Racing: Athlete acclaim for Pitman

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The Independent Online
A MEASURE of pleasure was exacted at last for Jenny Pitman at Windsor yesterday when her Royal Athlete returned to winning ways and Baydon Star - one of the many horses she has lost to other yards this season - was beaten by Muse in the New Year's Day Hurdle, writes Paul Hayward.

Not that Pitman is ever anything but gracious when one of her ex-residents runs for its new trainer. David Nicholson, who acquired Baydon Star, Wonder Man and Mighty Mogul from the yard, says that Pitman never fails to congratulate him when one of the three wins a race. Nevertheless, it must be galling for the combative Mrs Pitman to have to praise Nicholson so regularly, and Baydon Star's defeat will have provided her with a welcome break from slapping a rival on the back.

Royal Athlete, a leading novice chaser two years ago, is now 25-1 for the Gold Cup following yesterday's victory but Pitman will not need reminding that a steep hill stands between a handicap hurdle at Windsor and steeplechasing's premier race. Her achievement in revitalising Royal Athlete after an absence of 21 months was proclaimed by one of the horse's owners, who said: 'She is the supreme trainer for bringing horses back.'

No doubt she would like to bring Baydon Star back, too. To her stable. Nicholson, not surprisingly, has other plans for this progressive six-year-old and says that he may yet contest the Ladbroke Hurdle at Leopardstown en route to the Stayers' Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival. Muse, who was given an excellent ride by Anthony Procter, is 25-1 for the Champion Hurdle with William Hill.

Two other horses bound for Ireland are Martin Pipe's Gold Cup contenders Chatam and Run For Free. Both may contest the Hennessy Gold Cup at Leopardstown in mid-February, the race Pipe used to hone Carvill's Hill last year.

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