Cheltenham Festival's Mares’ Hurdle is target for Cockney Sparrow

Gazette & Herald: Jason Maguire and Rutherglen, pose with the intriguingly titled owners, The Beer Swigging Strangers Jason Maguire and Rutherglen, pose with the intriguingly titled owners, The Beer Swigging Strangers

THE David Nicholson Mares’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival in March is the target this season for Cockney Sparrow, who produced a career-best performance at Newcastle last Saturday.

The John Quinn-trained mare finished second to My Tent Or Yours in the Fighting Fifth Hurdle, a Grade 1 event, which the Norton trainer had won last year with Countrywide Flame.

Although My Tent Or Yours, trained by Nicky Henderson and the mount of Tony McCoy, won comfortably on Saturday to promote himself into favouritism for the Champion Hurdle, Cockney Sparrow came out best of the rest in gallant style under Brian Hughes.

“She ran a great race and for a mare to finish placed in a Grade 1 is very important,” said Quinn.

“We’ll look now to running her in a mares’ race at Doncaster in January and then aim her for Cheltenham. If she stays (two miles and five furlongs), she’d be going there with a chance, and the way she stuck on after the last on Saturday, you’d think she would stay.”

Cockney Sparrow, who has made tremendous strides in the past year, was previously trained on the Flat by Peter Chapple-Hyam before Quinn stepped in to buy her at the sales last year.

When Quinn goes shopping, he usually makes it worthwhile.

Rutherglen last week became the second of the trainer’s more recent purchases at Tattersalls Horses-in-Training Sales at Newmarket at the end of October to come up trumps over hurdles at the first time of asking.

One week on from Forced Family Fun, bought out of Michael Bell’s yard, had scored on his hurdling bow at Hexham, Rutherglen did the business at Wetherby with a slick performance under Jason Maguire.

“They are two nice horses and it’s pleasing to see them win first time out over hurdles,” said the Highfield trainer.


• JOHN Quinn was on the receiving end of a presentation at the annual Pride Of Racing ‘Magic Moment’ Awards, held at the Marriott Hotel at Newcastle Racecourse last Friday night.

Attracting some 300 guests, the black-tie affair, which supported the work of the Northern Air Ambulance, acknowledges one ‘magic moment’ enjoyed by all members of the northern racing fraternity throughout the year. Quinn won the National Hunt Trainers’ award for Countrywide Flame’s Fighting Fifth Hurdle triumph last season.

Jamie Hamilton, previously attached to the Richard Fahey stable and now with Venetia Williams, received the National Hunt Jockeys’ award for his 100-1 success in the Foxhunters’ Chase at Aintree over the Grand National fences on Tartan Snow.

The Flat Owners’ trophy was presented to Peter Timmins and John Rhodes for their success with Peniaphobia, the Richard Fahey-trained winner of the valuable Weatherbys Super Sprint at Newbury.

Jacqueline Coward won one of the two point-to-point awards on a most enjoyable evening, attended by a whole host of jockeys and trainers, including Tony Hamilton, Joe Fanning, Jason Hart, Dean Pratt, Dale Swift, Malcolm Jefferson and Brian Ellison, all of whom were short-listed for awards.


• Ifandbutwhynot may not possess the sort of name which trips off the tongue of racing commentators, but the talented gelding will always be fondly remembered by Ryedale trainer David O’Meara.

At Newbury last week, Ifandbutwhynot ran out a decisive winner of the bet365 Intermediate Hurdle, better known as the Gerry Fielden Hurdle, after Timmy Murphy had brilliantly executed front-running tactics on a horse who is usually held-up in his races.

The outcome was a pillar-to-post win in this Listed event, which carried a first prize of almost £20,000.

“Timmy said he didn’t think there would be much pace and he might make the running and it worked out brilliantly,” said O’Meara, who was particularly pleased that Murphy enjoyed a notable win on the gelding. “I’m chuffed for him because Timmy broke his wrist when falling on this horse in the Scottish Champion Hurdle earlier this year.”


• Josh Quinn has a tough act to follow if he is to emulate the achievements of his father, Jimmy Quinn, who is one of Britain’s senior Flat jockeys with hundreds of winners to his credit.

But teenager Josh put his foot on the first rung of the riding ladder at Wolverhampton last weekend when riding his first winner on his 20th mount aboard the Luke Dace-trained Debt Settler.

Josh is apprenticed to Malton trainer Richard Fahey, who served his apprenticeship as a jockey alongside Jimmy Quinn when both were attached to the Norton stable of Pat Rohan.


• Ladys First, who proved herself in Listed and Group-race company for Fahey, went through the sales ring at Newmarket on Monday and made a whopping £650,000 as a prospective brood mare.

Ladys First was bought by Coolmore and it will be fascinating to see her progeny racing.


•RICHARD FAHEY’S Musley Bank team will be pulling on their onesies in a bid to raise money for Macmillan Cancer Support on Saturday, December 14, writes Tom O’Ryan.

Layla’s Oasis gave the nod of approval yesterday and this fun and unique fundraising venture is gathering momentum as everyone without a pair of all-in-one pyjamas are starting to take shopping for them seriously.

Aly said: “I wanted to organise something fun, something everyone could take part in, to raise funds for Macmillan Cancer Support.

“It’s a charity close to many of our hearts and the lads, the whole of the team here, have got behind it 100 per cent and it’s great.

“We’re just trying to raise as much money as we can while having a bit of a laugh leading up to Christmas.

“Venetia Wrigley, who raised an enormous amount for Macmillan when partnering Extraterrestrial to success in the charity race at York earlier this year, has given her full support and we can expect to see her riding out in her onesie at Musley Bank on December 14.

“Another team member, Hayley, has raised £105 already which is fantastic.”

She grinned: “My family have sponsored me to ride out in my jammies.

“Riders and ground staff alike will be wearing their chosen onesie for the morning and rumours have been flying that we may even see our trainer clad in a onesie.”

Anyone who wishes to support Aly and the Musley Bank team can do so at

“All donations, however small, will be greatly appreciated and will go directly towards helping this very worthwhile cause.”

Fahey also has a Just Giving account and iIf enough funds are raised he will also be wearing one.


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