ONE would think that after spending the day at the final qualifying leg of the flexi-eventing series at The Meadows last Saturday, as representative of the sponsor, Baileys Horse Feeds, Judy Maxwell might have liked a lie-in the following morning.
Not so, as she was back at the McCusker family’s Lurgan equestrian centre early on Sunday for the inter-schools’ finals in dressage and show jumping.
Thankfully, on what was a bitterly cold day, she got home well in time to switch on the TV and see son David land the hunters’ chase at Fontwell on his Paul Nicholls-trained Shantou Flyer.
This was a second success in the three-mile, two-furlong race for Downpatrick-born Maxwell and his now 12-year-old Shantou gelding who, on Sunday, won by five and a half lengths from the Sam Waley-Cohen-ridden favourite Jett.
The winner was reappearing following a 290-day break with his previous outing being over the same course and distance last May.
Shantou Flyer has plenty of placed form at the Cheltenham Festival and holds entries later this month in both the Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir amateur handicap chase (Thursday) and the St James’s Place Hunters’ Chase (Friday).
Maxwell has three other horses entered over the four days including his Punchestown champion hunters’ chase winner Bob And Co, who he is likely to ride in the Cheltenham equivalent.
Armagh’s Brian Hughes ‘only’ rode four winners in the period under review including two at Catterick on Tuesday where Danny McMenamin partnered his 24th winner of the season when landing the three-mile, one-furlong handicap chase on the Nick Alexander-trained Chanting Hill.
Unfortunately, the Downpatick-born jockey, who won a Lester award for champion conditional last week, took a heavy fall in the near two-mile handicap hurdle at Musselburgh on Wednesday. While x-rays on his neck were clear, he has to pass a concussion test this week.
He is expected to be fit to ride the Ann Hamilton-trained Tommy’s Oscar in the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham.