By Simon Jackson.
Sire De Grugy justified trainer Gary Moore’s faith when he stormed to a six length victory in the BetVictor Queen Mother Champion Chase on day two of the Cheltenham Festival.
The victory was the biggest in the south east based trainer’s career and was made all the more sweet as the eight-year-old was ridden by his son Jamie, who was riding his first winner at the Festival.
Jockey and horse have been in superb form this season; the latest success the fifth in six starts in a campaign that includes victory the Grade 1 Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown in early December.
But despite the good form, many pundits had questioned the French-bred gelding’s chances of handling Cheltenham having been beaten in both of his previous starts at the track, but this time he made amends in no uncertain terms to win easily.
“I’m very proud of the horse,” Gary Moore said. “No one ever buys horses thinking they are going to win a race like this and I never dreamed for a moment when he arrived in the yard that he could have done what he’s done.
“The way he’s improved between last season and this one has been incredible.
“He did well for us last year but it was his victory at Chepstow first time out this season that first made me think he could be something very special. He carried 12 stone that day and just walked all over them.
“I don’t like making excuses for horses but I do think he had a genuine reason for being beaten at Cheltenham back in November.
“He’d been shod by a different blacksmith before that race and I’m sure the shoes he put on were too big. It meant he couldn’t get a firm grip and he was slipping into the fences that day. It’s a bit like one of us being asked to run on skis – he just couldn’t do himself justice. Silly little things like that can make a big difference.
“I had no doubts about him acting well round Cheltenham before today’s race. I always thought he would run well but you never think you’re definitely going to win until you jump the last. I’m very proud of Jamie. Aside from the Grand National, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a reception like that when they came back in – that shows just how popular he is.
“I had so many messages before the race from lots of different people. In a way, this victory is for them – you never realise how popular you are sometimes. I don’t really care if he runs again or not this season as he’s already done more than we could ever have hoped for. We’ll see how he is though and if he’s well, then we could head back to Sandown again [for the Grade 1 Celebration Chase].”
Jamie Moore said: “Dad told me to take my time and settle him into the race so I tried to follow his instructions as closely as I could.
“He’s obviously improved this season but I’ve been impressed with the way he’s learned to fiddle his fences when he meets them wrong.
“I’ve done a lot with this horse back at home and am very proud of him. All the credit has to go to Dad as he’s done brilliantly with him this season. He’s had quite a few runs so to be able to bring him up to win and wind him down afterwards takes quite a bit.”
Read Horse Talk with Simon Jackson each day at London24 for the latest horse racing news.