‘He failed a stalls test’: Popular hurdler switches codes to win by 15 lengths at Goodwood

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  • Lil Rockerfeller is best known as a successful three-mile hurdler, who has racked up over £400,000 in prize money for his owners.

    But he put on a remarkable display of versatility when winning the 2m5f Matchbook Betting Podcast Goodwood Handicap at the Qatar Goodwood Festival yesterday (1 August).

    The top-class staying hurdler, who won Ascot’s Grade Two Coral Hurdle in November, is rated 153 over hurdles and just 82 on the Flat. This was his first run on the Flat since May 2015.

    The seven-year-old gelding, trained by Neil King, dominated the 14-runner field at “Glorious Goodwood” to win comfortably by 15 lengths to runner-up Altaayil, pocketing the £31,125 first prize for connections.

    The Wiltshire-based trainer is best known for sending out National Hunt runners and was enjoying his first Goodwood winner.

    “I’m so thrilled with him,” said Neil. “His joint-owner Andy Smith had had his heart set on winning this race for the past year, but I was worried about the ground at this time of year — he’s missed two engagements because of quick ground already this season. He’s been on the go a long time since finishing second at Sandown [over hurdles in late April], and I’m delighted we have pulled it off.

    “He is set to go novice chasing in the autumn, but this is one of the few Flat races we can run him in because he failed a stalls test, and this race is started with a flag.”

    Mr Smith added: “A year ago, I said to the other lads in the partnership ‘Let’s go for this race at Goodwood’, they all said ‘We don’t want to run him on the Flat’ and I told them to trust me.

    “Trevor Whelan [who rides Lil Rockerfeller over jumps] made this horse, but was not going to be able to do the weights, so I rang jockey agent Shelley Dwyer two weeks ago and booked Silvestre De Sousa.

    “Then the top weight came out, the weights went up 7lb and I was gutted for Trevor, but what could I do? I had booked the champion jockey and couldn’t turn him down.”

    Continues below…

    The David Simcock-trained Lightning Spear claimed yesterday’s feature race, the Group One Qatar Sussex Stakes, running on strongly for his jockey Oisin Murphy.

    “But the biggest shock of the day came in the 4.10pm Victoria Racing Club Maiden Fillies’ Stakes, when the aptly named Feel Glorious, trained by George Baker, won at a huge price of 125/1.

    For all the latest news analysis, competition reports, interviews, features and much more, don’t miss Horse & Hound magazine, on sale every Thursday.

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