Gold Cup contender delights crowds with point-to-point parade

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  • Cheltenham Gold Cup contender Santini delighted crowds by parading with hounds at the Beaufort point-to-point on Saturday (5 March).

    The 10-year–old Milan son, owned and bred by Richard and Lizzie Kelvin-Hughes, paraded with the Beaufort hounds at Didmarton, with trainer Polly Gundry in the saddle, as part of his final preparations for the Cheltenham Festival.

    “He really lit up, enjoyed it and was showing himself off,” Polly told H&H. “I’m very pleased with him. He’s fresh and happy, and he’s even fresher today [Monday] and yesterday, because he did that on Saturday.

    “He loves going to parties and he loves a trip out.”

    The pair rode with the hounds across the course – where Santini won his point-to-point maiden for Polly’s husband, Ed Walker, at this fixture five years ago – and into the paddock.

    Polly added that she and Santini’s connections were keen to highlight the close links between pointing, hunting and National Hunt racing, the importance of those connections, and how much those involved in all three love and care about animals.

    “Hopefully we were making that point to the crowd,” she said. “There were a lot of people there that don’t ride horses. But going to a point-to-point they can see what a nice atmosphere it is, and there’s a whole bunch of country people there with horses and dogs and hounds, and that they’re nice people – normal people – and that they are animal lovers.”

    Santini did his pre-training with Polly, going into training with Nicky Henderson after winning his maiden point-to-point.

    He finished second in the 2020 Cheltenham Gold Cup, but after a lacklustre year in 2021, connections decided to give him a change of scenery and he returned to Polly’s care.

    Santini has been enjoying trips out hunting, team chasing and to fun rides with Polly. He has been out with the Cotley Harriers since his last race, the Cotswold Cup at Cheltenham on 22 January, in which he finished second under jockey Nick Scholfield.

    Polly was keen for him to see hounds again before the Festival and she said the Beaufort was “really kind” in enabling it to be possible at the point-to-point, which drew a large crowd.

    ‘He has a huge following – and deserves it’

    Speaking to the Jockey Club this week, Nick said he believes Santini can run a “big race” next Friday (18 March) and could go one better than his runner-up performance in 2020.

    “I sat on him last week and jumped a few fences on him. He seems in great form. Polly is doing lots of different things with him to keep him sweet,” he said.

    “I was pleased with his run in the Cotswold Chase behind Chantry House and hopefully he has come on from that. I was taken back by the reception he got last time. When you normally get beat you are like, ‘damn it’, but he has got a huge following and he deserves it.

    “He won’t worry what the ground is and if we can get him back to the kind of form when he was second to Al Boum Photo then he will run his race.

    “We will go there and give it our best shot and what will be, will be. We will just worry about me and him and if we can get everything right on the day then we will worry about everything else afterwards.

    “If we can get him there in good form, hopefully he can run a big race.”

    Nick added that he is “very grateful to Polly and the owners” for giving him the ride.

    “Hopefully we can do the best for them,” he said. “He is well-bred but he is also a gorgeous looking horse and if you went to the sales he would catch anyone’s eye.

    “He is the perfect looking racehorse and he looks like a Gold Cup horse. He has given his owners an enormous amount of pleasure. If you are an owner/breeder you always dream of having a Gold Cup horse and he has given his connections that.”

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