Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Recalling the heady day when 'Cash' was king

We're just hours away from the start of the 2008 Cheltenham festival, the Olympics of National Hunt racing. Here's my piece from The Racing Post on Cashew King, winner of the County Hurdle exactly twenty years ago, in 1988 and who's still going strong at the ripe old age of 25.
Enjoy the best four days of jump racing of the season!

While this year’s County Hurdle contenders battle it out at Prestbury Park, Cashew King, the winner of the race twenty years ago, will be in the more relaxing surroundings of a field in Shropshire, where he has enjoyed a long and happy retirement at the yard of his former jockey, Trevor Wall.

For most of his eleven-year career, the talented gelding, who is now 25, was trained by Bryan McMahon, a man best known for his success on the Flat. "Cashew King was easily the best jumper I trained, he says. "He was very temperamental and often sweated up really badly before a race, so on the day of the County Hurdle we timed it so we only arrived about an hour and a half before the race. He didn’t go into the stables, we were in the coach car park and kept taking him out of the box for a walk."

Wall remembers being "as confident as you can be in such a race". He held his charge-a 9-1 chance- up before hitting the front just before the last, eventually landing the spoils by two lengths.

It was the only festival success for both men. “I feel tremendously privileged that I rode a Festival winner, something which many very good jockeys haven’t done" says Wall. Wall felt he owed a lot not only to McMahon -"a very loyal man",- but also to the horse who provided him with his finest hour. Happily, he was able to repay that debt.

He says: "I saw ‘Cash’ run one day in blinkers and thought ‘that’s not like him at all‘. I approached his owners and told them that when they retired him I would be able to give him a good home“.

And for the past thirteen years, he has done just that.

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