Racing: Detroit City motors home to stir fond memories of a late great

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The Independent Online

The years rolled back here yesterday as a gallant grey gelding and a jockey clad in bright yellow silks powered to victory up the hill. Terry Warner bought Detroit City, the winner of the Triumph Hurdle, because he shares the silvered coat of Warner's beloved Rooster Booster, who died in December.

"You lose one, and you find one," he said. "That's the way it goes. And watching today tugged at the heartstrings a bit."

Detroit City, ridden by Richard Johnson, beat Fair Along by five lengths to give the Philip Hobbs stable a one-two, though Detroit City, the 7-2 favourite, hit an alarming flat spot at half-way, dropping back to fifth.

"The one thing he does is stay," said Johnson, "and he tries. So I kept at him and he was back in front by two out. And it was a long way home from there."

The only things Detroit City and Rooster Booster have in common is their colour and colours. "They are very different," said Hobbs. "This horse is much bigger and stronger, and wouldn't have two-mile speed. There will be no Champion Hurdle for him; it will be the stayers' race if anything. But we might go chasing with him."

The following three-mile novices' hurdle will have concentrated Hobbs' mind on fences for Detroit City, for Black Jack Ketchum produced a performance that marked him as a marathon star of the future. The Jonjo O'Neill-trained seven-year-old cruised to the front at the second-last, hard held by Tony McCoy, and sauntered away from Powerstation after the last for a nine-length victory.

"The first day I won on him at Uttoxeter I had him marked as a machine," McCoy said. "He has a great attitude and never gets bothered by anything."

The gelding's trainer, O'Neill, absent with flu, experienced both sides of the coin. Another of his charges, Buck Whaley, died in a fall in the last race, taking the meeting's death toll to eight.

McCoy was pipped to the leading rider's award by Ruby Walsh; both men rode three winners and were split by runners-up. Walsh had to win the finale, the County Hurdle, to seal things, and did so with aplomb on Desert Quest.

The top trainer was Nicky Henderson, who brought his score to three when Greenhope took the Grand Annual Chase. It was the one victory he really wanted, for the contest is dedicated to his late father Johnny, a long-time vital cog in the Festival management.

Greenhope, ridden by Andrew Tinkler, was one of a four-pronged Seven Barrows attack.

"This was always the plan," said Henderson, his voice breaking and his eyes brimming with emotion. "Fairy tales don't often work and that this one did was very special."