Cheltenham experience is pure gold for Selkirk horse racing duo

Stuart Coltherd, left, and son Sam with their trio of pre-Cheltenham winners, from left, Suprise Vendor, Hurricane Rita and Kanturk Bank.
Stuart Coltherd, left, and son Sam with their trio of pre-Cheltenham winners, from left, Suprise Vendor, Hurricane Rita and Kanturk Bank.

Selkirk’s famous father and son horse racing double act is reflecting on a memorable introduction to the ‘Olympics’ of National Hunt racing.

Stuart and Sam Coltherd made their first visit this week to the Cheltenham Festival, one of the biggest and best-known racing spectaculars in the world, where they had the honour of taking part on the opening day.

Sam rode Captain Redbeard on Tuesday, in the final race of the day, the 5.30pm Close Brothers Novice Handicap, over two miles 4.5 furlongs.

Although the actual race didn’t go quite so well for the family of trainer, jockey and horse, they are taking many positives from it, regarding it as a learning curve and a very enriching experience.

And the Coltherds had enjoyed am excellent burst of success just before heading to Gloucestershire, winning three races in a row from two meetings last week.

Sam’s mount at Cheltenham, Captain Redbeard, had qualified after a recent win at Haydock and was there on merit, said trainer Stuart, although the performance perhaps didn’t quite hang together on the day.

Going was good to soft for the 20 runners and there was plenty of incident, with a number of fallers.

Wearing number seven, Captain Redbeard had odds of around 20-1 but the race was won by Tully East at 8-1, with Gold Present (14-1) second and 7-1 shot Two Taffs third.

“It was a great experience – the horse was entitled to take his chance in the race but it probably did not plan out just as well as we hoped,” said Stuart. “It may have been bad positioning, maybe just lack of experience all round, but it’s a big learning curve.

“The first time being there and taking part was just an awesome experience. I suppose it’s the Olympics of horse racing.”

Stuart added: “It’s a big stage, so everything went great on the day, but the horse probably didn’t run up to expectatons – although not because of lack of ability.

“It was probably just lack of experience on how to ride the track. You need a lot of luck in these races as well, when there are as many runners.

“But both horse and jockey have enjoyed the experience. They are both back and injury-free, and ready to go again, so that’s the most important thing.”

Stuart added that, while it was great to be there, spectators didn’t see the “true performance” from Captain Redbeard.

“It’s just the way things went – there will be better days to come from him,” said Stuart. “We’ll learn from the experience. The horse travelled down well and handled the whole day and the big crowd well.”

Stuart suspected his son Sam may have been a little annoyed with himself and maybe didn’t enjoy the race so much – but, again, it was a learning curve.

“You are taking on the best in that field, jockey-wise, so you can only take the positives from it,” he said.

Before Cheltenham, the Coltherds’ three-in-a row success began at Carlisle last Thursday, when the locally-owned Kanturk Bank led all the way to win the Racing UK Novice Handicap Chase over two miles five furlongs.

Then there was a double triumph on Friday at Ayr with an all-the-way win for Hurricane Rita in the Western House Handicap hurdle, over two miles four furlongs, followed in the Racing UK two-mile hurdle by Suprise Vendor, who was running in his 90th race, winning for the 15th time. All three were ridden by Sam, one of the top conditional jockeys on the circuit.