Some legacies are worth more than money, it seems. And Eddie Harty, who earned most fame on this side of the Irish Sea by riding Highland Wedding to victory in the 1969 Grand National, was bequeathed something priceless by his father. "I was one of 11 children," he said yesterday, "and he told me, 'If I've ever any money, I'll give it to the girls. What I'll give to you is an eye for a horse, and if you can't make a living with that, you're no son of mine.'"
Happily, Harty turned out to be very much a chip off the old block and the latest result of his appraising glances, Captain Cee Bee, stood in the hallowed winner's circle here after the Festival opener. And though they will have seen more than most in a lifetime with horses, those shrewd, experienced eyes were distinctly glistening.
For the seven-year-old bay gelding is named after none other than the senior man, the bold Captain Cyril B Harty, one of the first to represent the Irish Free State at international show jumping and later trainer of an Irish Grand National winner. "I picked this horse out at the sales as a foal," said Harty, "and although it's always a risk naming a horse after someone who means a great deal to you, I knew even then that he'd be good. He just had something about him. I suppose you'd call it character."
Another Harty boy, Eddie's son Edward, has picked up the family baton; he is Captain Cee Bee's trainer. After being thwarted by a too-large frame in his ambitions to become a jockey, he settled for currency trading in London and Dublin (appropriately with the Anglo Irish Bank, yesterday's race sponsors) before returning to the family fold at Pollardstown, Co Kildare, four years ago.
Captain Cee Bee, his first Festival runner, caught Binocular on the testing climb to the line to win by two lengths and give owner JP McManus, whose 57th birthday it was the previous day, a belated celebration in the form of a one-two. With the choice of the pair Tony McCoy had opted for the four-year-old, leaving Choc Thornton to start in fine style a day that was only to get better.
"You dream about this sort of thing," said Harty Jnr, "but you never think it will happen. But to be honest, I don't feel euphoria, it's more relief, the release of the pressure of the last four months. You come here just hoping you're not going to leave Cheltenham with egg on your face.
"He didn't actually like the softened ground much and if we have the usual spring ground next year, you'll see the real Captain Cee Bee." That will be in the Champion Hurdle, for which the gelding – whose price as a foal was just £3,000 – is rated a 16-1 shot.
Just over half an hour later there was an action replay of feeling for a trainer as Tidal Bay turned the Arkle Trophy into a solo tour de force under Denis O'Regan, winning by 13 lengths from the brave mare Kruguyrova, with the favourite Noland third.
The result was against the run of play for the out-of-form Howard Johnson, but good news for fans of Tidal Bay's stablemate Inglis Drever, likely to start the week's shortest-priced favourite when he bids for an unprecedented third World Hurdle tomorrow.
"They have been a bit out of form," admitted Co Durham-based Johnson, "but equally, some of them haven't been good enough. I've been getting a bit of stick but this horse has, thank goodness, silenced the critics."
Tidal Bay barely put a foot wrong and stormed up the final hill full of running. "Denis said he could have gone round again," added Johnson, "and I'm not surprised he jumped like he did. We schooled him at the weekend alongside Bewleys Berry over a couple of the replica National fences we have at home. They opened his eyes and he absolutely winged them."
Garde Champetre, who failed as a chaser over conventional fences after costing McManus 530,000 guineas, a record for a jumper-in-training, has been successfully re-invented as a cross country specialist and yesterday added a victory over the unique infield course here to one last month over the banks at Punchestown. His easy win, from gallant 14-year-old Native Jack, was two in a row in the race for Nina Carberry and her third at the Festival in all, making her the fixture's most successful woman rider.
Hyperion's TV Tips
2.00 The front of the market is thickly populated by runners from top stables glowing with confidence about their chances of lifting this prize. Perhaps, though, there will be another shock like last year's 20-1 winner Massini's Maguire. RAZOR ROYALE was a course and distance winner in soft ground in November but has failed to repeat the feat twice since – both times fading up the hill after cruising into contention. The last time was when a 5-length fourth to Aigle D'Or in January. Paddy Brennan's mount is 3lb better off with that rival – and a first-time tongue-tie could also make a difference to this 28-1 shot.
2.35 The mud-loving mare POMME TIEPY may well get something like the conditions she revels in. She lacks experience in fields this strong but has proved a natural over fences so far.
3.15 Softish going has arrived to boost the chances of MASTER MINDED, a heavy-shouldered individual who may not have appreciated a faster surface.
4.00 Song Of Songs has crept into this race on a lenient weight. A fine-looking specimen, he has been campaigned with a big prize in mind – but there would be concern that any further rain could put the distance of this contest beyond the limits of his stamina. All the fancy prices for Leg Spinner have long been snapped up and the value appears to lie elsewhere. The 16-1 offered for JUNIOR is certainly inviting. Representing a trainer/jockey team at a brilliant peak right now, this 5yo finished with a flourish into sixth place in two-mile handicap at last year's Festival. He clearly needs today's trip, handles soft ground and had an ideal "prep" race when just beaten in a fair contest at Huntingdon last month.Reuse content