If I Had Him secured a significant victory for trainer George Baker and owner Sir Alex Ferguson as he claimed the Channel Islands Champion Hurdle in Jersey yesterday.
The nine-year-old is not one of the brightest stars of the former Manchester United manager’s equine string, but has now won three times at Jersey’s Les Landes racecourse under jockey Mattie Batchelor and also has a victory in Belgium to his credit.
Manton-based Baker, who decided earlier this year to head overseas with If I Had Him, was understandably thrilled by the result.
Baker said: “The Channel Islands Champion Hurdle, If I Had Him and Sir Alex Ferguson are words I never thought would be put together in the same sentence. I believe it is Sir Alex’s first Champion Hurdle, so it’s great. I think the prize-money for winning is something like £3,000, so it’s not going to change anyone’s life, but it’s a bit of fun more than anything.
“We try to make a plan for every horse at the start of the year. Earlier in the year Ancient Greece made history by winning at St Moritz on three consecutive Sundays and that gave us a bit of confidence to travel horses a bit more.
“If I Had Him won in Jersey a couple of times earlier in the year and then became the first English-based horse to win at Ostend in Belgium last month. He’s no superstar, but he is turning into a mini-star for us.
“He’s rated 64 on the Flat and it’s a choice between going to places like Jersey with him or running him at Wolverhampton in the dead of night.
“It’s quite easy to travel horses these days. It’s easier to get to some places across the Channel than it is to get to Catterick, and far more fun when you get there.
“Sir Alex is on a boat going around Scotland, but I’ve spoken to him on the phone and he’s delighted. I’m told it is a rather nice trophy and I’m sure Sir Alex will be looking forward to putting it next to the Premier League trophy in his house!”
At Perth meanwhile, Lucy Normile enjoyed a day to remember when Strobe and Parson’s Punch combined for a 71-1 double, the first of her training career.
Normile, the daughter of the Scone track chairman David Whitaker, is based just a few miles down the M90 and she said: “Normally when we have a winner we have a champagne breakfast – that could last for a week after this!
“You dream about days like this but it’s a team effort. I’m delighted for all our staff and the owners.”
Strobe, under Wilson Renwick, followed up a recent course and distance success in the totepool Home of King Size Pools Handicap Chase. And 30 minutes later Grant Cockburn-ridden Parson’s Punch, who virtually refused to race last time, was still reluctant despite being led in by his trainer prior to landing the Ecosteel And Lothian Steel Conditional Jockeys Handicap Chase.
Kian’s Delight is set for a crack at Market Rasen’s valuable Summer Plate after an impressive victory under Tom O’Brien in the Royal Caledonian Hunt Novices Chase. Jumping like a buck, he travelled strongly throughout before slamming Agricultural by 11-lengths.
Winning Haverfordwest trainer Peter Bowen said: “It might be a bit quick before Market Rasen but we had to go today and get a ride over fences. It’s a long way up – nearly ten hours – and we stopped overnight at Carlisle to break the journey.
“He did that really well and he has improved for the step up in trip.
“He jumped and travelled well and is a decent novice for the time of year.”
Football agent Willie McKay saw his blue and white hooped colours successful aboard 2-9 hot-pot Goal in the Drew Russell 65th Birthday Celebration Maiden Hurdle. Ginger Jack appears to excel on a fast surface, so conditions will at Ayr today will suit in the Polyflor Handicap. Nicely refreshed following a short break after a hard-fought win at Ripon last month, Ginger Jack runs off just a 3lb higher mark. That perch of 89 is still a couple of pounds below his career high of 92 and while the ground is good, it should pay to follow him.