Pentland Hills lands the Festival double
What can you buy for £57 these days? A bottle of champagne on a racecourse perhaps – or how about a share in a Cheltenham and Aintree Grade 1 winner?
That is what the members of the Owners Group 031 have got for their money after Pentland Hills became the fifth Triumph Hurdle hero this century to follow up on Merseyside.
The Owners Group syndicates are run alongside similar schemes like the Elite Racing Club and Axom, with the remit of making the sport more accessible. As Pentland Hills came back into the rain-swept winner’s enclosure following his neck defeat of Fakir D’Oudairies, there was the sense the blueprint had been met with many members huddled against the elements next to trainer Nicky Henderson.
“There were 3,000 shares available at £57 for Pentland Hills, which equates to roughly 2,100 individual members, and I think it’s fair to say we’ve got a lot of enthusiastic and happy people,” said Dan Downie, racing manager for the Owners Group.
Henderson, sharing the collective delight, was equally gobsmacked at the progress Pentland Hills has made since winning his jumps debut at Plumpton 38 days earlier.
“That’s his third race in five weeks since he appeared at Plumpton and it’s quite extraordinary,” said the trainer. “We sent him to Henrietta Knight to teach him to jump and by god he was slick today – he’s like Buveur D’Air.”
That is high praise indeed from a trainer who won this juvenile event with subsequent Champion Hurdle winner Binocular in 2008 and Pentland Hills was cut across the board for next season’s Champion Hurdle, with his odds ranging between 12-1 and 20-1.
A switch back to the Flat later in the year is in Henderson’s immediate thoughts. “He won’t go to Punchestown. He’s rated 73 on the Flat and you could get tempted to play with that,” he said.
“I’d really like to give him the summer off and give him a Flat race in the autumn but we’ll talk to everyone about it.”
Pentland Hills was uneasy in the market and drifted out to third favourite behind the Joseph O’Brien-trained pair Fakir D’Oudairies and Band Of Outlaws, who finished runner-up and fifth respectively.
“It’s always frustrating when you finish second but Fakir D’Oudairies ran a good race and the ground was a help to him,” said O’Brien.
“Band Of Outlaws didn’t jump as well as he did at Cheltenham and in that ground the two miles probably stretched him a little bit. We’ll think about Punchestown. We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.”