Retrained racing star Saphir Du Rheu heads for Barbury after storming BE novice debut

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  • Retrained Grade One-winning racehorse Saphir Du Rheu has made a phenomenal start to his eventing career, jumping clear across country at novice level on his third ever horse trials.

    “Saphy”, formerly trained by Paul Nicholls, retired from racing in March 2018 and enjoyed a holiday before starting his new hunting, team chasing and eventing career with Charlotte Alexander.

    The pair posted a dressage score of 38, clipping three rails in the showjumping, before storming clear around Nigel Taylor’s British Eventing course at Aston-le-Walls (8 May) in the fastest time of the day. They ended the day 13th in the 35-strong section.

    Charlotte told H&H she is “thrilled” with Saphy.

    “Getting any horse to novice I think is a particular achievement, but to get a horse that has only been out of training for less than a year to novice on his third run — only his third ever dressage test! — is very special,” she said, adding it is “all him”.

    “A special thank you should go to Brian Hutton at Talland who has been helping me with my dressage and showjumping, along with Owen Moore who is also trying to ‘knock off the rough edges’ with my riding.

    “There is still a long way to go and it’s not easy when you have an elderly team chase rider, rather set in her ways!”

    Charlotte, who also retrained Denman, added she will step Saphy back down to BE100 level for his next run, at Ascott-under-Wychwood on 1 June.

    He will then move back up to novice at West Wilts the following weekend and is being aimed for Barbury in July.

    “He is much better at novice level in all phases as the dressage gives him more to think about; the showjumping just needs more practice, mainly from me,” she said.

    “The cross-country, although he is green at the combinations — a little wobbly between the skinny combinations — he has plenty of scope and did find it easy.”

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    The retrained racehorse gave Ballycasey and Patrick Mullins a lead over Cheltenham’s cross-country fences

    The French-bred gelding, previously a Highflyer Bloodstock purchase, was gifted to Charlotte on his retirement by the Stewart family who owned him during his racing years.

    In the year since he has been off the track, the popular grey has led The Boring Gorings around open team chase courses, hunted with the Beaufort, and helped Ballycasey — who retired from racing this week — school over Cheltenham’s cross-country fences.

    He also returned to the Cheltenham Festival in March to take part in the Retraining of Racehorses parade and escort Champion Hurdle victor Espoir D’Allen to the winners’ enclosure.

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