Richard Lee Chasing Further Festival Success
Richard Lee has twice tasted Cheltenham Festival success in his accomplished training career with victories in the 1993 Grand Annual Handicap Chase and the 1998 renewal of what is now the Byrne Group Plate courtesy of Space Fair and Super Coin respectively.
“A winner at Cheltenham is as good as it gets - it’s what you dream of,” Lee said. “It’s fantastic, a Cheltenham winner is a Cheltenham winner and you have to make the most of it because they don’t come along all that often.
“Space Fair and Super Coin were class horses. Even so, you can never be confident going into any race at Cheltenham because the racing is so competitive but you can go there hoping.
“When Super Coin won the Byrne Group Plate there was a stewards’ enquiry because we had tightened up the eventual third. Obviously, they couldn’t give that horse the race as he finished third, but it was a nerve-racking quarter of an hour I can tell you.”
This year the handler, who is based at Byton in Herefordshire close to the Welsh border, will be sending a small but select team to Jump racing’s premier meeting including his exciting novice hurdler Knock A Hand. The seven-year-old maintained his unbeaten record over hurdles with a stylish front-running display at Haydock under a double-penalty on December 30, and is declared to run in a handicap hurdle at Newbury on February 17.
Lee continued: “I don’t know if Knock A Hand will go to Cheltenham, but I will know a lot more after this weekend. He is in the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle and the Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle, but could also go for the Coral Cup. Although he has won on soft ground, he also won two point-to-points on good ground, so Cheltenham is certainly on the agenda.
“However, whatever he does this year is a complete bonus as he is a chaser in the making. You can dream of it, but I’d like to think he’d be an RSA Chase horse next year. I think he’s a bit special and although he is not flashy, he does everything so easily and is a real workman.”
The trainer said: “We need to try and get Hector’s Choice qualified for the Grand National. He could go for the Byrne Group Plate, or the JLT Speciality Chase - every time this season he has been staying on strongly so you would think the step up to three miles would suit.”
Lee concluded: “We have also got Highway Code for the Vincent O’Brien County Handicap Hurdle. I expect him to run very well, he’s a smashing little horse.”
The former farrier took out a full training licence in 1986 having been hugely successful in the point-to-point sphere and enjoyed one of the biggest successes of his career this season, when Charlie Poste rode Le Beau Bai to victory in the Coral Welsh National.
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