Solwhit delivers coveted World Hurdle for inspired Carberry
Co Limerick trainer Charles Byrnes is full of praise for jockey and horse
Paul Carberry pops Solwhit (right) over the last before landing the Ladbrokes World Hurdle.
Coping with a punctured lung in Cheltenham General Hospital will have concentrated Davy Russell’s thoughts yesterday but the champion jockey’s mind must also surely have wandered back to the track where his old ally Solwhit secured a memorable Ladbrokes World Hurdle success.
Russell couldn’t have ridden the horse he’s won six Grade One races on anyway because he was committed to Bog Warrior. And he would have appreciated the efforts his veteran colleague Paul Carberry put in to successfully step in. However, he wouldn’t be human not to ponder what might have been.
Solwhit after all is one of those quality horses that jockeys strive to secure. Brilliantly accomplished at a variety of trips, he has also had the misfortune to repeatedly run into a rare champion in Hurricane Fly for most of his career. Leg problems threatened to end that career for a long time and yesterday’s festival feature was just his third start in two years.
It was also his first ever start at three miles, but with the legendary Big Buck’s on the sidelines, and a title there waiting to be picked up, the latent quality Solwhit has always possessed resurfaced for him to finally claim the festival spotlight.
“Desperate for Davy all round because the horse is his ride,” said Co Limerick trainer Charles Byrnes who has done a remarkable job in getting an injury-plagued horse back to win a gruelling championship event which Ireland had drawn a blank in for 18 years.
“That’s seven Grade Ones now – but it would have been more but for Hurricane Fly!” added Byrnes.
Booking Carberry was another inspired move by Byrnes. The 39-year-old was securing a 13th festival winner and typical of the man it wasn’t without drama. Having missed day two of the festival due to a shoulder problem, he had to get a pain-killing injection yesterday in order to get doctors’ permission to ride.
Yet again, however, he was coolness itself in the race, stalking from the back as Bog Warrior enjoyed a solo out in front and the well-backed favourite Oscar Whisky endured a nightmare in the pack.
Almost from the get-go, Oscar Whisky never looked to be travelling and was eventually pulled up by Barry Geraghty.
As Bog Warrior swept down the hill, it was the former Champion Hurdle runner-up Celestial Halo, in the Big Buck’s colours, that looked set to spring a 40 to 1 surprise but Solwhit’s class from the last flight proved decisive.
“It’s a brilliant training performance to get him back and he travelled great the whole way,” Carberry reported. “Solwhit is a class horse at two miles and he stayed.
“The English have been dominating this race, and there was also the French horse Baracouda, so it’s great to ride an Irish winner.”
Byrnes echoed that and praised Carberry’s ride. “He was the ideal deputy to help the horse get the trip. He settled beautifully for him and Paul was able to put him to sleep for most of the race,” Byrnes continued.
“And he had just the one to pick off at the last.”
That Celestial Halo carries the Big Buck’s colours had Byrnes even thinking about what might have been had the legendary four-time World Hurdle winner been able to line up again.
“I’ve no doubt he would have beaten Big Buck’s if we’d been here last year – the form of that race wasn’t strong,” he said.
“Our horse is nine now and we’ll aim him again at this race next year.”
That is also the long-term target date for a return to action by Big Buck’s. Solwhit has proved they can come back. If it happens, it will be a clash to savour.