Alison Delve will achieve a lifelong dream at the Cheltenham Festival on Wednesday when she heads to Prestbury Park as a part owner of Coral Cup contender Shammick Boy who is trained in North Devon by Victor Dartnall.
Alison, who lives at Wheddon Cross on Exmoor, won a share in the racehorse in October through a competition run by Exeter Racecourse. Little did she realise then that Shammick Boy would rattle of a sequence of wins that would make him eligible to run at the world’s greatest jump racing spectacle.
“I didn’t expect to win the competition, let alone get to Cheltenham,” she says. “It has been a once in a lifetime experience and Victor has been absolutely brilliant. He’s become such a good friend now and I have enjoyed every single minute of my experience.”
The association has proved a real tonic for Alison, who was diagnosed with MS in 2003 when she fell pregnant with her son. “I was always involved in racing before I got MS and became confined to my scooter and I am very proud to say that I actually led up AP McCoy in 1994 when he rode,” she says.
Alison had a fairly inauspicious start to her experience of ownership with Shammick Boy finishing eighth at Chepstow at the end of October. In December he improved to finish second at Taunton and then, a week later, he won the first of a sequence of three which has shot him up to a handicap mark of 140 and assured him a run at the Festival.
His latest win at Kempton two weeks ago was the most pleasurable for Alison. “I’d thoroughly recommend anyone going there. It’s such a friendly track and we had a wonderful time,” she says.
Shammick Boy has an outside chance of finishing in the placings. He has never won off a mark of 140, seven pounds higher than his Kempton win, but he has the services of one of the best conditional jockeys in the business with Sean Bowen taking off a valuable 5lb.
Victor said: “He’s in great form and we’re really looking forward to the Festival. He’s won his last three races, which has put him up to a career high so we’ve decided to claim 5lb off him with Sean Bowen, the conditional star of the season. I suppose the one thing in his favour is that the ground is drying out and if he finished in the first ten we would be absolutely delighted.”
Victor has had several runners at the Festival, including Hawadeth who was beaten a short head by Sporazene in the 2004 County Hurdle; Lord Sam, third in the Royal and SunAlliance Novices’ Hurdle in 2003 and Karanja, a short price to land the Champion Bumper until he deposited Nina Carberry at the start.
Victor said: “I was very good friends with the great trainers David Nicholson and Josh Gifford and although they were better trainers than I could ever hope to be, they took 17 years before they had their first Festival winners!”
Exeter’s acting manager Daniel Thompson added: “We’re very grateful to Victor for getting involved in our annual win a racehorse competition and so pleased it will give Alison such an incredible ownership experience. We’d all like to wish Victor and his team the very best of luck at the Festival on Wednesday.”
The Coral Cup takes place at the Cheltenham Festival this Wednesday at 2.40pm.