It is hard to believe that it is just over four weeks since Imperial Aura won the Northern Trust Company Novices’ Handicap Chase on the Tuesday of the Festival.
In normal circumstances, I would be reliving and savouring a Festival winner like no other. My marketing tactics would be in overdrive, pushing the good news out there in the hope it would bring new owners – so I could go to the sales and restock for the winter. Sadly, since that great Festival week, we have all been in total lockdown owing to the coronavirus pandemic, with all racing and sales now off.
Thinking about Cheltenham, I can only smile with satisfaction that a plan hatched came to fruition. Imperial Aura is a syndicate horse, who was first bought by Kevin Ross for Ian Robinson of Imperial Racing at the Goffs Land Rover Sale in June 2016, for €26,000 (£22,730).
Ian owns many horses and, under his Imperial Racing banner, he also sells shares in his horses. To cut a long story short, my assistant, Mat Nicholls, is a friend of Ian’s and has been badgering him to send us a horse – finally Ian gave in and sent us Imperial Aura.
The gelding was always going to be a bit of a star, but when he made his debut at Kempton Park in a bumper, we were surprised that he was beaten into third. He did then go on to win a bumper shortly after at Ludlow.
His second season saw him run twice over hurdles (winning both) but he was plagued with sore shins, so we decided to rest him and be patient.
The following season, he ran well in a competitive hurdle at Chepstow and then I wanted to go over fences with him. The plan was to have three runs and then win at the Cheltenham Festival – easy, right? What were the chances that plan would come to fruition?
“We should continue to dream”
Imperial Aura won at 25/1 in a three-horse race at Fakenham on his chasing debut, which was hairy stuff to watch. We decided to go to Cheltenham to see how he coped with the course. He was second to Pym over three miles, which was probably too far for him. Then it was back to Cheltenham on Trials Day and once again we finished second.
He proved himself good enough to run at the Festival. The big day arrived and his band of owners had grown out of all proportions. There are 10 people involved in Imperial Aura, but on that Tuesday, standing in the paddock waiting for jockey David Bass, it felt like there were at least 40.
They had all had a flutter on him, so when three out in the race it looked like he was “home and hosed” (bar a fall), they all started to go mad. Then the Gordon Elliott-trained Galvin appeared out of the pack – they were the only two horses in the race jumping the last, but Imperial Aura sprinted to the line to win.
It might not have been the Gold Cup, but who cares? Imperial Racing and their followers took no prisoners when it came to celebrating their big win, taking over the winner’s enclosure. But that is what racing is all about – teams of happy faces from all walks of life, enjoying something special that most owners can only dream about.
During these tough times, we should hold our heads high and continue to dream. Owners fantasise about winning at the Cheltenham Festival and when that comes true, it should be bottled and sold to all. Trust me, there is nothing more exciting than being there and achieving it.
Unfortunately, Lauren Jack, who looks after and adores Imperial Aura, has been furloughed until all of this is over. Jockey David Bass is self-employed and therefore out of work, so it is dark days for all.
Keep safe and well – let’s pray for some form of normality returning one day soon and I am dedicating this column to the NHS, for all they are doing to help us.
Ref Horse & Hound; 16 April 2020