Ladbrokes Long Distance Hurdle
|Grade 2, Newbury 15:00
£50,000 added, 4yo plus,
3m 52y, Class 1
|Friday 1st December 2017|
1 Beer Goggles 40/1
2 Unowhatimeanharry 7/4
3 Taquin Du Seuil 33/1
6 ran Distances: 2¼l, 3¾l, 3l
Time: 6m 2.90s (slow by 17.90s)
Major shock as Beer Goggles strikes at 40-1
There was a huge surprise in the Long Distance Hurdle as 40-1 outsider Beer Goggles made all under champion jockey Richard Johnson.
The Grade Two contest was billed as a match between last year's winner Unowhatimeanharry and the brilliant Thistlecrack, who was making his first competitive appearance since being beaten by the ill-fated Many Clouds at Cheltenham in January.
Richard Woollacott's Beer Goggles, a widely unconsidered 40-1 chance, was sent straight to the front by Richard Johnson, with a strong-travelling Thistlecrack his nearest pursuer.
The race began in earnest from the home turn and it was soon clear the Colin Tizzard-trained 11-10 favourite Thistlecrack was emptying quickly, eventually weakening to finish well beaten in the hands of Tom Scudamore.
Unowhatimeanharry knuckled down after the final flight in an attempt to claw back the leader, but Beer Goggles was not for catching and came home two and a quarter lengths clear.
Johnson said: "We jokingly said beforehand 50-1 was being a bit rude about him.
"He's been in great form and he's a real improver. He ran a really good race last time under top weight at Aintree (finished third).
"I think realistically, with Unowhatimeanharry and Thistlecrack in the race, you always felt it was going to be hard to beat them, but he jumped and travelled. I was enjoying myself and so was he. He stayed and jumped really well."
A clearly emotional Woollacott said: "It's fantastic. I'm nearly crying. I've got fantastic support, with everyone at home working so hard. We're so lucky now we've got a couple of owners with some slightly better horses.
"This is horse is wonderful. He's not big, but he's absolutely fantastic."
The Devon-based trainer went on: "There are so many ups and downs with racing and with horses. Everyone is trying to achieve the same thing - having good winners in good races - and they don't come around all the time.
"When we bought him he'd won off 104 and I said 'we'll have fun'. We didn't really expect him to keep going the way he has, but he's tough and sound, a lovely horse."
Scudamore was not too disappointed by Thistlecrack's performance.
He said: "He's just got tired going to the second-last. Until that point I was very happy with him.
"He's got all the same enthusiasm and jumped superbly. He didn't feel any different to the horse I rode 10 months ago.
"He's had an injury in the meantime and he was taking on horses that were all race-fit. That was the difference between him and the rest of them.
"He was fresh and well and happy to be back on the track, but from the second-last he's got tired on me.
"I'd like to think he'll improve an awful lot from that. They've done the right thing running him here today and we'll see what the next few days and weeks bring."
Tizzard confirmed Thistlecrack would still be trained to defend his crown in the King George VI Chase at Kempton.
He said: "Until two out it looked like he could possibly win it. Before the race, looking at the other ones that had raced four or five times, he looked like he was burly to me. I think he has run like that.
"I think he ran a little bit fresh. I think we were absolutely right coming here before the King George. He's a big, heavy horse and he got tired in the last two furlongs.
"As long as he comes out sound we shall be going there (King George). I am just glad we didn't go to the King George without a run.
"This is a very good race. I saw them beforehand and they looked race-fit and I thought he needed it."
Unowhatimeanharry is likely to head for the Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot on December 23.
Trainer Harry Fry said: "He has run his race. I thought all the way up the straight he was going to grind it out, but he was not good enough on the day and fair play to the winner.
"I don't see why we won't go to Ascot next. He was giving 6lb to the winner and I don't see why we won't roll on to Ascot."
Ladbrokes Long Distance Hurdle
£50,000 added, 4yo plus, 3m 52y, Class 1
Going: Soft, Good to Soft in places
|Pos||D||Horse SP||Jockey Weight||Trainer||Age|
|1st||Beer Goggles (IRE) 40/1||R Johnson
|2nd||2¼||Unowhatimeanharry 7/4||B J Geraghty
|3rd||3¾||Taquin Du Seuil (FR) 33/1||Aidan Coleman
|4th||3||Colin's Sister 8/1||P J Brennan
|5th||4||Thistlecrack 11/10f||T Scudamore
|C L Tizzard||9|
|6th||½||Wholestone (IRE) 10/1||D A Jacob
|N A Twiston-Davies||6|