James Lawton: Fehily delights the crowd with glorious ride after years suffering in silence - Racing - Sport - The Independent

James Lawton: Fehily delights the crowd with glorious ride after years suffering in silence

"I thought the chance would never come but it doesn't matter when you go past the finish"

Cheltenham

No quieter man ever created the kind of din which filled the valley here yesterday and when finally it was spent there was one inevitable question. It asked simply: what took Noel Fehily so long? The best guess among the racing cognoscenti was that the 37-year-old who rode Rock On Ruby so beautifully to the first great prize, the Champion Hurdle that was supposed to be the property of the great Ruby Walsh and Hurricane Fly, had indeed never had enough to say for himself.

He never told an eager owner in the unsaddling enclosure that he had plainly invested in the next Kauto Star. He never made much of a racket in the jockeys' room, a place where extrovert spirits and pugnacious nature so often rule.

Maybe it was this, the theories went last night, that held back the man from Co. Cork. And if it was not that, at least not totally, there was certainly the matter of appalling luck.

Last year it seemed, briefly, that his shadows might be receding and replaced by the great opportunity of a career that has always been marked by some of the most admirable qualities of a superior horseman.

This was despite a string of injuries of the kind which come so frequently at the racecourse and, disturbingly, brought the death of three brave horses yesterday.

When the riding master of Cheltenham, Walsh, was injured, Fehily was offered the leg up on some of the great horses of trainer Paul Nicholls, champions like Kauto Star and Big Buck's.

Fehily promptly broke his wrist.

The extent of that catastrophe became clear yesterday when Fehily was given the Rock On Ruby ride with absolute confidence by Nicholls.

The Cork man was so much in control, so confident that his new partner could engage successfully the rising ground after surging to the lead going down the hill that such distinguished company as Walsh, on last year's champion, Hurricane Fly, and AP McCoy on the 2010 winner Binocular became just struggling members of the pack. Nicholls was so moved he gave a tribute that yesterday's hero will no doubt savour for many years. The trainer declared: "He is the nearest thing I've ever seen to Ruby Walsh, the way he sits, the way he understands the horse.

Fehily said that he had a solitary concern as he cleared the last hurdle. "I had just one fear that Ruby might be sitting on my heels keeping the powder dry, as he does.

"But that never happened and it's a great tribute to the horse. Paul said he had great faith in the horse and he never put a foot wrong."

It was the jockey's second triumph at the Festival, four years after winning the Vincent O'Brien Hurdle. That was a rare winning appearance on the big stage. It was, though, something that he would always have when his career seemed to be trailing away.

Yesterday, though, mere consolations were the least of it.

"You dream about something like this and then when it happens it is better than you can ever have imagined," said Fehily. "Maybe I thought the chance would never come but none of that matters when you go past the finish."

There were other moments of course which lifted the spirits in the first tumult of jump racing's greatest gathering. The running of Sprinter Sacre left the potential for a great vacuum in its wake. The new sensation carried new speculation on the emergence of another super horse. There was much sentimental approval when Donald McCain, son of the late Ginger, delivered the first victory yet there would be no dwindling of the fine edge of anticipation, not when Fehily had produced a performance that mocked all his years of obscurity.

He said recently: "No I don't have a lot to say to owners, I don't make free with my opinions. I don't see my job that way. What I try to do is sit on the horse and ride it as best I can. I knew Rock On Ruby was going to give me a great ride. I spent a little time with him on Tuesday morning and he was really bouncing, winging over a few hurdles and I knew he was right."

For Fehily, yesterday's exhilaration, he didn't need to say, was reward for the hard days fighting injury and a growing sense that his days of great potential had maybe come and gone. Certainly he has a fine eye for and a deep understanding of the perils of his trade.

When his compatriot Peter O'Toole was badly injured in the Grand National he helped nurse him through the worst of his days. He gave him support both material and psychological and yesterday he had some considerable reward.

No doubt the big battalions will have their impact soon enough. No doubt Walsh will again challenge for his seventh jockey's title in nine years. He will do this, we know, with great determination and artistry. We will see McCoy battling as only he knows how and all this will be by way of preparation for the great duel between Kauto Star and Long Run.

Fehily's impact will linger though. It was, after all, a victory that not only stopped an odds-on favourite but one of the greatest riding talents in the history of racing.

It was a blazing example of what can happen when a good man of undoubted brilliance is offered a little time on centre stage.

The result was one of the great prizes of his sport, a race among the very few most prized by the great trainers and riders. Into such exalted company, Noel Fehily came with what may well prove to be the race of his life.

It was some race, though, and so many witnesses were ready to attest, some life.

At Cheltenham there are many stories of broken bones and dreams. On this occasion the message was so much more uplifting. It said that some men only need one chance to prove all that they have.

News
John Travolta is a qualified airline captain and employed the pilot with his company, Alto
people'That was the lowest I’d ever felt'
Life and Style
healthIt isn’t greasy. It doesn’t smell. And moreover, it costs nothing
News
peopleThe report and photo dedicated to the actress’s decolletage has, unsurprisingly, provoked anger
Property
Home body: Badger stays safe indoors
property
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
The programme sees four specialists creating what they believe are three perfect couples, based on scientific matchmaking. The couples will not meet until they walk down the aisle together
tvUK wedding show jilted
Arts and Entertainment
US pop diva Jennifer Lopez sang “Happy Birthday” to Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, president of Turkmenistan
musicCorporate gigs become key source of musicians' income
Arts and Entertainment
You've been framed: Henri Matisse's colourful cut-outs at Tate Modern
artWhat makes a smash-hit art show
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
filmsDaniel Craig believed to be donning skis as 007 for first time
Sport
Mikel Arteta pictured during Borussia Dortmund vs Arsenal
champions league
Voices
Yes supporters gather outside the Usher Hall, which is hosting a Night for Scotland in Edinburgh
voicesBen Judah: Is there a third option for England and Scotland that keeps everyone happy?
Arts and Entertainment
Pulp-fiction lover: Jarvis Cocker
booksJarvis Cocker on Richard Brautigan
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke and Pharell Williams in the video of the song, which has been accused of justifying rape
music...and he had 'almost no part' in writing it
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior QA Engineer - Agile, SCRUM

£35000 - £50000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior QA Engineer (Agil...

Marketing Executive - West Midlands - £28,000

£26000 - £28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Digital Marketing Executive (SEO, PP...

Retail Business Analyst

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our retail client ...

Senior C++ Developer

£400 - £450 Per Annum possibly more for the right candidate: Clearwater People...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week