Gainford stakes claim for Hewick Gold Cup ride

By Sports Desk March 03, 2024

Jordan Gainford is hoping to get the leg-up on Hewick in the Boodles Cheltenham Gold Cup after securing his first win since returning from a lengthy injury absence at Leopardstown.

The rider struck up a good partnership with Shark Hanlon’s charge in the spring of 2022, partnering him to win the bet365 Gold Cup at Sandown before adding a Galway Plate success in the July and a famous victory in the American Grand National the following October.

However, Gainford has not ridden Hewick since the pair came to grief at the penultimate fence in last year’s Gold Cup, with the rider spending plenty of time on the sidelines due to concussion and injury.

Gainford fractured two vertebrae in a fall in December, meaning he missed Hewick’s King George VI Chase success, with Gavin Sheehan in the plate as the nine-year-old came from last to first in Kempton’s Christmas showpiece.

However, having proved his fitness by partnering 16-1 shot Miss Gherkin to victory in the Anton O’Toole Handicap Hurdle, Gainford is eager to renew his relationship with Hewick in the Cheltenham highlight on Friday week.

He said: “I sat on him last week and he feels great. I’m back in tomorrow for another sit on him. He’s bouncing at home and fingers crossed I get back on him.

“Hopefully he keeps thriving between now and Cheltenham and the ground is good.”

Gainford had had just a handful of rides since his return at the end of last month and he is eager to push on with his first winner now secured.

He said: “It’s great to be back, first of all. It’s busy in Gordon’s (Elliott) and I’m in Shark’s tomorrow and it’s great to be on the scoresheet.

“I’ve many people to thank. Gavin Egan in RACE and Graham Harrison, the fitness coach, and also Jennifer (Pugh) and Adrian (McGoldrick). A massive thanks to them all.

“Hopefully I’m getting better every day and we can drive on.”

Of Miss Gherkin, he added: “Peter (Croke, trainer) was confident that she would run well. She’d a promising run on her first run over hurdles in Tramore and things didn’t go right on her last two runs. She was a little bit keen here at Christmas.

“They flew early today and I wanted to take her back. Every time she passed a horse from the second last home, she put down her head and tried. She showed a nice attitude.”

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    The 10-year-old won the race for owners The Ramblers last season, prevailing by two and a quarter lengths to give the Kinross trainer her second success after One For Arthur in 2017.

    This season Corach Rambler aimed to emulate great horses such as Red Rum and Tiger Roll in returning to Aintree to retain his title, but first he was a contender at the very top level in the Cheltenham Gold Cup.

    There he ran an admirable race when finishing third behind Galopin Des Champs, a run that made his handicap allocation for the Grand National look rather generous.

    As such he was well-backed on return to Liverpool and started at 15-2 under Derek Fox having been the favourite for much of the ante-post phase.

    Sadly his race ended only moments after it began, with Corach Rambler stumbling on landing after the first fence and unseating Fox.

    He then ran loose to the next fence and fell when meeting the ground on the other side, though connections were spared the ordeal of seeing him run riderless for the rest of the race as was he corralled ahead of the third fence and caught.

    Russell reported him to be unscathed following the experience and will now call it a day for the season and allow him to enjoy a summer break.

    “He’s had a good sleep in his stable and is perfect,” she said.

    “We’re very pleased and relieved to have him home in one piece and he’ll now go on a nice holiday and then we’ll decide what happens next.

    “He just seemed to stumble and it’s one of the those things, but luck was on our side still as he’s absolutely fine.

    “He went into one of the corrals, it’s very good how they work, he was caught quite quickly and that was a relief.”

  • Henderson just delighted to see old friends grab National glory Henderson just delighted to see old friends grab National glory

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    The future National hero won both a Cheltenham bumper and a Newbury novice hurdle while in the care of Henderson, who admits he was the one runner he was keeping a close eye on during Saturday’s main event.

    “I’ve let one slip through the net,” quipped Henderson. “It’s ironic, you spend 45 years trying to win the Grand National and you finally get your mitts on one and we let it get away.

    “He was here and spent his first two seasons here – he was a lovely horse – and he was the one horse I wanted to win yesterday.

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    “Sadly, he had to move on (from ourselves) and Michael Grech was lovely, we had some tremendous days together and it was great fun. The horses then had to go over to Ireland and sadly Michael died and it’s very sad because he was a lovely man.

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