McConnell and Curling land impressive Festival winners to secure Prestbury Cup

Eight Irish trainers have now saddled winners and there is still a day to go

Thursday, March 16, 2023

Ben Harvey soaks up the crowd's cheers after crossing the line on Seddon

John McConnell hailed Ben Harvey as a ‘star of the future’ after both claimed their first Cheltenham Festival victories courtesy of a show-stopping display by Seddon, writes Paul Martin.

The 20/1 shot won over hurdles on this course in October and translated that form over fences to pull clear up the hill and come home by two lengths from Fugitif.

The pair have worked together since Harvey was 14 and McConnell believes this will be the first of many for the talented young rider.

“It was a beautiful ride from Ben,” he said.

“Ben is like robbing five pounds, he won’t have it [his claim] long, I can tell you that. 

“He’s a star of the future and he can see strides from a mile back. He’s top drawer and he’s going to be a top jockey.

“Seddon jumped great and I was just hoping he’d get up the hill. We always believed in the horse and we couldn’t believe the price.

“He’s amazing, the most beautiful, kind horse you could ever have on top of being a very good horse.

“There’s no fluke about this horse, he’s a proper horse who was very good in his youth. I don’t know how he’s been rejuvenated but he certainly has been.”

Harvey had to bide his time before making his charge, keeping within reach of pacesetter and reigning champion Coole Cody and successfully steering clear of danger.

“Class is the only word to describe it,” Harvey said. “I had a dream run around and I can’t believe it.

“I was a little bit worried about Coole Cody jumping right but when I came down the hill, it was just about resisting the urge to kick too soon and holding on to him as long as I could. 

“He picked up again up the hill and hit the line really well. He was brilliant.

“John has been a huge part of my career and I’m so lucky to have ridden his first Cheltenham Festival winner – and mine.

“He’s taught me near enough everything I know and I can’t thank him enough for all he’s done for me.”

The win made McConnell the seventh Irish trainer to saddle a winner this week and that soon became eight when Angels Dawn gamely held on to land the Kim Muir for Sam Curling.

The mare, ridden by Pa King, held firm under serious pressure from Gavin Cromwell’s Stumptown to lead home an Irish charge, with each of the top seven trained in Ireland.

It was therefore fitting that the success sealed the Prestbury Cup with a day to spare, taking the overall scoreline for the week to 15-6 in the visiting team’s favour.