Thursday 22 February 2018

In brief: Hooray for Henry as Plato romps in

Derby winner

Henry Cecil, paying his first visit to the Cheltenham Festival, was given a resounding three cheers after his runner, Plato, expertly-ridden by Lorna Fowler, won the St Patrick's Day Derby, a race in aid of Cancer Research UK, which is a charity close to the Flat trainer's heart. "I don't think I can quite call myself a jump trainer yet," he said.

"It was great fun, a good cause and thanks Cheltenham for putting it on. I think it raised £150,000, which gives everyone hope.

"Things like this help put those with this horrible disease in a positive frame of mind, which is half the battle" he added.

Plato, a winner at Newmarket last summer, was sent off the well supported 6/4 favourite for the one-mile-five-furlong heat, but appeared to have his work cut out as Fool's Wildcat held a big lead turning in.

But broadcaster Fowler did not panic and her mount picked up well once meeting the rising ground to beat Nemo Spirit by a length and a quarter.

Standing start

America's senior jumps starter Barry Watson has been tagging along with his British counterparts this week.

It does not matter what nationality you are, "a starter is a starter," he says, describing the profession as "a brotherhood of mad scientists".

Methods of starting vary greatly on opposite sides of the Atlantic. Watson (57), who sports a stylish bow tie and 1940s Borsalino hat, tends to stand 25 yards in front of his field (which rarely numbers more than a dozen) drops his flag and coolly nips out of the way.

"I told him if he tried that in the Supreme Novices' Hurdle he'd end up leading the field over the first," said British starter Sean McDonald.

Digging the dirt

The Festival prides itself on being a popular destination for everyone, from dukes to dustmen.

Today's Christies' Foxhunters can't quite manage a duke, but it does boast a dustman.

Mark Hughes, who owns and trains Special Portrait, works as a refuse collector in Cumbria.

Look out for hand signals, particularly if he's overtaking, from Jo Buck, who rides Theatre Diva.

She is a driving instructor. Of course, if she gets carved up, expect a hand signal of a different kind.

Wise Words

Jockeys' valet Chris Maude was bemoaning his luck before racing yesterday.

Valets get a small percentage of a rider's winnings and until then only Richard Johnson had won for him.

"Since AP won 'I'm A Celebrity' or whatever it was, I think he's given up," he said.

"Today he arrived in a grey suit with pink pinstripes and Paul Smith pink tie and shirt combo -- I thought it was Gok Wan," said Maude.

Whatever he said to McCoy, it worked, for he rode two winners.

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