Emotions ran high in the Cheltenham winner’s enclosure for owner Janet Davies who celebrated her 100th winner after Minella Missile confirmed the promise of his debut victory under rules in the Trustatrader Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham today.
The Evan Williams-trained five-year-old might have been written off as a 22-1 chance by bookmakers, however he proved that price tag to be all wrong when springing somewhat of a shock result in the Grade Two much to the delight of Davies who lost her husband Peter a year ago.
Making his debut under rules just 17 days ago at Chepstow the Beat Hollow gelding had to step forward on all known form, but he did exactly that when staying on strongest of them all in the two miles and five furlongs contest.
Receiving a dream run throughout the race Minella Missile was one of three still holding every chance on the run down to the last along with 4-6 Favourite Captain Teague and The Big Doyen.
As Captain Teague made a move for the stands side rail Minella Missile was kept down the centre of the track by Adam Wedge, who got the perfect response from his mount before passing the post with a length and a half to spare from the odds-on market leader.
Davies said: “That was my 100th winner today and how amazing is that. We last won here with Court Minstrel and I never thought we would have another one like him.
“Evan said when he won at Chepstow 17 days ago you have a nice horse, but I didn’t think he was going to be that nice.
“I was trying to keep cool as this time last year I lost my husband Peter suddenly in his sleep. It has been a difficult year but my goodness that was so amazing.”
As for triumphant trainer Williams he feels that the victory was very much mission accomplished in novice hurdles for Minella Missile.
Williams said: “I told Janet that in the past (that certain horses have been special). He is just one of them. He quickens and he is very laid back. You can drop him in and I love a horse you can drop in and that quickens. There are not many that can get there in two strides, but he can do that.
“The reason why the price he was is down to the trainer. It is nothing to do with the horse. Talk is talk, but it is November. The men in March don’t talk they just turn up. We are under no illusions.
“He has won his good race. He is a half -brother to a horse that I think is a good horse called Monbeg Genius.
“His future will probably be over fences somewhere down the line. For a staying novice hurdler, he quickens. Racing pulls in the emotions of life which are important to the very trivial pursuit of going faster than another horse on a grassy field.
“That was Janet’s one hundredth winner. She has had a lot of winners, and she has had a couple of nice horses, but as happens with racing sometimes it gives back that little bit of a fairytale. It is crazy how the cards fall sometimes.
“As far as I’m concerned he has won a good race and what happens now as a novice hurdler is irrelevant. It is Janet’s day and that is what makes it special to me.”
Although not hinting at any immediate targets Williams has not ruled stepping Minella Missile up to Grade One company on his next start.
Williams said: “He handles this place which is an undulating track. Sometimes you can get dragged into things for the sake of doing them. Let’s be brutal about it the second horse carried a penalty and we have only won a length and a half.
“We’ve got a bit too find to win a Grade One, but he is type of horse that might be able to step up to that.”
Nicky Henderson might not have been getting carried away following the latest victory gained by Impose Toi, however drawing up bigger and better plans look set to carried out soon rather than later after making light work of a mark of 121 in the concluding Valda Energy Novices’ Handicap Hurdle.
The It’s Gino gelding made it three wins from five starts since joining the Lambourn handler when successfully carrying the famous green and gold silks of owner JP McManus to glory in the extended two-mile contest, which the 2-1 Favourite claimed by two and a quarter lengths under Nico de Boinville.
Henderson said: “He is a novice for a few more days so I could slip in one novice handicap hurdle. It was a tidy race to aim him at the start of the season. He has to go play with the grown-ups now.
“We felt the mark was workable and it wants to stay where it is! He has got the experience running in a novice handicap like that. Everything was in his favour.
“It can only get harder, but he is a very likeable character and he is a straightforward horse. He used to be a bit keen, but he has given that up, and he will jump a fence. He is a nice horse for the future.”
Looking at potential targets a tilt at the Betfair Exchange Trophy at Ascot on December 23rd could be on the agenda, however Henderson hinted he might keep Impose Toi’s sights slightly lower for the time being.
He added: “You could come into an intermediate hurdle with him. That was a 0-125 so let’s not get carried away. AP (McCoy) mentioned that race (Betfair Exchange Trophy at Ascot), but that is quite a big step up.
“I wouldn’t be getting to carried away at the moment. His life is in front of him, and he is progressing. Later in the year you would be looking at some of those better handicaps.
“He would get two and a half miles and he got that last season. Now he is learning to race more professionally you could go two and a half miles.”