O'Connor's joy leaves Twiston-Davies inconsolable
Saturday 19 March 2011
Whatever your views on the pursuit on horseback of bushy-tailed vermin across the countryside, there is no doubt that fox-hunting is part of jump racing's history and heritage. The Foxhunter Chase is normally regarded as the highlight of the week for amateur riders; yesterday's riders rather found their thunder in that department stolen. "This is usually our Gold Cup," said the winner, Derek O'Connor. "But this year I'm not sure we can say that."
If Sam Waley-Cohen was the least battle-hardened in his field, the reverse was true in the race that followed. O'Connor, from Co Galway, is Ireland's six-times point-to-point champion and put his nous to good use on Zemsky as he closed on last year's winner Baby Run, ridden by 16-year-old Willie Twiston-Davies. At the second-last obstacle the teenager, whose trailblazing tactics had the rest of the field cooked, sensed the danger and, under pressure, asked his mount for a flyer. Instead, Baby Run put down, hit the birch, and the partnership ended. Young Willie, son of the horse's trainer, Nigel, and brother of last year's winning rider, Sam, walked off the course in tears, inconsolable.
"I'm sorry for the boy," said O'Connor, who had won another amateurs' contest on Wednesday, "but that's racing; it can be hard, he'll learn from it."
Zemsky, who is owned by one of the day's sponsors, potato man Ronnie Bartlett, and spent part of his youth in Nicky Henderson's yard before his deficiencies at higher levels were revealed, is trained by Ian Ferguson at Cullybackey in Co Antrim, where the hunting country includes walls, ditches and wire. "These fences here were easy for him," grinned Ferguson.
For 28-year-old O'Connor, the week proved an epiphany. "I'd never really thought Cheltenham was the be-all and end-all," he said, "but now I've been here in the winner's circle, I realise that it is."
Latest in Sport
Arsenal transfer news: Arsene Wenger says he will be 'actively involved' on deadline day... but may not buy a striker despite Giroud injury
Fernando Torres to AC Milan: Jose Mourinho talks up Mattia Destro with Torres on verge of Chelsea exit
Mario Balotelli has been 'spoken to at length' and Liverpool have ensured he lives on Merseyside rather than Manchester
Burnley vs Manchester United: Why Louis van Gaal has been unflustered by United's terrible start to the season
Tottenham vs Liverpool: Hugo Lloris expects Spurs to wipe away shame of 4-0 and 5-0 defeats last season
- 3 Oil tanker with $100 million cargo goes missing off Texas coast
- 4 George Galloway attacked on Notting Hill street by man 'shouting about the holocaust'
Robin Williams Emmys tribute led by Billy Crystal criticised for including 'racist' joke about Muslim woman
The Rotherham child abuse scandal is a tale of apologists, misogyny and double standards
Scottish independence TV debate: Pumped-up Alex Salmond bounces back in bruising second round against Alistair Darling
Do you realise just how foolish the UK looks?
Ukip Douglas Carswell defection: Tory MP jumps ship to join Nigel Farage
When elitism grips the top of British society to this extent, there is only one answer: abolish private schools
£45000 - £69999 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Algo-Develo...
£60000 - £70000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Senior Data Sc...
£50000 - £80000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: Data Sci...
£350 - £400 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Cent...