Thursday 16 August 2018

Curtis enjoys a National boost

Joe Farrell (right) ridden by Adam Wedge wins the Scottish Grand National. Photo: Jeff Holmes/PA
Joe Farrell (right) ridden by Adam Wedge wins the Scottish Grand National. Photo: Jeff Holmes/PA

Chris Cook

Two jockeys who started the year on a low note ended the season in style by providing an electrifying finish to the Scottish Grand National, in which the Adam Wedge-ridden Joe Farrell prevailed by a rapidly diminishing nose from Ballyoptic and Tom Bellamy.

The 33-1 winner provided an important boost to his trainer, Rebecca Curtis, who is on the way towards rebuilding her stable after a difficult couple of years.

Lavishing praise on his mount in the moments immediately after the photo finish result was announced, Wedge said: "He stuck his head out like an absolute lion for me. I could feel Bellsy getting to me all the way and he's absolutely tried his heart out."

It is a career peak for Wedge, who must have been cursing his luck just seven days earlier, when he was knocked out of Buywise's saddle at an early stage of the Grand National. Wedge attracted unwanted attention on New Year's Day when he missed a fence he should have jumped at Exeter and was disqualified on what would otherwise have been an easy winner. Coincidentally, Bellamy got himself into hot water on the same day, failing a breath test for alcohol at Cheltenham, despite having cut short his New Year celebrations before midnight.

Curtis, who had Grade One winners at the Cheltenham Festival in 2013 and 2014, has evidently lost some support in recent years and her reduced team of horses has yielded just nine winners this season.

This result is a timely advert for the skills of the Welsh trainer, as well as a happy introduction to Scotland, which she had never previously visited. "I own a quarter of him," Curtis said. "I bought him quite cheaply out of John Ferguson's sale. He had broken down on both his front legs. I took a chance with him and thankfully he's won a big race. It's paid off."

The 29-year-old George Scott can dream of 2,000 Guineas glory in his fourth season with a trainer's licence, having saddled James Garfield to land Newbury's Greenham Stakes. He can also hope for the support of a considerably more experienced jockey, as Frankie Dettori pronounced himself "free at the moment" to take the ride in the Newmarket Classic next month, having pushed the colt to success over Expert Eye here.

"Frankie is keen to go to the Guineas and he's the man who knows most about this," Scott said. "So I don't see why not."

He added that James Garfield would "come on" for this run. "He's quite a stuffy horse. I think anyone who saw him in the paddock, he was fit today. We've got a couple of weeks to freshen him up and that should be enough time. But he's just so tenacious, he's got a wonderful attitude."

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