Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 26 October 2014

Cheltenham is child's play for Ulster horses Big Shu, Hurricane Fly and Flaxen Flare

Big Shu ridden by Barry Cash
CHELTENHAM, ENGLAND - MARCH 13:  Racegoer Fawn Beddows poses for a photograph as she arrives for Ladies Day at Cheltenham Racecourse on the second day of the Cheltenham Festival 2013 on March 13, 2013 in Cheltenham, England.   Approximately 200,000 racing enthusiasts are expected at the four-day festival, which opened today and is seen by many as the highlight of the jump racing calendar.  (Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images)
CHELTENHAM, ENGLAND - MARCH 13: Racegoer Fawn Beddows poses for a photograph as she arrives for Ladies Day at Cheltenham Racecourse on the second day of the Cheltenham Festival 2013 on March 13, 2013 in Cheltenham, England. Approximately 200,000 racing enthusiasts are expected at the four-day festival, which opened today and is seen by many as the highlight of the jump racing calendar. (Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images)
Actor Jimmy Nesbitt at day three of the Cheltenham racing festival

For three days on the trot, Northern Ireland's champion horses have been proving they are the best in the business.

First it was Hurricane Fly, the nine-year-old gelding owned by Belfast's George Creighton and Crossgar's Rose Boyd, which stormed to glory at Cheltenham's opening race, the Champion Hurdle.

Flaxen Flare followed close on his hooves, defying the bookies. The racehorse, owned by Pat Sloan from Templepatrick, was a surprise 25/1 winner in Wednesday's Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle.

And capping it all off yesterday, Big Shu took his place in the history books.

Despite it being the racehorse's first time at Cheltenham, he stormed to victory in a win which surprised even his co-owner, physiotherapist Caroline Woods from Donemana in Co Tyrone.

Caroline – who owns Big Shu along with Hugh Duffy from Londonderry and Richard Robinson of Newcastle, Co Down – told the Belfast Telegraph: "I think I'm still in shock about the win, but really I shouldn't be as Big Shu went to Cheltenham off the back of a good second place at Punchestown.

"He went to the festival as well prepared as he could possibly be. There would have been no excuses for him not doing well.

"But it was a phenomenal achievement," added Caroline, whose father Lindsay Woods is a Donemana-based racehorse trainer. "That's his first time over those big Cheltenham fences," she said.

Big Shu, trained by Peter Maher in Kildare and ridden by Barry Cash, sealed victory over strong competitors with a final big jump, winning at 14-1.

Meanwhile Jimmy Nesbitt could be seen wandering about Cheltenham yesterday. The Co Antrim actor is the co-owner of horse Riverside Theatre, which was unable to regain his Ryanair Chase crown, losing to Cue Card yesterday.

Despite this week's success for Ulster-owned racehorses, it has been a disappointing week for Co Antrim champion jockey Tony 'AP' McCoy, who has not had a winner yet. "Wednesday was another largely disappointing day," he wrote in The Telegraph earlier this week.

"I thought I had a handful of decent each-way chances but only Regal Encore in the bumper gave me the scent of a winner," he wrote.

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