For the eighth successive campaign Connolly’s Red Mills are generously sponsoring an Intermediate series with a final to be run at Cheltenham on April 29th, 2015.
There is a slight amendment to the conditions compared to last season, in that the number of Connolly’s-sponsored qualifying races has been reduced from 20 to 14, but there is now more opportunity for horses which run in non-sponsored Intermediates to be entered for the final.
In 2013/14 only the winner of one of the latter contests was eligible to take part in the climax of the series, but this time the second-placed horse will also qualify. Conditions for the 14 qualifiers remain unchanged, with the first four home entitled to take their chance at Cheltenham.
In the event of an abandonment of a qualifier, any horse which had been entered to run at the time would also be eligible to be entered.
The first Intermediate of the new season, which fell into the non-sponsored category, took place at Black Forest Lodge on November 30, and getting their names on the Connolly’s scoresheet were The Mythologist and Mister Teddy.
The winner, The Mythologist, was completing an unbeaten hat-trick since being purchased earlier this year by Guy Henderson, who trains him for himself and wife Sophie. Having been held up in his two outings last season, front-running tactics were deployed on this occasion at the suggestion of his jockey, the Hendersons’ son Robbie, who finished runner-up in the National Championship in 2013/14.
“He’s got a high cruising speed, and he seemed to enjoy it,” reported Guy, who in January takes over as Chief Executive at Ascot racecourse, and described his charge as “an exciting horse,” while Robbie enthused “He’s one of the better ones I’ve sat on. He had plenty left in the tank.” The six-year-old is flat-bred – “But he’s got plenty of bone,” Guy said, – being by the 2005 Derby hero Motivator, and her dam line goes back to the 1974 1000 Guineas and French Oaks winner Highclere.
The Henderson operation is a hands-on one, with Guy and Sophie sharing most of the work. Guy rides The Mythologist most days, and admitted that one downside to his new appointment was that he would have slightly less time to dedicate to his three Pointers.
The next outing for the chestnut is likely to be at Larkhill in January, and if all goes well during the season, a tilt at the Cheltenham final is a distinct possibility. “It would be a dream come true to saddle a runner there,” smiled Guy.
Trainer Fred Hutsby professed himself delighted with runner-up Mister Teddy. The nine-year-old, owned by Fred’s father Ken, was having only the fourteenth race of his career due to a litany of minor leg problems – “Nothing serious,” explained Fred, “but enough for us to call a halt. He’s always had bags of ability but doesn’t always concentrate, so we put the cheekpieces on to try to sharpen him up.”
Ampton could be next on the agenda, after which Ken is keen to send Mister Teddy Hunter Chasing. “Should he be lucky enough to win one he would have to carry a penalty at Cheltenham,” pointed out Fred, “but that’s a long way away!”