Master Oats

Master Oats  Master Oats, who died in 2012, at the age of 28, after a long and happy retirement, is best remembered for winning the Cheltenham Gold Cup in 1995. In so doing, he completed a famous big race double for trainer Kim Bailey and jockey Norman Williamson, who’d won the Champion Hurdle with Alderbrook two days earlier.

In the early part of his career, Master Oats hardly looked a champion, but a bad bleed after winning at Uttoxeter prompted a change of training tactics, which set him on the road to Cheltenham glory. At a rain-sodden Prestbury Park, he was sent off 100/30 favourite, but after a couple of unsettling mistakes at the eighth and ninth fences, made a monumental blunder at the eleventh, which Norman Williamson was lucky to survive. Survive he did, though, and Master Oats led after the second last and drew away in the closing stages to beat his old rival, the mare Dubacilla, by 15 lengths.

All in all, Master Oats won 10 of his 21 starts over fences, including the Rehearsal Chase at Chepstow, the Coral Welsh National at Newbury (transferred from Chepstow) and the Pillar Property Investments Chase at Cheltenham, as well as the Cheltenham Gold Cup, in the same 1994/95 season. His Timeform Annual Rating of 183 is the same as more recent Cheltenham Gold Cup winners Denman and Don Cossack and 1lb superior to Best Mate.

Master Oats also ran three times in the Grand National. He fell for the only time in his career at the second last fence on the first circuit in 1994, but finished seventh on his attempt to become the first horse since Golden Miller to complete the Cheltenham Gold Cup – Grand National double in 1995 and fifth, under 11st 10lb, on his final racecourse in 1997.

Alderbrook

Alderbrook  Alderbrook, who died in 2007, at the age of 18, after a highly successful stud campaign, was a useful performer on the Flat, but will always be remembered for his remarkable victory in the Champion Hurdle in 1995. The six-year-old was not only a first Cheltenham Festival winner for trainer Kim Bailey and jockey Norman Williamson, but also the least experienced horse ever to win a Champion Hurdle, after just two previous starts over obstacles.

 

Alderbrook was first tried over hurdles, without much distinction, by his previous trainer Sally Hall, as a three-year-old in December 1992. However, having developed into a Group class performer on the Flat for new trainer Kim Bailey, he didn’t race again under National Hunt rules until the Kingwell Hurdle at Wincanton in February 1995. On that occasion, he was always going well and quickened clear on the run-in to beat Trying Again by 8 lengths.

 

Entered in the Champion Hurdle almost as an afterthought by owner Eric Pick, after intensive coaching by celebrated equine guru Yogi Bresner Alderbrook was sent off at just 11/2, behind joint favourites Large Action and Danoli at 4/1. His performance was almost a carbon copy of that of Wincanton; he made steady headway on the bit from just after halfway, challenged at the final flight and quickened clear in the closing stages to beat his nearest market rivals by 5 lengths and 2 lengths.

 

Alderbrook ran just three more times over hurdles, comfortably winning two Grade 2 contests, including the Scottish Champion Hurdle and finishing second, beaten 2½, behind Collier Bay in the Champion Hurdle proper in 1996.

Binocular

Binocular  Owned by John P. McManus and trained by Nicky Henderson, Binocular is best remembered for winning the Champion Hurdle, under A.P. McCoy, in 2010. However, when was retired from racing in 2013, when a series of tests revealed an unspecified heart defect, he had won 11 of his 22 starts over hurdles, including the Anniversary 4-Y-O Novices’ Hurdle at Aintree and the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton (twice), as well as the Champion Hurdle.

 

Binocular made his first visit to the Cheltenham Festival in 2008, just two starts after joining Nicky Henderson from Elie Lellouche in France. Unfortunately, he tasted defeat for the first time in Britain, too, when beaten 2 lengths by Captain Cee Bee (also owned by J.P. McManus) in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle. Three impressive victories later, though, he lined up at Cheltenham again, this time as 6/4 favourite for the 2009 Champion Hurdle. He made a pretty good fist of winning it, too, going down in a driving finish, beaten a head and a neck, behind stable companion Punjabi.

 

At the start of the 2009/10 season, Binocular was beaten favourite in the Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle and the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton, on both occasions behind Go Native. He justified odds of 1/7 when beating two vastly inferior rivals in the Contenders Hurdle at Sandown in February, but later that month Nicky Henderson withdrew him from the Champion Hurdle.

 

However, after bone scans revealed no damage and Binocular did an outstanding piece of work at home, Henderson promptly changed his mind.Multiple champion jockey A.P. McCoy said of the workout, “I went as fast as I’ve ever gone schooling on a horse – I actually frightened myself – and for some reason he jumped like a proper Champion Hurdler should.”

 

Sent off at 9/1 for the Champion Hurdle, Binocular made smooth progress to lead at the second last flight and was well in command thereafter, eventually winning by 3½ lengths from Khyber Kim. Henderson later said of him, “He was the one horse who reminded me of [triple Champion Hurdle winner] See You Then. Watching him school some mornings, he was as good as you’ll ever see.”