WITH the Cheltenham Festival now 12 days away, the Sun Racing team will be bringing you their ‘Festival 50’ every day between now and 10 March.
We will salute the Prestbury Park heroes that made us fall in love with the Festival, all the way until the ‘Cheltenham roar’ signals that the wait is finally over.
Number 12: See You Then
Only five horses have won three Champion Hurdles in history.
See You Then is amongst those greats, but for a horse that only ran 15 times during his entire career, you could argue it makes his hat-trick even more impressive than those of the other four.
Nicknamed ‘See You When’ in some quarters, Nicky Henderson’s legend was as fragile as they come.
His tendons just did not play ball with the rigours of top class National Hunt racing, but Henderson tended to have him right when it mattered, and that’s what we remember him for.
His Seven Barrows story began in the Triumph Hurdle, where he was sent off favourite on the back of some encouraging efforts in Ireland, both over hurdles and on the flat.
He finished second before heading over to Italy. As you do…
But his owners were quickly convinced his future lay back in Britain and he was back at Henderson’s after one run.
In his first crack at the Champion Hurdle in 1985, despite being a 16-1 outsider, he would scoot clear to win by seven lengths.
Steve Smith Eccles hardly had to get to work as his horse cruised up the hill to win easily. However, the race would always be remembered for the controversial start where pre-race favourite Brown’s Gazette would swerve and lose any chance of winning.
However, that’s the great game we all love.
It was never plain sailing from there. The horse would only be seen three times on a racetrack the next season, with the first not until February and the second of those coming in the Champion Hurdle.
But it was business as usual on the big stage and See You Then won easily.
Seven was again the lucky number in terms of the winning margin.
“I cruised up behind them going to the last and let him sprint away up the hill with that devastating turn of foot that marks him as a true champion,” stated his rider.
He summed it up better than I can…
But it was his hat-trick bid that was most remarkable of all.
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The horse would be kept off the track due to injury until a week-and-half before his Champion Hurdle defence.
A rather large looking See You Then appeared at Haydock for a desperately needed pipe-opener. Punters were amazed that he won the four runner event.
But he’d done what was needed and thanks to a master stroke from Henderson he would line up as the 11-10 favourite in his hat-trick bid.
The story went how it normally does. He travelled like a dream through the race and jumped the last ahead. It looked over, but it wasn’t.
His condition would finally catch up with him and Flatterer would make him work like he never had to.
But champions are champions and he entered the history books for good.
Unfortunately the four-timer would never be on the cards. He was retired – although there’s more to that story another time – early the next season.
He’d already performed three miracles, four was too much of an ask.