Racing: New Garrison drill for Pitman: A Gold Cup winner returns to the scene of old glory but his regular partner has a new position in the stands

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The Independent Online
AT CHELTENHAM this afternoon, Mark Pitman will be reminded of the most emotional day of his riding life, when, just as he did before winning the 1991 Gold Cup, he will march into the parade ring to meet Garrison Savannah. There, though, his journey will stop, and Pitman, the newly- appointed assistant trainer to his mother, Jenny, will help Brendan Powell into the saddle.

'It will be a tough day for me in some ways and I'm not sure how I'll react to it or how I'll cope,' he said yesterday. 'There's bound to be a twinge. I ride the horse out virtually every day so I feel a lot for him and I just hope everything goes according to plan.'

Pitman the jockey became Pitman the 27-year-old assistant less than two months ago, and there is much about his new job he still finds awkward. 'It's a bit strange because I've been used to just walking into the weighing room all the time,' he said. 'At the moment I don't know where the owners' and trainers' bars are and silly things like where the gents are. Our first runner after I retired, Lusty Light, won and it felt odd to be standing there in the winners' enclosure as part of the training team and not the jockey.'

Like Simon Sherwood, Desert Orchid's rider turned trainer, who admitted he did not realise how selfish he had been as a jockey, Pitman now finds himself with responsibility for more than himself. 'It's two different jobs, and I have to concentrate on the new one now because riding is a stage of my life that's over,' he said. 'When you're a jockey you're thinking about yourself, where you have to be on a certain day and at what time, but when you're assistant trainer you've got 25 staff and 60 horses in the yard to consider. You have all the owners to get in touch with and there are a million things to do. There's all that extra thinking to do, trying to keep all the balls in the air.'

Today, Pitman hopes to see Garrison Savannah slicing through the air in the Cheltenham Racecourse Of The Year Handicap Chase, and he believes the gelding remains competitive enough to return to Prestbury Park next March for a crack at the Blue Riband.

'He's only 10 and there aren't an awful lot of miles on the clock so we hope there is going to be a decent race in him this year,' he said. 'He's in very good form, but it's the first run of the season and it's over the new track at Cheltenham, which will probably be a little sharp for him and on the short side. We just need to get a good run under the belt and come on for it.'

With Pitman's peg in the weighing room now vacant, the Weathercock House horses will be ridden by men who do the morning work at the Lambourn yard, Powell, Willie McFarland, Ian Lawrence, Graham Bradley, Mick FitzGerald and Jimmy Frost.

Jenny Pitman may have lost her mantle of Britain's leading woman trainer to Mary Reveley, but she still presides over a talented equine team, including a promising bunch of novices as well as established names in Toby Tobias, Don Valentino, Egypt Mill Prince and Royal Athlete.

But Mark Pitman's warmest words are reserved for a horse he hopes will prove prophetic for his new career. He expects great things from last season's Sun Alliance Novices' Chase runner-up, Superior Finish.

(Photograph omitted)

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