Alan enjoys “one of those special days” at Newbury
Alan had only one complaint about his successful three-horse raid at Newbury on Saturday – he could not celebrate two winners and an excellent third in his customary fashion when he got back to Barbury as he is only 10 days through a dry February!
There is no doubt that this was as good a day as Alan has experienced this winter. The brave Emitom made it three winners and a second from four visits to his local course in the three-mile handicap hurdle, but if that was a tasty hors d’oeuvres, then how special was Edwardstone, the undisputed main course.
Edwardstone bounced back to his brilliant best in the Grade 2 Game Spirit Chase, annihilating his three opponents with a fearless, aggressive display of powerful front-running tactics, a spectacular success that Alan, having totally turned around the riding instructions after the horse’s Kempton Christmas disappointment, admitted gave him “an awful lot of satisfaction.”
Starting 11-10 favourite, Edwardstone soon left the chasing trio hung out to dry like a line of washing, and even though market-rival Boothill had closed down the lead marginally when he crashed out at the second last, he still had a mountain to climb and, though Tom Cannon was easing up at the line, Edwardstone still beat the only other finisher, Funambule Sivola, by 40 lengths.
It was Edwardstone’s first victory since that spectacular Tingle Creek Chase success at Sandown 14 months ago, and Alan was absolutely delighted that the change in tactics had worked a treat.
He said:”We made our minds up at Kempton to try something different. Edwardstone did not seem to enjoy being repeatedly tugged back over that two and a half miles, and it probably disappointed him being dropped in.
“We decided to pop out in front from the start today, and he was racing well within himself. Tom gave him a bit of a breather at the cross fence, and then away he went again.”
Whether Alan adopts the same catch-me-if-you-can tactics in the Queen Mother Champion Chase at Cheltenham remains to be seen, but he stressed that he just wanted to enjoy today and not even think about the Festival.
“Provided he comes out of this race ok, then the two-miler would be Edwardstone’s Cheltenham target – he definitely won’t go for the Ryanair,” confirmed Alan.
He added: “Obviously I have huge respect for Jonbon, who has already beaten us twice, and El Fabiolo, who looked very good at Leopardstown last week. However, I think it’s fair to say that this win has put Edwardstone right back in the mix.”
While polishing up his suntan in the Maldives last month, Alan had plenty of time to mull over the in-and-out form of the Barbury horses this winter, and, taking the view that a change is as good as a rest, on his return home he rewrote the daily work programme.
Alan added:”We usually take the horses up the all-weather twice every work morning, but on holiday I was getting baffled as to why we were having so many seconds and that a lot of them were not finishing their races from the back of the last.
“It’s a system that I have used on the gallops for many years, and have been successful, but you can get away with it in the autumn and spring when the ground is good, but it is not that easy when it is as soft as it has been all this winter.
“So instead of twice, we recently went back to the old routine. We started drilling the horses the last few weeks and sending them up the hill three times every morning, something we did with the likes of Voy Por Ustedes and My Way de Solzen. It seems to have made a big difference as they are now a lot fitter and the results are speaking for themselves.”
Cannon, smiling from ear to ear, said:”I got a terrific buzz out of that. We have come back in trip with Edwardstone and it has worked. Ironically, it has taken five years to get him to settle but we knew we had to change things around after Kempton, and he felt like a proper machine out there.
“He had the race won at half-way and had plenty under the bonnet. On his day he is as quick a horse as I’ve ridden, and I’ve always been his biggest supporter. I am still up there on Cloud Nine.”