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Press Release 16th March 2023 Cheltenham


Thursday 16th March

Irish trainer John McConnell is well known for his successful raids on Cheltenham’s auction meetings but up to today had been without a Festival winner.

He put that right with Seddon in today’s Magners Festival Plate. It was also a first success at The Festival for jockey Ben Harvey.

Successful trainer John McConnell, said: “Everything went great and he jumped great. I was just hoping he got up the hill. He actually found and he went away from the back of the last. What a performance.

“He was a very good horse in his youth. I don’t know why he has come back to life as we haven’t done anything special but he loves being a racehorse and he loves galloping. He is a horse that would do anything for you. I’m delighted for him and the owners. They are a small bunch of people that just love racing. I’m delighted for Amy who looks after him and Ben, who is going to be a top jockey, but I am just delighted for the whole team. After he won at Leopardstown we knew he was as good over fences as he was hurdles. He was in the Coral Cup, this and the Martin Pipe and we just felt there were less plots in this race than the Coral Cup or Martin Pipe as you have to nearly be a Gold Cup horse to win the Martin Pipe. We were always leaning towards it then we were crying on Wednesday with all the rain but he obviously handles ease in the ground.

“He is just an amazing horse. He is the biggest character going. It was a deep race but I thought he was over priced at 20-1.  It means everything as I have been dreaming of this since I was five. I always knew I was going to be too heavy to be a jockey so from an early age I knew I was going to be a trainer if I was going to do anything. My folks at home will be on the floor. Tuesday was a bad day as we probably should have won the National Hunt Chase with Mahler Mission but it didn’t come through and those 10 seconds afterwards everything goes through your mind that you are not going to have a winner at Cheltenham but for this to come so soon after is breath taking.


“I love winning but I’m in it for the horses and the people. It is just great. It is like the greatest robbery of all time Ben with five pounds. He is going to lose that very quickly unfortunately for me. He is going to be a top jockey in years to come. His intelligence, he can see a stride from a mile away and he has a clock in his head. I hate bigging him up as I’m afraid I will lose him but he deserves it. The owners have had flat horses but this is their first jump horse. They are nice guys and leave it all to me.”

Winning jockey Ben Harvey said: “Class! That’s the only way to describe it. I had a dream run and I can’t believe it. I jumped off exactly where I wanted to be, winged the first which left me in the position I wanted to be. I was a little bit worried about Coole Cody jumping right; I had a job getting settled back just to try and stop Coole Cody interfering with me. Then I came down the hill and was just resisting the urges of kicking too soon and holding on to him as long as I could. He picked up again up the hill and he hit the line really well. He was brilliant.

“John has been a huge part of my career and I am so lucky to have ridden his first Festival winner and mine, and I can’t thank him enough for everything he has done for me. He’s a genius.

“My family would have always been into horses, and my grandfather trained and my Dad rode a little bit, and we’d keep a few horses at home. John is my local trainer - he’s only 10 minutes from me, so I’ve been with him since I was 14, and I can’t thank him enough. I’ve had great support from my whole family, who have driven me all over the country to get me here today, and I can’t thank them enough. This is what I have been dreaming of my whole life, and I can’t quite believe it has happened.”

Max McNeill, who sold Seddon last summer, told ITV Racing: “First of all, I’m really pleased for the boys. This horse was named after my mum. I bought him the week that my mum died and she’s looking down somewhere saying, ‘you silly sod!’. I’m really pleased for the boys as we need to get more people and syndicates into racing.”

Richard Hobson, trainer of runner up Fugitif, said: "He has run a blinder but could have done with the ground being a bit softer. It all depends he ow he comes out of this race but the two options that spring to mind are Aintree or a trip to France as there are plenty of Graded contests at Auteuil at this time of year."

Ben Pauling, trainer of third home Shakem Up'Harry, said: "He has run at Cheltenham twice and both times have seen him flatten out in the last 200 yards or so. He just does not seem to get home at this trip at this course."

4.50pm Magners Plate Handicap Chase (Premier Handicap) 2m 4½f

  1. Seddon 20-1
  2. Fugitif 11-1
  3. Shakem Up'Arry 16-1
  4. Gevrey 125-1

23 ran

Distances: 2, 3¼

Time: 5m 16.60s

1st winner at The Festival for jockey Ben Harvey

1st winner at The Festival for trainer John McConnell


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