Giant Hillcrest walks tall for Daly
Henry Daly is once again back among the winners, with a cross card double at Catterick and Cheltenham giving him the best possible start to 2022.
Having Trevor Hemmings as an owner is the gift that keeps on giving, even though the great man is sadly no longer with us. His executors have not as yet dismantled his racing interests, doubtless to the relief of many trainers who house his runners. And as owners, they’ve enjoyed a peachy winter, with Cloudy Glen winning the Ladbrokes Trophy in early December. Today, it was the turn of youngster Hillcrest, under the tutelage of Richard Patrick, to score in the listed Ballymore Novices Hurdle to open Cheltenham’s New Year’s day card. Making all, he fought off the challenge of I Am Maximus from Seven Barrows to score his fourth race on the bounce. He is currently unbeaten over hurdles.
As the horse continues to improve, it’ll be interesting to see which of the novice hurdles at Cheltenham Daly opts to enter. Based on his record to date, he surely merits a Ballymore or Albert Bartlett entry, even if he won’t be among the more fashionable entries to follow. Following today’s race, the giant horse, that measures over 18hh, is priced at 25/1 for the Ballymore, and 16/1 for the Albert Bartlett. Of one thing you can be sure; everything he earns over the smaller obstacles is a bonus. This is a fine chaser in the making.
Meantime, up at Catterick, the good news continued when Rapper won the Happy New Year from Vickers Bet Novices Handicap Chase over 3m1f under Ben Godfrey.
The exposure of a listed winner is a welcome acceleration in the Downton Hall momentum after a couple of quiet seasons. And whilst Christmas drew a blank, there were plenty of reasons to be cheerful with horses filling the minor places – a sure indication that they will find the Winner slot shortly.
It’s been 15 years since the Daly stable was among the top 15 in the Championship, where a prize money haul of £500,000 should get you a place. Daly is too self-effacing for his own good, one might argue. Whilst others are hustlers by nature, forever seeking to lure owners either to switch, or grow their stable strength, H D Daly is more comfortable with the horses than wining and dining. It’s a trait that is very likeable, yet at odds with growing a yard’s exposure and following. If in doubt, look at Fergal O’Brien, possibly the most sociable trainer in the UK at present.
Nevertheless, with a strike rate of 18% this season, there’s plenty to encourage the team to up the ante before April is out. For the time being, the horses are doing the talking, and Hillcrest can put Daly back among the big winners.