Career best at Christmas for the Captain and the Coltherds

Sam (left) and Stuart Coltherd with Captain Redbeard (picture by John Smail).
Sam (left) and Stuart Coltherd with Captain Redbeard (picture by John Smail).
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Christmas arrived a little early for Selkirk’s famous Coltherd Racing team this year, thanks to one of its best-known mounts – Captain Redbeard.

The Captain stormed home to win Haydock Park’s feature race last Saturday – the prestigious Betfred Tommy Whittle Handicap Chase – by six lengths and at odds of 14/1.

Trained and owned by Stuart Coltherd, and ridden superbly on the day by his 19-year-old son Sam, Captain Redbeard’s victory was the first of the season for the Clarilawmuir yard and, with a first prize of £15,640, it was also the most lucrative.

“Our horses have been running well but, prior to that day, had been missing out by narrow margins,” said Stuart.

“In such circumstances, you’ve just got to keep faith and believe the wins will eventually come.

“Captain Redbeard was in good form going into the Whittle Chaseand had been unlucky at Aintree a couple of weeks ago, when a horse fell in front of him.

“On this occasion, everything went according to plan.

“I thought Sam handled the race really well and the horse put in an immaculate round of jumping. I believe Captain Redbeard is the first Scottish-trained winner of the event since Earls Brig lifted the trophy for Billy Hamilton in 1985, so it’s a red letter day for the yard.”

Equally delighted by the victory was jockey Sam Coltherd. “It’s definitely the biggest win of my career,” said Sam. “The reception we had coming into the winners’ enclosure was tremendous.

“Going into the race, I thought we had a good chance of finishing in the top three but, the longer the race went on, the more confident I became. This is my eighth victory on Captain Redbeard overall – six coming under rules and two in point-to-points. He’s a brilliant horse.”

Saturday’s win was Sam’s second of the season and takes the conditional jockey’s total career victories to 30.

This season, Sam is based at Sue Smith’s Craiglands Farm yard in Yorkshire and, when allowed, still pilots horses for Coltherd Racing, should owners so wish.

Stuart has expressed his thanks to all the wellwishers who had been in touch to offer their congratulations. “My phone’s hardly stopped ringing since the end of the race, and both Sam and I really appreciate everyone’s support,” he said.

Captain Redbeard joins an elite group of horses who have triumphed in the Tommy Whittle Chase.

Gold Cup winners Little Owl (1982) and Forgive N’ Forget (1986) both lifted the trophy, as did such famous racehorses as The Thinker (1988), Twin Oaks (1992) and One Man (1995).

Back in March this year, the Coltherds also savoured the prestige of taking Captain Redbeard to the Cheltenham Festival. Stuart described it as ‘the Olympics of National Hunt racing’ – and predicted at the time there would be better form to come from the Captain.