Meet Cheltenham-bound trainer Robert Stephens [H&H VIP]

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  • Robert Stephens is a trainer who is going places and one of those places is Cheltenham after Beltor turned in a hugely impressive performance on his second start over obstacles. He won the Betbright Adonis Hurdle — a race with a tremendous record at producing subsequent Festival winners — at Kempton on Saturday.

    Keen early on, he cruised through the race after he finally settled. When Tom O’Brien let his head go turning in, the gelding quickened impressively to beat All Yours by five lengths with Bivouac a further nine back in third.

    Age: 33

    Background: he spent four years as a conditional jockey with Philip Hobbs, two years as pupil assistant to Sir Mark Prescott and four as assistant to William Haggas.

    What did he learn at these three eminent ‘academies’? It gave him the confidence to train on his own and all three were good at placing their horses in the right races, something he hopes he can replicate. It looks as though he is doing all right so far.

    Base: he trains his string of 20 horses on the 500-acre family farm near Penhow in Monmouthshire, not too far from Chepstow.

    Cheltenham form: won a bumper there on New Year’s Day 2014, his first season, with Modus, a four-year-old son of Motivator. Modus went back for the Festival bumper and was only beaten 10 lengths in eighth — a good effort for a four-year-old. Having had four runs in bumpers last year (five is the maximum) Modus will return there for the same race in a fortnight first time out — ballsy.

    Beltor: by the same sire, Authorized, as last year’s Triumph winner Tiger Roll, Beltor — like Stephens — was also trained by Sir Mark Prescott.

    The best hurdler to pass through this Newmarket trainer’s hands was Inglis Drever, the three-time World Hurdle winner. He is owned by Alison Mossop, a director of a helicopter business, who is based in the Forest of Dean.

    On Beltor’s Kempton performance: “His work has been very, very good, which is why we came here rather than go for another novice,” he said.

    “It’s realistic to dream about Cheltenham and a better gallop there will help him settle.

    The only thing I don’t know is whether he can handle hills because he’s only run on flat tracks for me. We’ve got to consider the Triumph and, if I’m not happy with him, we can go to Aintree.”

    Ref: H&H 26 February, 2015