Racing / The Cheltenham Festival: A bashful yell from Beaumont

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The Independent Online
ON the trainer's face there was experience and wisdom; a worn face that spoke of keen winds and the trials of National Hunt racing; sharp diamond blue eyes and a lifetime out there.

It was hard for Peter Beaumont to admit the excitement he felt when Jodami came to the last fence in the Gold Cup, almost upsides the long- time leader Rushing Wild, the jockey, Mark Dwyer so confidently in charge he found time to glance back at the rest of the field. Normally, Beaumont is about as demonstrative as an owl on a branch, but this was it, and he gave out a yell. 'Not like me,' he said in the winner's enclosure, backed up by a crowd of eager interrogators.

A triumph for the small man, a Yorkshire farmer, steeled by 15 years of point-to-point riding. At 58, he has been training under rules for only seven years. There was a look of slight bemusement on Beaumont's face, because for all the optimism he felt when watching Jodami at work on the Malton gallops, it had been difficult to imagine this. 'When Mark brought him over the last I knew we were there, and I started shouting,' he said. 'I hope I didn't offend too many people.'

In the betting ring before the off many negotiators were as frenzied as hounds around a fox, seeking to gain an edge against the odds. With The Fellow shortening to 5-4; rumours were as thick as sparrows on a wire, but hopes of Jodami's backers were raised when Dwyer was passed fit to ride after Wednesday's heavy fall.

As they went down to the start, the French challenger came under close scrutiny; beaten a short head twice in the great race, it was widely felt that fast going would suit The Fellow. However, his jockey, Adam Kondrat, was under considerable pressure to prove he could keep enough in hand for an effort up the hill.

Some gentle souls prefer races where the jumps aren't frightening but just high enough to add a fillip of excitement to the spectacle; this was the real stuff, the realisation emphasised when Cherrykino was put down after falling heavily at the seventh.

Not going out of his way to make The Fellow's job easier, Richard Dunwoody took up the running after two fences and handsomely led from there until Dwyer ominously moved into contention.

That was it. For Beaumont, for Dwyer, and The Fellow's typically suave trainer, Francois Doumen. From the edge of proceedings in the winner's enclosure he looked wistfully on as Beaumont strode forward to collect his prize from the Queen Mother. When people sought an explanation from Doumen he responded with a Gallic shrug. 'The pace was too slow on the first circuit,' he said. Sportingly, he applauded the winner and reached out to congratulate Dwyer. 'Well done Mark,' he said. And you knew that he was hurting inside.