Former racing star Saphir Du Rheu enjoys spin around Cheltenham

Saphir Du Rheu enjoyed being back on the racecourse to school over Cheltenham’s cross-country fences recently.

The 10-year-old grey, known as Saffi, returned to the iconic turf to give Cheltenham Festival’s Glenfaclas cross-country chase hopeful Ballycasey and Patrick Mullins a lead over the unique obstacles.

The former Paul Nicholls-trained Grade One winner is thriving in his second career of hunting and team chasing with Charlotte Alexander, who is aiming to event him this season.

“It was brilliant,” Charlotte told H&H, adding that Saffi was very much “game on”.

“We didn’t really have anything small to jump to warm up over and with no crowds there is no atmosphere, so it really was schooling in cold blood.

“It really showed me how much he has come on — he was brilliant before I had him too — but he has grown in confidence through team chasing and hunting.”

Charlotte said Brian Hutton at Talland is to thank for how the horse is progressing in his retraining.

“He is the most beautifully balanced horse,” said Charlotte, adding that he is excelling in his showjumping.

“He is a bit tense still in the dressage, but that is me! He is so balanced and is building up more and more strength behind.

“Paul is brilliant at finding me the most amazing horses. Saffi loves his jumping and has a real ‘go, go, go!’ attitude, yet at the same time he is so sensible.”

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Charlotte said the horse has taken to hunting “very quickly”, enjoying Saturdays out with the Beaufort and plenty of jumping.

Following a holiday after retiring from the racetrack in April last year, Saffi — a former H&H cover star — was brought back into work over the summer to start his retraining. He excelled at team chasing, going from novice to leading the Boring Gorings round the Cotswold open “with his ears pricked” in one season, and is entered in his first affiliated event, the BE100 at Aston-le-Walls, on 2 March.

“I’m really excited about him as he is brilliant and so rideable,” Charlotte added.

“He is probably one of the best horses I have ever ridden.”

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