Pentland Hills lands the Triumph
It costs just £57 a year to own a Triumph Hurdle winner. The 3,000 members of the Owners Group 031 syndicate, which owns Pentland Hills had their wildest dreams come true as Nico de Boinville guided their once-raced over hurdles – and former 73-rated Flat horse – to Grade 1 success at the Cheltenham Festival.
When the 11-10 favourite Sir Erec broke down with what proved a fatal injury after the fourth flight plenty of contenders were in with a chance and rounding the home bend it looked like Davy Russell aboard Coeur Sublime was going to extend his sequence of riding a winner at each festival to a 14th year – but Pentland Hills powered through the field and up the hill to win by three lengths at 20-1.
He nearly didn’t make it past the first. “He nearly fell at the first and I started to think perhaps it wasn’t such a good idea to run him here but the rest of it was good,” said winning trainer Nicky Henderson, who started off Pentland Hills over hurdles in a modest race at Plumpton.
For that win his owners each pocketed £1 and change. For this the vast majority collected more from the bookies than their share of the prize-money – but see if any one of them cares. They do not care a jot. They own a Cheltenham Festival winner.
De Boinville said: “The fantastic thing is the owners, it’s such a massive syndicate – thousands of people are in on him and they’ve all got a share. It’s great because it opens up the game and allows a lot of people who can’t afford to have a horse themselves to have a go and it shows that racing is accessible.”
On the performance he added: “We didn’t know what we had before today, so we’ll get home and have a think and make a plan. His jumping is his main asset. Every time I gave him a little kick he came back on the steel. I didn’t want to go to the front too soon. I got a nice jump at the last and he has cleared right away.”
Henderson added: “He’s got a very long way to go before being a Champion Hurdle contender because it’s his second start over obstacles, but we’ll see.”
The champion trainer added: “I’m sorry about Sir Erec – he was such a gorgeous horse.”