Cheltenham: Greatwood Glory for Garde La Victoire
Garde La Victoire capped a memorable Open Meeting for Philip Hobbs and Richard Johnson by taking the Grade 3 StanJames.c0m Greatwood Hurdle. Johnson had shown some worries beforehand that the testing ground might not have been in the 5yo’s favour, but he need not have worried, as Hobbs’ charge galloped like a Trojan from the front to provide the combo with their sixth victory of the meeting.
Johnson was forced into making the running as no one was keen to go on from the off and the pair set a pretty sedate pace with Garde La Victoire pulled for his head. 7/2 favourite Vaniteux was held up by Barry Geraghty and travelled powerfully upsides 5/1 second favourite Clondaw Warrior.
Turning for home, the favourite was kept to the inside by Geraghty and seemed to be travelling very strongly as the field faced the famous hill. Garde La Victoire was gamely staying on on the near side rail, with Clondaw Warrior battling on for pressure under David Casey.
The eventual winner was headed after the last but showed great character to get back up before the line to score by 1 1/4 lengths.
“We had talked about it,” winning trainer Hobbs said about the decision to make the running. “There’s no better man to do his homework on these things and he said that if it looked like nothing was going to go on, he would keep him handy.
“He was just a little bit keen early on and then he settled and jumped beautifully. I think he would have won at Aintree the other day except for his jumping.
“He’ll stay over hurdles this season. He’s only five, so I think we’ll do that. The fact that he settled better helped his overall performance.
“We thought we might have two winners over the three days, maybe three. I can’t remember having six winners at any big meeting so we’ll enjoy it while it lasts.
“Realistically it’s down to the whole team at home. Without the staff at home nothing happens.
“We probably haven’t got the ammunition as some of those going for the trainers’ title, but winning these big prizes certainly helps.”
By Kevin Walsh / Photo: David Davies/PA Archive
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