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Press Release 14th March 2023 Cheltenham

By Graham Clark, Nick Seddon, Catherine Austen & Andrew King (TV quotes by Lucy Elder)

After a few near misses earlier on the card, Gordon Elliott finally found himself in the winner's circle after 18-1 chance Jazzy Matty got the better of three-way battle for the Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle.

The four-year-old, partnered by conditional rider Michael O'Sullivan, edged out Byker and Risk Belle close home to score by a neck and a nose respectively. O’Sullivan was registering a 103.5-1 Champion Day double, following the success of Marine Nationale in the opening Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle.

Michael O’Sullivan said: “Thanks very much to Gordon [Elliott] and the Browns for putting me on him. It’s great for them. I suppose I’m claiming five pounds in Ireland and only three over here, so I’ve probably lost a couple of rides in handicaps because of that, but in fairness to Gordon he kept me on him and he got a nice light weight.

“He got a fright at the first hurdle and he was just very careful after that. I thought we went very slow and he’s a big horse, so I gave him plenty of room and he travelled everywhere for me. I knew coming to the last he was wrong but I didn’t want to confuse him because he was actually being careful up to then. I was confident enough I had plenty of horse left and I’d say he won with a bit in hand. He’ll be a nice horse going forward. I felt I was always getting there and to pick up again up the hill on good ground was very good.

“Dad is amazing. I grew up listening to stories of him riding and how good he was - he rode a Festival winner and was a very accomplished amateur, and in fairness to Dad he never pushed me too much, but when he saw I had interest, he gave me every opportunity. He drove me all over the country and spent a lot of money sending me eventing and showjumping, and it’s great that it’s paying off. Dad kills himself with hard work at home on the farm, and it’s great that he’s here today.”

O’Sullivan’s father Willie told ITV Racing: “It’s unreal. I couldn’t be prouder. He’s worked very hard at his riding all his life and I couldn’t be happier for him. He really deserves it.

“He has [maturity beyond his years] but he was always very level-headed and he always thought a lot about what he was doing. He was very committed to his studies and when he started riding, he was very committed to getting things right before he even sat on the horses, and studying the form.”

O’Sullivan, who rode the 1991 Foxhunter winner Lovely Citizen, said: “That was a long time ago! That was a different era. It is totally different now, way more professional.”

On how he’s been able to help his son, he said: “There's questions on the way to ride some horses and you try to help him the best you can, but he does a lot of the studying himself. He gets a lot of help from a lot of people, the other jockeys are all full of advice to him and that really helps him. You’re only as good as your last ride, and hopefully it will keep going for him.

“I was very nervous [watching the Supreme], just hoping things would go right for him. It was a fierce achievement to get a ride like that in the Supreme from Barry Connell and he was just hoping that Barry Connell’s trust in him paid off and thank God it did.

“That [the Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle] was a beautiful ride, thanks very much to Gordon Elliott.”

Gordon Elliott said:" That's better as we had hit the crossbar a few times earlier and the horse has done well to win as he was stuck out a bit wider than was ideal in a tight race like that, but thankfully it made no difference in the end.

"There is every chance he will now go to Aintree as i think that course will suit him even better."

Joey Logan, racing manager to owners Andrew and Gemma Brown, said: “I’m absolutely delighted. We were worried about the ground but we were very excited. The horse is named after Andrew and Gemma’s son Matt. It is special and as it is their first winner at The Festival so I’m delighted. We knew he would stay and we are over the moon.

“He is a big horse and he is a half-brother to Delta Work so whatever he does over hurdles is just a bonus. The cheekpieces just kept him interested and they definitely worked. His last couple of runs were frustrating but the ground wasn’t right for him at all but he is such a big horse. Luckily enough it has worked out today. It is brilliant to get a winner on the first day so everything else is a bonus. We will take it as it comes as regards to what we do with him next season and see what Gordon says. We will give it a good go celebrating tonight.”

4.50pm Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle (Premier Handicap) 2m½f
1. Jazzy Matty 18/1
2. Byker 6/1
3. Risk Belle 10/1
4. Sundial 18/1
21 ran NR: Morning Soldier
Distances: nk, nse
Time: 4m 9.48s

2nd winner at The Festival for jockey Michael O’Sullivan
35th winner at The Festival for trainer Gordon Elliott

Ireland 4
Great Britain 2


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