Thirteen months on from one of the more difficult days of her training career, Nicky Martin had an afternoon she will never forget at Chepstow on Tuesday as The Two Amigos bravely fought off all challengers from the front to win the Coral Welsh National at the third time of asking.
The feature event of Chepstow’s season had long been an obvious target for The Two Amigos, who finished fifth in the Christmas marathon in 2019 and then a close second a season later. On the day that entries were due in November 2021, however, Martin was “having a few dramas” on her Somerset farm and forgot about the entry deadline until it had passed.
As Martin remarked at the time, though, “maybe these things happen for a reason”, and The Two Amigos’ moment in the spotlight finally arrived on Tuesday, in suitably defiant fashion.
David Prichard, his jockey, sent the 10-year-old straight into the lead, with The Big Breakaway and The Big Dog in close attendance, and then faced down every challenge over the course of three-and-three-quarter miles. A mistake two out ended The Big Dog’s hopes of victory and Joe Tizzard’s The Big Breakaway emerged as the final challenger for a race being run in memory of Tizzard’s sister, Kim Gingell, who died in May 2020 at the age of just 43.
Gingell’s son Freddie, on fourth-home Truckers Lodge, was also in contention in the home straight but The Two Amigos simply refused to yield and stayed on to beat The Big Breakaway by a length and a quarter.
Martin’s Chepstow hex remained at least partially intact, as she was forced to miss The Two Amigos’ victory due to illness, but it was still a huge moment for her small operation.
“That was absolutely brilliant,” she said from her home. “It’s such a shame we weren’t there, but I’m full of flu and I’m not sure I could have stuck that weather today. Ironically, we desperately needed the rain for him, we were praying for it and it all panned out perfectly.
“He really deserved it, he’d run so well in it twice before and he’s so popular. Dave did what he was told, get to the front and dictate the pace because he had no weight, and luckily it all worked out perfectly.
“It’s great for Dave, too. He doesn’t get that many rides and as a Welshman, it will mean the world to him.”
The big race of the day at Kempton was also won by a strong-staying front-runner, although the task faced by Editeur Du Gite, a 28-1 outsider, in the Desert Orchid Chase was eased significantly at an early stage when Edwardstone, the 2-5 favourite, blundered and unseated Tom Cannon at the fifth fence.
Editeur Du Gite then went clear rounding the home turn and easily held the challenge of Nube Negra, the 4-1 second-favourite, over the final three fences.
“They are a great bunch of owners,” Gary Moore, the winner’s trainer, said. “They had Sire De Grugy [the former Champion Chase winner] and now this horse. He is no Sire De Grugy, but he ain’t far behind him.”
In Ireland, Willie Mullins enjoyed what was, even by his high standards, a remarkable afternoon at Leopardstown as he won six of the seven races, missing out on going through the card only when not one of his eight runners in the Paddy Power Handicap Chase could make the first 10 home.
The winner of that race was Eric McNamara’s Real Steel, at 33-1, who started his racing career in the Mullins yard, while the perennial Irish champion gained compensation for narrowly missing out on a clean sweep with Grade One wins for Blue Lord, in a two-mile chase, and his leading novice hurdler, Facile Vega.
Mullins’s other wins on the card included a debut win over fences for Dysart Dynamo, who was a faller in last season’s Supreme Novice Hurdle at Cheltenham after setting off as joint-favourite alongside the outstanding Constitution Hill.
Dysart Dynamo made all the running to win unchallenged by 28 lengths and is now priced at around 7-1 for the Arkle Trophy at Cheltenham in March, in a market headed by Nicky Henderson’s Jonbon at 6-4. – Guardian