SUSSEX jockey Mattie Batchelor had a day he will never forget at the Newbury Winter Festival last weekend.
Aboard his old friend, Carruthers, he rode to success in what, outside of the Grand National, is the most prestigious handicap chase on the National Hunt calendar, the Hennessy Gold Cup.
To add further poignancy to the occasion, the victory came on the anniversary of his mother’s passing and, unsurprisingly, Batchelor was particularly emotional in the wake of the success.
He has ridden Carruthers in all bar two of his 21 racecourse appearances and he was full of admiration and affection for his partner.
“I was getting to the fences too quickly and he was getting me out of trouble,” he said.
“He made me look good. He is a little lion.
“Coming to the second last I thought I have got to wing this to win and he didn’t let me down. He is a brilliant old horse.
“Last year was wrong but this year he has come back better. He is in the form of his life. I love him and it is great.”
Carruthers has been competing at the highest level for some time now and had been given a chance by the handicapper in this race as he was ten pounds lower than when he was sixth in the same contest last season.
It was his first win for two years and nobody could deny that the bold front runner had earnt his day in the sun after many creditable performances.
Another bold front runner, Golan Way is scheduled to make his return to jumping fences this coming weekend at Sandown Park.
His Falmer-based trainer Sheena West will be hoping for a good performance from her stable star when he faces a tough assignment over one of the most difficult jumping courses in the country.
Add to that the prospect of some very high class young chasers from either side of the Irish Sea taking him on and it becomes apparent that Golan Way could run a very good race on Saturday without winning.
Also look out for a couple of juvenile hurdlers that Sheena has acquired from fellow trainer Mick Channon.
He has proved a great source for young hurdling prospects for Sheena and it will be interesting to see what the gelding Brilliant Barca and filly Galloping Queen are capable of should they take up their entries this weekend.
Another youngster with an entry for the yard is Be All Man who was quite an expensive purchase by the stable standards when bought at the Cheltenham May Sale.
He has shown encouragement in two bumpers and it will be interesting to see how the four year old son of Dubawi shapes up on his return.
I mentioned last week that Jim and Tom Best were getting their string into full stride and the win of Goodwood Starlight at Uttoxeter on Wednesday afternoon emphasised that fact.
The horse has had plenty of problems over the years but has ability and he jumped and travelled well when beating a very well fancied rival in good style.
School For Scandal was similarly impressive for the brothers when winning on his hurdles debut last week at Wetherby and whilst neither have aspirations at a particularly high level, there is every encouragement that they can each add to these wins.
There is racing at Plumpton on Monday afternoon and the second qualifier in the Cheltenham Bonus Series has attracted a five-day entry which includes a number of very promising potential chasers from top yards.
Of them, I would most like to see Nicky Henderson’s Cucumber Run make the journey down.