Sir Des Champs Looks Classy in Jewson Novices’ Chase
1 Sir Des Champs 3/1
Six-year-old Sir Des Champs is now unbeaten in seven starts after a scintillating four-and-a-half-length victory over Champion Court in the Jewson Novices’ Chase, his second win at the Cheltenham Festival following last season’s success in the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Hurdle.
Last year he was ridden to victory by Emmet Mullins but this time around it was the turn of Davy Russell, who was delighted to get on the winners’ list after a few near misses so far this week.
Russell said: “Once he hit the tapes all I had to keep him on his feet. He was brilliant - wing, wing, wing all the way. He never missed a beat at every fence.
“We went a good gallop and it suited him - he stays further. It was easy.”
“He is very good and awful lot of credit has to go to Aaron Madden, who absolutely adores this horse. Aaron has looked after him since the first day he arrived in Ireland with us and he has done such a wonderful job.
“Everything went swimmingly and he is a good one. The last two fences were maybe a bit tight but I needed the company anyway as it turned out.
“They went a good gallop, which suited, and I was always going to be positive because he stays further. My only worry was that maybe he wouldn’t travel but, after the first two fences, that was over with - I was travelling lovely. He did everything with aplomb and it was easy.
“Wouldn’t it have been brilliant for us if both horses had won but we weren’t to far away with First Lieutenant and, thank God, this horse has done the job. We can look forward to next year and try to keep them apart for as long as we can.”
O’LEARY PRODUCES A NEW CHAMP FOR GIGGINSTOWN
Airline chief Michael O’Leary, whose company sponsors today’s Ryanair Chase, grabbed money offered by builders merchants Jewson when his horse Sir Des Champs won this Grade Two novices’ chase impressively.
O’Leary, whose horses run in the name of Gigginstown House Stud, said of the Willie Mullins-trained Sir Des Champs: “He’s had seven wins, including in Grade Two races, but at lower levels. We’ve had other nice novice chasers at home and we’ve been trying to keep them apart, so it’s hard to know what you have until you get to Cheltenham.”
Yesterday O’Leary picked up places in two novice chases with Four Commanders, who was third in the Diamond Jubilee National Hunt Chase, and First Lieutenant, who was second in the RSA Chase.
O’Leary added: “This is the first time this horse has really had it put up to him, and he did it very well. It was another peach of a ride around Cheltenham by Davy [Russell].
“It’s terrific, fantastic - and Willie is a genius anyway. We have been hitting the crossbar all week and it’s nice to finally stick one in the net.
“It’s hard to know what you have under you get here. Willie has brought him along slowly and probably thought that he wanted a lot further but we had First Lieutenant in the other race. We just missed with him yesterday and it’s actually very refreshing not to be looking at Nicky Henderson’s bum, which I have been looking at all week .
“I just wanted to say to two children at home, Matt and Luke, who said to me on the telephone this morning: “Daddy, all your horses are rubbish” - it’s very nice to get a winner.
“When you die and go to heaven, this is what it is going to be like.”
Gigginstown House Stud colours of maroon and white are a very familiar sight on courses in Britain and Ireland, but O’Leary played down his racing interests, saying: “I wouldn’t say I have a massive involvement - my wife’s here and may be listening so let’s say I have a very small involvement!”
SIR IS A REAL PEARL
Such is the wealth of novice chasing talent this season in the maroon and white Gigginstown Stud colours that potentially the best of them all, Sir Des Champs, was diverted to Grade Two company for his Festival target. And after the Mouse Morris-trained First Lieutenant took second place in the RSA Chase on Wednesday, Sir Des Champs, from the Willie Mullins yard, went one better in the Jewson Novices’ Chase.
It was a second Festival success for the six-year-old, after the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Hurdle last year. And there is a further step up the ladder planned for 2013.
“I said I didn’t mind which race he ran in this time,” said Mullins, “as long as we come back next year on the Friday, for the Gold Cup.”
Willie Mullins has always used Florida Pearl, winner of nine Grade One races, as his yardstick of ability. “He came away from the Cheltenham Festival unbeaten for us,” he added, “and so has this fella. He’s right up there with him, one of the best I’ve had. Make no mistake, this is a racehorse.”
Sir Des Champs is now unbeaten in seven runs. “We’ve travelled round the country with him, to avoid the other Gigginstown runners,” said Mullins, “and he’s come here rather under the radar. We elected to be up with the race today from the start and I could see he had a fair bit in the tank coming to the last. He’s a lovely big strong scopey horse.”
CHAMPION CAUGHT BY SIR DES CHAMPS
The Martin Keighley-trained Champion Court put in a gallant effort against Sir Des Champs to finish four and a half lengths runner-up to the winner.
“We’ve got no hard luck stories, he jumped and travelled for fun and my biggest worry beforehand was the winner,” said Keighley. “Champion Court is a very exciting horse for the future and has had quite a hard race so we’ll see how he comes out of this before deciding whether we run him again this season. If he does, he’d only run once - probably at either Aintree or Punchestown.”
Trainer Nick Williams was also happy with the run of third-placed For Non Stop. “I think he has run up to form and it was a very solid performance,” said Williams. “The plan was to come with a late run but we were just out done by a couple in front of us. I don’t know if he’ll have another race this season, we’ll just see how he is after this race but he’ll be a nice horse for next season.”
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