Gibbs magics up a Foxhunter winner
Premier Magic is only the third amateur-trained horse to win the Cheltenham Foxhunter in the past 10 years. For want of a Festival winner, professional trainers have shown a keen interest in the race to the detriment of the regular followers of the amateur genre of the sport. The last amateur- trained was Porlock Bay in 2021, but both Will Biddick and this year's winner Bradley Gibbs are full-time horsemen.
Willie Mullins has fielded Billaway in each of the past 3 runnings, with a win and second to his name, whilst Paul Nicholls ran Pacha du Polder to win back-to-back races in 2017 and 2018. We can hardly complain at our champion trainer endorsing the Point-to-Point scene, not least as he graces our tracks with runners ridden by youngest daughter Olive more and more frequently nowadays.
But it was refreshing to see a horse solely qualified for the race through the Point-to-Point field winning for the first time in a few years. Previously, the race had either been pinched by the Irish, or by horses that have little place in such lowly company. Even so, there were two horses rated 155 in this year's race, meaning the median rating is around 135.
Premier Magic went off at an extraordinary 66/1, a price totally unjustified by his record. Other than pulling up after being hampered last year in the same race, he has finished first in each of his last 6 runs. He graced a 14 runner field in a hot open race at Chaddesley's Harkaway meeting to open his account this winter, and repeated the dose at Garthorpe six weeks later.
I'd be surprised to see him line up at Liverpool, but Stratford's Pertemps Network Foxhunter in early June might be on the cards.
The one chagrin of this year's finish was that Gibbs was not accompanied by his partner, daughter of owner Julian Sherriff, confined at home with no babysitter. Let us hope Gibbs is not the superstitious type, or she'll be spending a lot more time on the sofa.