses in his own name again and he has kindly sent a couple to us. It is great to see those colours back in the winner’s enclosure at Cheltenham as it means so much to him.

Although a discussion with Radford, who has tasted top level glory with Somersby, remains to be had Pauling was not ruling out a return to Cheltenham on March 15.

He added: “To be honest today was the aim. When he was bought, if he could get here it was to be here. We didn’t know if he would handle soft ground and it is tacky old ground and he handled that.

“I imagine we would just keep him in bumpers and look towards one of the better bumpers. We all know the Irish are pretty deadly at those but whatever happens he is a lovely horse for next year.

“We will go back and have a chat and see where to go. They have run horses in a Champion Bumper before, I haven’t, although I’m not the biggest fan of the race but he is probably the type of horse that could run in it.

“He is a flat-bred three year old that looks like he is improving, so it’s a maybe.”

Charlie Longsdon heaped plenty of praise on jockey Lily Pinchin who he hailed as ‘riding out of her skin’ after steering Hector Javilex (8-1) to a ‘career best’ victory in the Paddy Power Handicap Hurdle.

Having finished fourth at the course on his most recent start in November the six year old gelding took a step up to three miles in his stride when routing his rivals by seven lengths under Pinchin.

Longsdon said: “The step up in trip has helped and he has deserved it. He ran really well here last year over two miles five and the step up to three miles he looks like he has relished every inch of it.

“He looked keen for the first mile and I thought he would get to the bottom of the hill and not quite get home. Coming to Cheltenham is a step up in class again. He was a pound out of the handicap but he will be mid 130s after that now.

“Since we have sorted out his trapped epiglottis we have only run him on better ground for no reason other than that being the only ground in front of us that day.

“Back on slower ground he probably relishes it. It was a career-best performance by a country mile.

“Lily is riding on the crest of a wave. She is riding out of her skin and fair game to her Everyone talks about giving the girls a chance and she is taking it with both arms and grabbing it as she can ride equally as well as everyone else. She is riding pretty well.

Following the race Longsdon insisted he will now try and find a Pertemps qualifier for Hector Javilex ahead of a potential outing in the final of the event at The Cheltenham Festival.

“We will go for a Pertemps qualifier and it would be stupid not to look at one. He was in one at Wincanton on Boxing Day but we thought it looked strong and we decided to come here as this is a local track to David (Mason, owner).

“We will look at a Pertemps qualifier as if he is mid 130s that does sneak into a Pertemps and we have to think of that.”


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