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Newbury and Newcastle: Looking back at a stellar weekend in jump racing

Updated: Dec 21, 2022



Back to back success for the Skeltons


Like buses... you know the rest. Just seven days ago, Dan and Harry were coming home with a Betfair Chase. Now, a weekend later, they danced at Newbury, celebrating victory in the newly renamed Coral Gold Cup (...that's the Hennessy, sponsored by Coral, to the rest of us). Appearing from the evening gloom, it was, presumably, tampering from a loose horse that handed Harry his 7-day ban for whip overuse. Still, the development couldn't dampen a Skelton party. And the pair, indeed, had much to drink to. They'd come clear of Gericault Roque, after all, dexterously navigating Corach Rambler in the process.


Speaking to Racing Breaks after Cheltenham's Paddy Power Gold Cup, winning jockey Johnny Burke said it was surreal to be part of "races you grow up watching". At Newbury, meanwhile, Dan Skelton needed just one word: "magic". For a crowd who'd picked the winner, bringing him up to joint favourite, it spoke for them. And now, as Le Milos heads to the National, those masses will gladly follow.



Remembering Sir Peter O'Sullevan


Rory Bremner: just one celeb for whom Newbury cameras searched. Once a fixture at Sir Peter's charity lunches, even a trophy presentation can't escape Boris Johnson these days, his incarnation dutifully wheeled out as he passed the trophy to winning connections of the Sir Peter O'Sullevan Memorial Handicap Chase.


Though running for J.P. McManus, in this contest, Harry Cobden's mount, Kapcorse, was dressed instead in Sir Peter's old colours. It marked the exact moment, 25 years previously, that he'd hung up his binoculars for a final time. But symbolism doesn't come on tap. And, so it was, Kapcorse finished last, with Zanza's purple and yellow colours taking the prize for Philip Hobbs.



Nicky Henderson triumphs at both courses


Three hundred miles south, a ripple of applause met Constitution Hill's domination of the Fighting Fifth. Eyes on screens, at Newcastle, record attendance no doubt spoke for itself. But, down at Newbury, we too had witnessed a promise best enjoyed in the moment. Naturally, as dust settles, it's never long before old comparisons are thrown around. But, for trainer and fans, such discussion is futile. Escorted from the Royal Box, a beaming Henderson basked in a tally of four winners at three courses: Constitution Hill at Newcastle, Luccia and First Street at Newbury, Touchy Feely in a Doncaster hurdle.


"It's been a great day," he told Racing Breaks, showing off Sir Peter's winter racing hat, which he'd secured at a charity auction. "We always knew it was going to be a day of promise, but also of pressure. The question was whether Constitution Hill still had last year's magic... and he certainly does." Henderson also touched on the Fighting Fifth second, stablemate Epatante. "Poor old Epatante," he sighed. "I've been very happy with her, but I feel second is where she was destined to finish." Always honest, never dismissive. With that, he melted once more to an obedient and loving crowd. Last week's ground rant? Forgotten. For, in our game, forgiveness is a virtue. It's patience that pays off. And that's always something best left to the professionals.

 

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