Racing: Blessed win helps Pitman find relief from the mother tongue

WITH A ``Yes, mother, in a moment,'' sort of sideways glance at the redoubtable, stetsoned Jenny who had come to claim him for a photo- call, Mark Pitman, eyes emotionally damp, went on describing how it felt to send out the Hennessy Gold Cup winner in his third season as a trainer. Only for a few moments, but did disobedience signify a scissoring of the apron strings?

Sure, Pitman would not have been in the winner's enclosure with Ever Blessed at Newbury on Saturday had his mother not chosen to retire, a fact that was dutifully acknowledged, but he wouldn't be the first to find that parental achievement can be an intolerable burden.

It's happened in all sports, usually to the sons of famous fathers, their aspirations undermined by inevitable comparison. Saturday saw Pitman, 33, living with the weight of racing history. Not just that his mother trained the 1984 Hennessy winner, Burrough Hill Lad, but his father Richard's ride to victory on Charlie Potheen in 1972. If it wasn't one thing it was another.

Nothing mattered as much in Pitman's mind on the eve of the race than rain. Anxious about the persistent shoulder injury that makes soft ground essential to Ever Blessed's well being, he was in the mood to do a Gene Kelly when the heavens opened. ``I was the happiest man in Berkshire when I arrived at the course for the Hennessy dinner on Friday night and it was tipping it down,'' he said.

A description followed, one that hardly fits with the lump of horseflesh that Timmy Murphy took over Newbury's fences before going clear on the flat to come home three a half lengths ahead of Spendid, who was carrying David Nicholson's hopes of going into retirement with 1,500 winners. ``Keeping him [Ever Blessed] right is like holding together a fragile piece of china,'' Pitman said. ``We never gallop him at home with another horse, otherwise he'd get competitive and put too much pressure on himself.''

There spake a young man who appears to have been attentive when the curriculum was set out and can therefore embellish his family's reputation. This was endorsed by one of Ever Blessed's owners, a Bradford businessman, Stewart Andrew, who lunged in on the day and was happy with the outcome. Ever Blessed was later quoted at 25-1 for the Cheltenham Gold Cup but his trainer added: "I think the bookmakers are a little rash - he has a long way to go yet."

Pitman was one of two appealing stories out there. The other was Nicholson, who officially retires from racing tomorrow. When Richard Johnson brought home the 13-8 favourite Picket Piece in the Ladbroke Handicap Hurdle it was announced as Nicholson's 1,499th winner. But was it? Nobody seemed sure, least of all Nicholson himself. There was talk of two winners in Belgium that might have escaped the scorer's scrutiny. ``We could already be there,'' the bluff trainer said.

In any case that would have spoiled a script that had Nicholson going for the landmark with Spendid in a race he almost won as Rough Tweed's jockey 37 years ago.

This was not to be. The weight of Andrew's money had helped force Ever Blessed to 9-2 favourite when the 13 runners set off over the three miles and two and a half furlongs in pale autumn sunshine.

Turning for home Ever Blessed began to perform as though Pitman should stop worrying about him. Held behind the leaders on the first circuit, he began to look less delicate by the stride, outfighting Spendid over the final three fences although Murphy, who recorded a career-best win, was mindful of the gelding's physical limitations. ``He was tiring and might have gone over if I'd asked too much,'' he said. ``But he's tough and if he was physically normal you'd be looking at an exceptional horse.''

Pitman's success led to a predictably emotional response from his mother in the winner's circle. ``For Mark to win a race like this proves everything I've said about him being ready,'' she said. Genuine enough, but time for the lady to step aside. Live on vicariously by all means but better at a discreet distance.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Designer - Print & Digital

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Design and marketing agenc...

Recruitment Genius: Quantity Surveyor

£46000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This property investment firm are lookin...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales / Telemarketing Executive - OTE £30k / £35k plus

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company specialises provid...

Austen Lloyd: Commercial Property Solicitor - Exeter

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: EXETER - A great new opportunity with real pot...

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower