The Listener’s surprise victory in the Down Royal Festival’s feature race, the JNwine.com Champion Chase, was last night only beginning to sink in for winning trainer Nick Mitchell.
“It was unbelievable. It's not quite registering,” said Mitchell, who also won the Badger Ales Trophy at Wincanton on Saturday courtesy of Ellerslie George to make it a whopping 120-1 big race double.
“Guy Henderson, the owner of Ellerslie George, rang up and asked if it did actually happen and I said it did as it's in the newspapers!” added the Dorchester trainer.
Mitchell felt the conditions at Down Royal suited The Listener perfectly.
“Those conditions are the key to him. I don't know another horse that can handle horrible ground like he does and his jumping was impeccable.
“That is a lot to do with the ground when it's easy underfoot. He's never had the best feet in the world and when there's ease in the ground like that, he really does enjoy himself.
“It will be the plan to go back for the John Durkan at Punchestown next month. He's won it before and he nearly won it again last year.
“It will be a hotter race by the look of it. He's a Grade One chaser so he'll keep going in those races.”
The Listener won the race, on the second and final day of the festival, at a tasty 7-1, with hot favourite Notre Pere falling five fences from home.
Thankfully Notre Pere was reported to be ‘in great order’ yesterday morning with jockey Andrew Lynch also unhurt.
Options for the horse, who won the Williamhill.ie Troytown, Coral Welsh National and Guinness Gold Cup, are open according to Tom Dreaper, son and assistant to his father Jim.
“Notre Pere is 100 per cent fine and in great order. Andrew Lynch said afterwards that he couldn’t believe how well he felt during the
race and how he was travelling before he fell. He said he felt a better horse and was taking everything in his stride until things went wrong unfortunately.
“Notre Pere ate up very well this morning,” he added.
A big crowd turned up on Saturday, despite poor weather conditions, to witness one of Down Royal’s showpiece occasions.
But it was a good day for the bookies with Notre Pere — a slight odds on favourite in places after opening around evens — missing out in the big race, which was broadcast live on Channel 4, and 6-4 favourite Forpadydeplasterer beaten into second place in the next, the Ladbrokes.com Chase.
Another hot favourite, 5-4 shot Magnanimity, could only finish third in the last, the Lough Developments INH Flat Race.
Scholars Mate was the only favourite to oblige on the day, winning the Billecart-Salmon Handicap Hurdle at 3-1.