Fundamentalist was the fairytale story of this year’s Cheltenham Festival. If his introduction to steeplechasing at Perth is any yardstick he should be back at Preston Park again next March, flying the flag for his lucky owners Fizz Griffin and Killy Pennell.
“Think how exciting he will be if he jumps fences,” was trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies’s instant remark after winning the Royal & SunAlliance Hurdle. Fundamentalist, winner of three point-to-points, lived up to expectations with a faultless round at Perth. The dream that started in a pub lives on.
The Griffins and Pennells bought Fundamentalist over a drink in Twiston-Davies’s pub, the Hollow Bottom at Guiting Power. Griffin’s husband, James says with a laugh, “It had nothing to do with the vodka and tonic!” There should be plenty more opportunities to raise a glass to their much-coveted acquisition.
Lord Sam is among the season’s upper class chasers eyeing an autumn campaign in preparation for a crack at the King George VI Chase on Boxing Day. He is trained on the edge of Exmoor by Victor Dartnall, who has produced him to win nine from 10 over hurdles and fences. His only defeat came at the hands of subsequent Champion Hurdler Hardy Eustace in the Royal & SunAlliance Hurdle.
He wears knee boots all the time at home because he has a tendency to lose concentration, catch his toe and fall over on the roads. Dartnall reports: “He is progressing nicely and the first big target is the King George.”
Lord Sam has done his backers some favours in the past and it has not gone unnoticed that in early King George skirmishes his odds of 20-1 were snapped up. Even so, he remains an attractive proposition at 12-1.
Inglis Drever, dubbed the “Boeing 747” by his colourful trainer, Howard Johnson, was given a higher rating last season, by the sages of the authentic Timeform organisation, than any other novice hurdler.
He is due to make his reappearance in the Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle on 27 November, which could be his date with destiny.
“We want to find out if he’s a top-class two-miler or if we should go further with him, and his performance in the Fighting Fifth should tell us,” says Johnson.
If Inglis Drever comes up trumps over Gosford Park’s two miles he could develop into a live candidate for the Champion Hurdle. The alternative would be the Stayers’ Hurdle at the Festival. Either way, Inglis Drever cannot be dismissed.
Kingscliff started in the pointing field and has been in the ascendancy ever since. Whether he can rise to the dizzy heights of beating Best Mate remains to be seen. Perish the thought for this sentimentalist. Though, realistically, he could be the one to prevent Best Mate from usurping the mighty Arkle with a fourth Gold Cup.
Kingscliff is a huge horse and it was deemed necessary for him to be sent to Tim and Lydia Collins’s yard for some dressage to get him balanced and his muscles working well. He needed all his poise and balance when his left rein snapped at the third on his reappearance at Ascot last year. He jumped the 17 remaining fences with pinpoint accuracy with the rein flapping against his cheek — a heroic performance under supreme horsemanship from Andrew Thornton.
Owned by the eccentric retired electrical engineer Arnold Sendell, who backed him at 100-1 ante post when he won the 2003 Foxhunters’ at Cheltenham, Kingscliff was suffering from muscular problems though to have been sustained originally at Ascot when he was beaten in the Peter Marsh Chase at Haydock. Trainer Robert Alner is bringing him along patiently with one goal — the Gold Cup.