Racing: Bradley takes ride to rapture

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The Independent Online
JUST why jump jockeys revel in a job which involves being followed round by an ambulance as a matter of routine could hardly have been better illustrated in the Tripleprint Gold Cup here yesterday. Senor El Betrutti, the winner, produced a display of bold, fast, accurate jumping that was exhilarating to watch and must have been truly thrilling for the lucky rider.

Graham Bradley, the man in the saddle, confirmed as much. Half an hour after dismounting the 37-year-old jockey, who has been there, done that, more than most in his sport, was still on the adrenalin-prompted high that near-perfection brings as he recalled the power and agility of his flying grey partner.

"Unbelievable," he said. "It was as exciting a ride as I've ever had in my life. He's a forward-going horse, and we were going a fair clip, but if he was wrong, and a bit short into a fence, I'd just sit quiet like a little mouse and he'd sort himself out, and if he was long I just lay down and gave him a little squeeze and he'd pick up from anywhere.

"Going through the air I actually had time to think 'wow'. It was just incredible, and I've ridden a few good ones. Wayward Lad was the best, but this lad's technique is as good, and his speed and attitude gives it an extra dimension."

With Challenger Du Luc in second place, the result of the race was an action replay of the Murphy's Gold Cup on the Gloucestershire track four weeks previously, with the important difference that Senor El Betrutti turned a three-length margin of victory then into eight lengths this time on 3lb worse terms.

The handsome eight-year-old, one of a bunch of his colour this season keeping alive the image of Pegasus, exhibited a real joie de vivre as he cantered to post in the fitful winter sunshine, and is a credit in every possible way to his trainer Susan Nock, whose small Stow-on-the- Wold yard, amateur in status but professional in outlook, houses only three other horses.

Senor El Betrutti, who carries the purple and green colours of Nock's lawyer husband Gerard, had a small adventure yesterday morning before making the short journey to the course. "I left his stable door open for about two seconds, and he sneaked out and went walkabout on the gallops," Nock said, "but he came back to look for his friends, and so luckily I did not have to make my excuses to the stewards."

The son of Roselier was the first to complete Cheltenham's early-season double since Pegwell Bay nine years ago, and with their stable star in such irresistible, and progressive, form, Nock is now considering a tilt at the King George VI Chase itself on Boxing Day. "He is actually better going right-handed," she said, "but the track might be just a bit sharp and fast."

Plans for third-placed Bells Life, who stayed on stoutly on his seasonal debut after being outpaced down the hill, are longer-term. "I was pleased with that," said his trainer Philip Hobbs, "and the Grand National is the aim." The favourite, Simply Dashing, so impressive at Ascot three weeks ago, was a disappointing sixth, his cause not helped by mistakes.

There was an emotional end to the Bula Hurdle, won by the enormously talented but injury-plagued Relkeel, making his first appearance since February and only his second in nearly three years. The steel-grey's breeder Brigadier Roscoe Harvey, one of David Nicholson's longest-standing patrons, died earlier this year and the trainer's eyes were moist in the aftermath of the race.

"The Brig meant a lot to me, and this horse meant a lot to the Brig," he said, "and if we get him back here in March, we'll be here with all guns blazing for him."

It would not be hard to envisage a Champion Hurdle victory for Relkeel - Coral go 12-1 - who was, according to Nicholson, not wound up yesterday. Relkeel tackled Pridwell and former champion Collier Bay going to the last and, despite a mistake, won with something in hand.

Martin Pipe had to settle for second place with Challenger Du Luc and Pridwell, but the champion trainer did not head down the M5 empty-handed. After Daraydan took his sequence for the season to three in the Lonesome Glory Hurdle his gallant little stablemate Northern Starlight upset the odds on Nicholson's hotpot Escartefigue in the Doubleprint Novices' Chase.

The grey day theme continued at Haydock, where The Grey Monk and Rough Quest both made satisfactory seasonal debuts in the Tommy Whittle Chase. The Grey Monk jumped soundly in front and though he was joined at the last by the 1996 Grand National winner he drew away again on the run-in. Winning trainer Gordon Richards said: "We were facing a good horse, and I am very pleased." The Gold Cup, for which he remains 8-1 with the Tote, is The Grey Monk's target, but the ground must be soft. Terry Casey was equally delighted with Rough Quest - 10-1 for the Gold Cup with Ladbrokes - who has not run since developing a leg problem after his second in last year's King George. He was eased on the run-in yesterday after he ran out of puff.