At Fishers Cross a Classy Winner of Sefton Hurdle
1 At Fishers Cross 11/8 Fav
The champion jockey A P McCoy was full of praise for John Smith’s Sefton Novices’ Hurdle winner At Fishers Cross, who has now carried him to consecutive victories at the Cheltenham Festival and at Aintree.
He said of the six-year-old son of Oscar: “At Fishers Cross has been winning all winter in heavy ground and last year, for some reason, he couldn’t physically jump. He was obviously very hard to get right but in fairness to Rebecca [Curtis, trainer], she has done unbelievably well to turn him around.
“I thought he wanted cut in the ground and we could have put him away after Cheltenham but Rebecca was adamant he would be okay on better ground. It probably wasn’t as good a race as tghe Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle but he felt every bit as good. He is getting the hang of winning and is improving.
“He is a good horse and they’re easy to ride. I said to the boss going out that he is the best horse in the race, he stays, and isn’t slow. I wanted to sit third or fourth and I was bit worried turning out of the back because they slowed it up and I didn’t want to get done for toe. But over the last two [hurdles] and past the winning post, he was going. He is a proper little horse.
“It’s great for JP and Maureen [McManus] because winning at these meetings is what it’s all about. And it’s great for Rebecca because she has done a fantastic job.”
At Fishers Cross rewarded Rebecca Curtis’s care and attention by knocking her to the ground in the winner’s circle. The strapping six-year-old spooked sideways at the applause that greeted him and in a showdown between him and his diminutive trainer, there was only one winner. Curtis was completely unscathed.
The eight-length success of At Fishers Cross was no real surprise – he started 11/8 favourite – but Curtis was delighted with the performance on faster ground than the horse had experienced in any of his six victories (from as many runs) this season, most recently on soft at the Cheltenham Festival.
“”It was really nice to see him do it on the better ground and on a different sort of track,” she said. “There had been a slight question, but he seemed to enjoy the ground and jumped really well off it.”
At Fishers Cross, a second winner on the day for owner J P McManus and rider Tony McCoy after My Tent Or Yours in the opener, will not run again this term.
“He’s done nothing but improve all season and I should think with a summer’s grass he’ll be stronger and hopefully better,” said Curtis.
At Fishers Cross will remain over hurdles next season, rather than tackle fences. “I don’t see the need to go chasing yet,” added Curtis. “He’ll go for all the top staying hurdles, with the World Hurdle the obvious main target.” The gelding was cut from 6/1 to 4/1 yesterday for the Cheltenham crown by Coral.
John Smith's Sefton Novices' Hurdle
CHASING NEXT FOR JUST A PAR AND BUACHAILL ALAINN
Marching triumphantly onwards, At Fishers Cross extended his unbeaten sequence in today’s John Smith’s Sefton Novices’ Hurdle, but the second and third have new targets ahead.
The Paul Nicholls-trained Just A Par is a chaser-in-waiting, boasting size and substance, while tough Buachaill Alainn, representing in-form trainer Peter Bowen, is also heading over fences in the near future.
Nicholls said: “We’ll be going novice chasing with him in the autumn and he’ll be better for a summer and some sun on his back. He’s a really exciting horse for the future and we’re really pleased with him.
“He jumps and gallops and stays – he’s just a little bit green. We would have liked to have latched onto A P [McCoy, who rode the winner] and had a crack at him slightly earlier but his inexperience showed and he got a little bit behind before staying on. We weren’t coming here expecting anything, we just wanted a nice run and to get more experience.
“He’s improved so much since his last run so we’ll be patient, give him a break and then look at a novices’ chase somewhere like Newbury in the autumn.”
Bowen said he plans running Buachaill Alainn over fences, and added: “He’s so tough, but he had been busy enough before running two poor races, so we gave him a break and he’s better for it. He also appreciated this quicker ground.”
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