Festival Trials Day at Cheltenham today came to a close with the Grade Two SSS Super Alloys Novices' Hurdle (2m 4f 56y) which saw Gidleigh Park (5-6 Favourite) make it four wins from as many starts to maintain his unbeaten record.
Ridden by Johnny Burke, the six-year-old was always prominent and went into a clear lead two out. He was headed after the last by Lucky Place (15-2) but rallied gamely to regain the advantage and win by half a length.
Winning trainer Harry Fry said: “It was a Grade Two on Trials Day so we knew we were stepping up in grade and he had to step up. Talking to Johnny (Burke) the race has not been run to suit. It has turned into a bit of a sprint for home, but he has got down and battled and got the job done on the day.
“It was the first time he has had to really battle so he has learnt again, and he will be sharper for it. It has almost asked a few more questions opposed to giving us answers in terms of which race we run him in at The Festival in March.
“We have got to go home and reflect, but he has won, and we can’t complain about that and that is what it is all about at the end of the day. A win is a win in spite of things of the race not being quite run to suit, but it is onwards and upwards.
“I know come March they will go a proper gallop. He has come here and he leaves unbeaten so the dream is still alive. We will go home and enjoy it and it is a nice dilemma to have.
“He has done everything right so far. I don’t like comparing them and he will be Gidleigh Park and he will tell us how good he is on the racecourse.
“He is a big, tall individual and he was quite raw to begin with. The team have done a really good job to getting him to settle and strengthen out, particularly with the schooling as he could barely get around the bends.
“It is great for The Eyre Family as it is their first winner at Cheltenham. They have been patient and allowed us to take our time. Ultimately he is a chaser so what he is doing over hurdles is a bonus. Relieved is probably the overriding feeling right now, but he has won, and we have six weeks to work out which race to go for.”