Racing: Lonesome Glory's historic first

THE LADY stole it. No sexism, just an historic Cheltenham truth as the 24-year-old Blythe Miller from Unionville, Pennsylvania forced Lonesome Glory up in the final strides to snatch the headlines as the first American-trained jumping horse to win a race in Britain.

Beforehand it had been impossible to imagine any result to this rather grandiosely titled Sport Of Kings Challenge taking precedence over the earlier highlights which had featured Halkopous trouncing Granville Again and Morley Street in the Bula Hurdle, and Another Coral scoring his fifth course success in the newly christened Tripleprint Gold Cup. But Cheltenham has always made its own laws. Especially when the mud is clinging.

It was a clear and sunny winter's afternoon but rain overnight had made the going even more testing than on Friday. No horse would find the run home easy. Not even if, like Lonesome Glory's victim Al Mutahm, you are the 30-100 favourite and carry the hopes of the burgeoning Lloyd Webber string. Sir Andrew had been in the paddock to see his wife's new purchase and when he did not show afterwards the wags were wondering if he was not already hidden away penning a heart-catching number about 'Hope's brief candle'.

He was entitled to feel a touch of sadness. Al Mutahm may not have jumped that fluently through the race but he had taken command with a tremendous leap at the second last and you could have sounded the trumpets as he sailed round the last turn ahead with Lonesome Glory and Blythe Miller in what could be best termed respectful pursuit.

Off up the run-in Al Mutahm set with victory apparently just 20 seconds away. But just as the cheers rang out he began to feel the collar of the hill and suddenly those last few yards seemed like a cliff to climb. Lonesome Glory was in little better shape. He had never run on anything as deep as this surface. His rider later claimed she was almost too tired to wave the whip. But the horse has class and Blythe has the look of a battler by nature.

Her partner was lugging in left towards their rival. Al Mutahm could be taken if she could just get Lonesome Glory straightened. With room to work her horse buckled down, and as the post closed in Lonesome Glory pushed his chestnut head past to secure not just the pounds 9,000 first prize but a dollars 75,000 bonus for also winning one of the American races in this series. Tell owner Mrs Walter Jeffords and Blythe's trainer father Bruce Miller that this is an event not as big as its title.

Blythe Miller, a graduate in interior design from Washington's Mount Vernon University, has ridden more than 50 winners at home. That's a long way short of the 800 career total which Richard Dunwoody logged up this week but she will already know how instantly fate can turn. It twisted very quick for Richard yesterday.

He had opened proceedings with yet another David Nicholson-trained winner when Barton Bank profited from Forest Sun's fall at the third last fence, completed a hat-trick in the two-mile handicap with Shamana, but in between had to suffer a disappointingly flat display by Morley Street in the Bula Hurdle and then needed the devil's own luck to survive on Another Coral.

At the top of the hill in an already intensely competitive Tripleprint Gold Cup his place on the inside was suddenly snatched by Mark Pitman on The Illywhacker. There's hardly the time to think let alone shout the curses at your rival. Dunwoody had been done. He had to push out behind Peter Scudamore, riding Milford Quay, who had been disputing the lead with the Irish horse Second Schedual. It was to be the best move he made all day.

For seconds later, at the downhill fence four from home, Milford Quay capsized and rolled left directly into the track where Another Coral would have been. Down came The Illywhacker. Another Coral swept magnificently on to victory. It had been an utterly unplanned, unwanted moment. But it had saved Dunwoody. On this side of the Atlantic or another, triumph and disaster are but a stride apart.

Someone should write a song about it. After yesterday, maybe someone will.

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