Barry Geraghty: Top 3 Moments

Barry Geraghty’s Sporting Index blog: I don’t see there being a need to step Defi up in trips

Having missed out on the first five months of the season with a broken leg, I was always going to struggle to make any personal records for total winners, but the quality of rides I’ve had since the autumn has been great and overall it’s been a very good campaign.

I’ve had my fair share of success on the big days, particularly with five wins at the Cheltenham Festival, and given that the surgeon said my leg wouldn’t be at full strength until after Christmas, everything has worked out pretty well.

Top 3 Moments

  • Defi Du Seuil – Tingle Creek

One of my best moments of the season came on Defi Du Seuil in the Tingle Creek at Sandown.

If jump racing had Classics then you’d have the Tingle Creek, the King George and the big ones at Cheltenham in March, so it was a massive buzz to win it again this season.

It’s been a big race for me in the past having won it with Moscow [Flyer] twice and then Sprinter Sacre, and winning it for the fourth time was special.

He won the Shloer Chase at Cheltenham but was getting weight from Politologue and it was a slowly run race too, so you could see why people might have been able to pick holes in that.

This was his first proper test in a Grade 1 chase outside of novice company and he had to beat a top horse in Un De Sceaux on his preferred soft ground.

He jumped well but was maybe a touch big and slow early, but by the time we were jumping the three railway fences he was much sharper.

He was good at the pond, jumped well at the second-last and then we met the last on a brilliant stride.

Un De Sceaux wasn’t that quick away from the last so we were left out in front on our own a bit earlier than ideal.

It meant he had to dig really deep and when you consider he was only a six-year-old running on very testing ground, it was a mighty performance to see it out like he did – the race made a man of him.

He ran well below par at Cheltenham in the Champion Chase but he came out of that fine, he’s only seven and is still a horse on the up.

He’s a proven top-class two-mile chaser and I don’t see there being a need to step him up in trip in the short term.

  • Epatante – Champion Hurdle

I had a brilliant Cheltenham and the highlight of the whole week would have to be Epatante in the Champion Hurdle.

To get a score on the board early in the week is brilliant, and to make it the Champion Hurdle on the boss’ [JP McManus] birthday was the icing on the cake.

Going into the race I had my concerns.

There’d been plenty of rain the day before and Chantry House struggled a bit on the ground in the Supreme, so I thought Epatante might not cope with it either.

It turned out that Nicky [Henderson] had managed to find an unbelievable amount of improvement in her since Christmas and at no point in the race did she travel in any way other than like a winner.

What Nicky did with her from Christmas to March is what sets the good and the great apart.

He always does everything by what’s right for the horse.

It would have been tempting to run her again before Cheltenham, in some something like the Kingwell, but he was happier to give her a little break and train her for the big day.

It may not have been the strongest Champion Hurdle in history but she’s only just turned six and there’s still plenty more to come.

  • Champ – RSA Novices Chase

Champ in the RSA, given the finish of the race, has to be up there as one of my top moments of the season too.

He jumped okay, but not as well as he can do, and there’s improvement to come in that department, but what he did well was just hang in there.

He was on the back foot for most of the last mile and he had a lot of work to do when the front two pulled clear turning in.

The good thing about Cheltenham is that you have a lot of time from the moment you turn in to the finish line to claw it back and he showed exactly that.

It was a great moment too as we had our doubters in the build-up to the race.

I did a preview night with Robert Power and he gave Champ as his lay of the meeting and I made him my banker.

I knew his jumping wouldn’t be foot perfect but he had the highest level of hurdle form in the book, so we know he had the ability, and stamina wasn’t an issue.

Winning a race in that fashion is a massive thrill, particularly in front of the crowds at Cheltenham, though I think the last time I saw something like that happen I was on the receiving end of it!

Back in 2000 when I was seeking my first Festival winner, I was well clear on Native Dara in the Coral Cup but then Paul Flynn and What’s Up Boys flew home from nowhere to grab us on the line.

Given that, I knew Rachael Blackmore’s pain and said as much to her as we pulled up.

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