Sunday 24 September 2017

Carruthers comes up with fairytale ending

Ian McClean

If you didn't feel that the elixir of the jumping game had been visited on you already, then yesterday was the very tonic to bring that warm tingling sensation to its peak. As well as the first major landmark staying handicap chase of the season (Hennessy Gold Cup), the further injection of blue-chip names like Binocular, Big Buck's and Peddlers Cross made for an all-star cast to savour on a day when, with so much action, it was difficult to know exactly where to look.

And on an afternoon that had more sub-plots than the Da Vinci Code, it was the emotional victory of Carruthers in Newbury's featured Hennessy that proved most worthy of the headlines. A home-bred, trained by a tiny yard, owned by a small partnership and ridden by a journeyman jockey, Carruthers has been a fairytale waiting to happen for a long time now.

Symbolic of all that characterises the virtue of the jumping code, many had already stopped believing after an indifferent season last year. But yesterday the fairytale finally came true. Applying his customary attacking front-running style, Carruthers was barely headed from an early stage during the demanding three and a quarter miles of the Berkshire circuit, and held enough in reserve to escape away up the long run-in for a clear-cut success.

Carruthers was bred by Lord Oaksey for his retirement, but the former broadcaster was sadly absent due to failing health yesterday to witness the success. John Oaksey is also the only amateur ever to have won the famous race (on Taxidermist back in 1958), while winning rider Mattie Batchelor was celebrating by far the biggest win of his career. He, in turn, was lost for words for once and could barely hold back the tears on the second anniversary of his mother's death. A more emotionally charged narrative one could hardly have scripted -- and as far away from stallion syndication as one could ever imagine.

The feeling that last year's staying novices were below standard is perhaps borne out by the fact that the first four home were seasoned chasers in a race that traditionally favours the sophomores.

Three years ago to the day was the last time Big Buck's -- himself in his second chase season -- suffered defeat on the racecourse. His unseemly unseat of Sam Thomas at the last when challenging in the Hennessy persuaded connections to send him over the smaller obstacles. And what a retrospective act of genius that proved. Yesterday, on his seasonal reappearance, he won a record-equalling 13th race in a row when taking the Grade Two Long Distance Hurdle at odds of 1/8.

When someone with a lexicon as inexhaustible as Ruby Walsh describes his partner as "indescribable" you realise we are in the presence of greatness with Big Buck's. And when it is followed by the word "perfect" you wonder under what circumstances the finest staying hurdler we have ever seen could ever be beaten? But it wasn't ever so.

It would have been inconceivable to imagine such an utter transformation on this day three years ago. Furthermore, at the very start of his career he was beaten in 10 out of his first 11 races as a three- and four-year-old in France. The DNA of horseracing's appeal is that anything can happen, and dreams are free.

Connections of Peddlers Cross are justified in harbouring the most extravagant of dreams about their horse which was adding to a near-flawless CV already by winning his second novice event over the larger obstacles at Bangor. Presented with more of a challenge than previously, the Champion Hurdle runner-up fenced with all the same elan that he had first time around and looks -- unlike Big Buck's -- like he is genuinely made for the game.

It is a lavish reflection on the calibre of yesterday's action to report -- almost as a footnote -- that the formerly invincible Binocular was Overturned on his seasonal reappearance at Newcastle.

Sunday Indo Sport

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport