Sire De Grugy fittingly played a starring role as the curtain came down on another thrilling National Hunt season at Sandown on Saturday. Representing the popular father-son combination of Gary and Jamie Moore, Sire De Grugy has undoubtedly produced the most feelgood narratives of the season.
In an era where most of the big prizes are mopped up by Messrs Nicholls, Henderson and Mullins, Sire De Grugy’s domination of the two-mile chasing division this term, albeit in the absence of Henderson’s sidelined superstar Sprinter Sacre, has been like a breath of fresh air for the jumping game.
The six-year-old returned to Esher to defend his crown in the bet365 Celebration Chase having won five of his previous six starts during a scintillating campaign, including significant Grade One triumphs in Sandown’s Tingle Creek and the Clarence House Chase at Ascot before his season-defining Queen Mother Champion Chase strike at Cheltenham.
Moore snr admitted to feeling the pressure as his pride and joy lined up with a new weight of expectation on his shoulders, but, although his performance suggested he is now ready for a summer break, the 2-7 favourite was still much too good for his opponents, scoring by a little over three lengths from admirable mare Pepite Rose.
The trainer said: “I was slightly nervous today because a lot of people, some good judges among them, told me I shouldn’t come here and told me to put him away because horses don’t always come back in the same form after Cheltenham.
“I was confident in myself that he was very well with all the help from the staff and Jamie, I was confident he was in good order.”
On the day he relinquished his trainer’s title to Paul Nicholls, Nicky Henderson ended his season on a high as 10-1 shot Hadrian’s Approach claimed the feature bet365 Gold Cup under the irrepressible Barry Geraghty.
Fresh from his Irish Grand National and Powers Gold Cup victories over the Bank Holiday period, the Irish rider produced another power-packed display in the saddle to mow down Tony McCoy aboard the strong-travelling Burton Port and get up by three-quarters of a length. With stable stars Sprinter Sacre, Simonsig and Bobs Worth all failing to deliver as expected this term for one reason or another, it has been a frustrating campaign for the master of Seven Barrows, even though he has ended the year with more winners than the total he notched when crowned champion trainer last year for the first time since 1987.
Philip Hobbs and Richard Johnson combined to take the bet365 Oaksey Chase as Menorah (11-4) bounced back to form in emphatic fashion.
The other Listed prize on the afternoon, the bet365 Select Hurdle, went to Nicholls’ 15-8 favourite Southfield Theatre and jockey Sam Twiston-Davies.
Before racing, Nicholls was crowned champion trainer for the eighth time, with Tony McCoy top jockey for an incredible 19th successive year.
Gavin Sheehan was named champion conditional, while the owners’ title went to JP McManus, with the likes of Champion Hurdle winner Jezki, World Hurdle hero More Of That and dual Grade One winner My Tent Or Yours his best performers.
Yesterday’s clash between Treve and Cirrus Des Aigles in the Prix Ganay lived up to its billing as a short neck separated the pair at the line in the Group 1feature. However, it was the previously undefeated Arc victor Treve who had to make do with minor honours as the race-fit veteran Cirrus Des Aigles put his edge to good use in what was a thrilling battle up the straight.