Horse Racing with Jason Hall: Oh! Fruity O’Rooney so close to Cheltenham win!

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IN this column last week the head of Heart of the South Racing Club, John Penny, told us all of his confidence in Fruity O’Rooney to go very close to winning the three-mile handicap chase on the first day of the Cheltenham Festival – and his advice proved accurate when the genuine chaser finished a superb second in his big race.

It seems many punters took John’s judgement on board as the horse halved in price to 16/1 at the off and with just 50 yards left to run it looked as though the tough, tenacious gelding would cling on to win at the most exciting horse racing festival in the calendar, but he was agonisingly worn down nearing the post.

It was a case of great pride and pleasure in the performance of Fruity O’Rooney for the syndicate owners and connections being tinged with frustration as victory was snatched from their grasp, and John gave me his thoughts post race.

“We had a fantastic day out and everyone is very proud of the horse. Gary (Moore) and his team did a great job getting him here in such good order and I feel for him. If you’d told me he would finish second before racing I would have been delighted, but when you get so close to winning you wouldn’t be human if you didn’t feel a little frustrated.”

John added: “Fruity will go for the three-mile handicap at Aintree on Grand National day all being well.”

Sussex trainer Richard Rowe was another to hit the post in a big race when his young hurdler Aikideau was just run out of things in the final of a valuable novice series at the Sandown Imperial Cup meeting over the weekend.

He finished third at a big price and looked like he might win when challenging hard between the last two hurdles.

“The horse could have done with a bit more soft in the ground on the day,” said Richard when I spoke to him on Monday.

“He’s come out of the race well and we’ll have a think about what to do with him next.”

That conversation with Richard took place at Plumpton, where they staged their Anglo Irish race day on the eve of the Cheltenham Festival.

A warm, sunny day saw yet another good crowd in attendance and, amongst others, they saw a young mare win in impressive fashion and who now has aspirations for a big race before the season is out.

Flite was the horse in question and she overcame doubts regarding the suitability of the two-mile two furlong trip for her on Monday and recorded a visually impressive success.

Flite’s trainer Warren Greatrex said: “I was a little worried about the drop back but felt she would have the class to overcome that. I was going to take her to the Mares’ race at Newbury but because we got held up with her work we couldn’t get her qualified.

“Instead we’re likely to take her to a race I won last year at the Scottish National meeting. It’s for mares’ only over three miles and is worth twenty grand.

“You’d definitely think she would be better over further than today. She’s a nice type.”

The Cheltenham Gold Cup will be run today and the great Kauto Star will bid to further enhance his already legendary status in the sport.

He will have to overcome last year’s winner Long Run to do so but that is not a forlorn hope and wherever you look in the race, there appear to be holes in all of the protagonists.

I’d suggest a small each-way flutter on Burton Port but nothing more.