The inaugural running of the £25,000 Sussex Champion Hurdle took place at the Plumpton Easter Festival on Easter Sunday and a good crowd turned out to witness an excellent performance from the Evan Williams-trained Court Minstrel as he strode to a decisive victory.
The young novice was held up at the rear of the field until progressing smoothly from the third last hurdle – before going to the front between the final two flights and then staying on well to win in good style.
His pilot, Paul Moloney, gave Court Minstrel a confident ride and expressed his delight at his partner’s performance.
“We wanted to go to for the County Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival but he missed the cut by one. We were quite confident today and he’s produced the goods. I don’t know where he’ll go next, that might be it for this season. I’ll leave that to the boss”.
There was very nearly a Sussex winner of the big race, with the Nick Gifford-trained Specialagent Alfie running a superb race to finish second at 20/1 and justifying my recommendation last week for an each way interest on this likeable individual.
He may take a hike in the ratings now but his shrewd trainer should find a handicap hurdle for him before the end of the season. When he goes novice chasing next term we are likely to see further improvement and he could make up into a horse for a novice handicap chase at the Cheltenham Festival next March.
The Grand National takes place at Aintree tomorrow and, as ever, the world’s most famous horse race is attracting enormous interest from the wider media.
Although the race is no longer the formidable test it once was, it remains the people’s race and no matter how much various groups attempt to dumb down the actual test of bravery and fortitude, it remains one of the great highlights on the nation’s sporting calendar.
In terms of finding the winner, the contest is even more of a lottery than it ever was... and perhaps picking the name you like the most is now the best option!