Heltenham takes Greatwood Gold Cup honours

By Sports Desk March 02, 2024

A swift return to action proved no barrier to success for Dan Skelton’s Heltenham in the BetVictor Greatwood Gold Cup at Newbury.

Turning out just seven days after being beaten half a length into second place at Kempton, the seven-year-old was a 17-2 chance to go one better in the hands of Ciaran Gethings.

Heltenham moved strongly onto the heels of the leaders early in the home straight before being allowed to stride to the front by his confident rider on the approach to the second-last obstacle.

Kandoo Kid, a 9-2 joint-favourite to provide Paul Nicholls with a 10th Greatwood Gold Cup win, briefly threatened to battle back on the run-in, but Skelton’s charge found more once challenged and passed the post with two lengths in hand to notch his second course and distance victory.

“It’s definitely the biggest pot I’ve won, it’s just brilliant to be riding horses like this for a brilliant outfit like the Skeltons,” Gethings told Sky Sports Racing.

“I got instructions from both Harry and Dan and it’s a nice payday. He loved the ground, he was very unlucky last week in Cheltenham and the track would have suited him a lot better today.

“When you’re surrounded by people like the Skeltons and Stuart Edmunds and Kim Bailey you’re going to find a good one at some point, it was nice”

Highland Hunter was a 10-1 winner of the curtain-raising Get Best Odds Guaranteed At BetVictor Veterans’ Handicap Chase for Fergal O’Brien and Paddy Brennan.

The 11-year-old grey, part-owned by the winning rider’s wife Lindsey Brennan, took the race by the scruff of the neck a long way out and was good value for the winning margin of just over four lengths.

Highland Hunter was formerly trained by Nicholls and looked after by the late Keagan Kirkby, who was fatally injured in a point-to-point fall in January.

Brennan said: “This was his (Kirkby’s) favourite horse and he’s going to lead his funeral on Tuesday, so my most important job today was to bring him back safe for that.

“I was going to put them to the sword today as I knew our horse was fit and I knew he was well. The ground is hard work, but it’s not heavy.”

Bucephalus (13-2) took the Download The BetVictor App Novices’ Handicap Hurdle for trainer Neil Mulholland and 7lb claimer Thomosina Eyston, while 2-1 shot Spring Note provided Nicky Henderson with a welcome winner in the Make Your Best Bet At BetVictor Handicap Hurdle under James Bowen.

Title-chasing jockey Harry Cobden enjoyed a double on the card, scoring aboard Anthony Charlton’s Knowwhentoholdem (4-1) in the BetVictor Non-Runner-No-Bet At Cheltenham Seniors’ Handicap Hurdle before steering Makin’yourmindup (11-8 favourite) to a clear-cut victory for his boss Paul Nicholls in the Bet Racing In Running At BetVictor Novices’ Limited Handicap Chase.

“He loves the ground and stays well and I would see him next year as a Welsh National horse – that will be his ultimate aim next year I think,” said Nicholls.

“What we do now I don’t know really, I could just stick him in the Scottish National or something like that in case it was soft.

“He’s improving and the jockey is improving too isn’t he! He’s riding extremely well, eight weeks today is the last day of the season so we’ve got to keep going until then and if he could be champion jockey it would be fantastic for him and the team.”

Following a last time out victory at Wetherby, Harry Derham’s 7-4 favourite Jasmine Bliss doubled her tally in the Stewart Wright Memorial Mares’ Open NH Flat Race, with Paul O’Brien the winning rider.

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