Unibet International Hurdle
|Grade 2, Cheltenham 15:05
2m 179y, Class 1
|Saturday 15th December 2018|
1 Brain Power 7/1
2 Silver Streak 9/2
3 Western Ryder 4/1F
8 ran Distances: 1¾l, 2¼l, 1½l
Time: 4m 5.10s (slow by 11.10s)
Brain Power (Nico de Boinville), runner-up in the G1 Racing Post Arkle Novices’ Chase in March, capitalised on a return to the smaller obstacles to provide trainer Nicky Henderson with an unprecedented fifth victory in the Unibet International Hurdle.
The Michael Buckley-owned seven-year-old, rated 158 over hurdles following several smart efforts during the 2016/2017 campaign, travelled strongly into race turning in and readily opened up daylight over the rest of the field after taking up the running approaching the final flight.
He idled up the hill but had enough in reserve to beat Silver Streak (Evan Williams/Barry Geraghty) by a length and three-quarters, with a further two and a quarter lengths back to third home Western Ryder (Warren Greatrex/Richard Johnson).
Lambourn-based Nicky Henderson, the current champion Jump trainer, said: “I think Brain Power enjoyed the fact that we brought him back over hurdles, for which I take absolutely no credit at all.
“We have been trying to make him into a chaser and he was second in an Arkle. We did a back operation in the summer because his technique wasn’t quite right and he had an issue with a kissing spine.
“We have given him a couple of runs and he hadn’t been convincing, but I thought he was better. Michael (Buckley) said that he wanted to go back over hurdles – he was dead set on coming here and he was dead right.
“Michael and I have been together for a long time – we have been great mates and we have had some great horses – so I am chuffed to bits for him. It was his call and I said this morning that, whatever happens, it was a good call because it was a winnable race.
“I think he will staying over hurdles now and he stays two and a half miles, which does open things up.”
Nico de Boinville commented: “We went quick over the first couple and then steadied it up going down the hill, which seemed to suit Brain Power.
“He came hard on the bridle and I almost got there too soon turning in, but he was travelling so well that I thought that I would let him enjoy himself.
“He gave me a great feel today and I think that we will keep him over hurdles now. We have found his groove again and it was good to get his confidence back after he slightly lost his way over fences. All credit to Michael Buckley and the guv’nor for doing it.”
Michael Buckley said: “It was like watching Brain Power two years ago, when he won at Ascot, and I think he is just not as happy over fences. He looked like a happy horse.
“I think he has a better chance in the Champion Hurdle than any of the chases at The Festival. I am thrilled to bits – this horse is one of Nicky’s three best work horses at home, up there with Buveur D’Air and Altior.
“It’s hard work for a sentimental, emotional enthusiast like me, going to the races constantly and being disappointed. It has been a really happy day.”
The New One (Nigel Twiston-Davies/Sam Twiston-Davies), winner of the Unibet International Hurdle in 2013, 2014 and 2016, made the running until losing his place at the top of the hill and was pulled up before the final flight. He was immediately retired by connections.
Nigel Twiston-Davies said: “The New One was superb and I have never seen him enjoy himself so much early on, but he just hasn’t got the legs at the anymore.
“It’s a very sad day and that will be his last race, but look how happy he looked.”
Henderson, who recently retired last year’s Unibet International Hurdle winner My Tent Or Yours, also paid tribute to The New One. He said: “It was lovely to see The New One bow out safe and sound.
“He and My Tent Or Yours had been around for a long time and they had some great battles together.
“They were great days and they epitomised the best of National Hunt racing – they have been running in Champion Hurdles for years and have been great servants. I hope they can enjoy their retirements.”
Unibet International Hurdle (Grade 2)
£140,000 added, 4yo plus, 2m 179y, Class 1
Going: Good to Soft
|Pos||Dist||Horse SP||Jockey Weight||Trainer||Age|
|1st||Brain Power (IRE) 7/1||Nico de Boinville
|N J Henderson||7|
|2nd||1¾||Silver Streak (IRE) 9/2||B J Geraghty
|3rd||2¼||Western Ryder (IRE) 4/1f||R Johnson
|4th||1½||We Have A Dream (FR) 13/2||D A Jacob
|N J Henderson||4|
|5th||1&afrac14||Vision Des Flos (FR) 9/2||R M Power
|C L Tizzard||5|
|6th||1¾||Old Guard 11/1||Bryony Frost
|P F Nicholls||7|
|7th||14||Summerville Boy (IRE) 9/2||N D Fehily
|T R George||6|
|PU||The New One (IRE) 14/1||Sam Twiston-Davies
|N A Twiston-Davies||10|