Don Poli set for Cheltenham’s Foxhunter Chase
Following his Alnwick point to point triumph last Saturday with jockey Tristan Durrell, Don Poli is all geared up to take on the Cheltenham Festival after securing his first win since 2015 and a place in this year’s Foxhunter chase. Don Poli has enjoyed significant successes over the course of his racing career, most notably at the Cheltenham Festival, after winning the Grade 1 RSA Chase in 2015, the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle in 2014 and managing to place third in the Gold Cup Chase in 2016.
The Gold Cup Chase was a memorable spectacle, beginning with a 20-length difference between the first and last horse. We saw Cue Card take a tumble as Don Cossack and Djackadam fought for the finish whilst Don Poli, ridden by Davy Russell, tailed behind in third place. Sadly, Don Poli was ruled out of the Gold Cup the following year due to injury.
Don Poli and jockey, Bryan Cooper, also put up an impressive performance at the 2015 RSA chase. Don Poli initially lagged behind the likes of Kings Palace, Southfield Theatre and Wounded Warrior but suddenly gave a final burst of energy and managed to force his way passed Kings Palace with just three fences to go, securing first place in the Grade 1 race.
The 2014 win in the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle was also a significant moment for Don Poli and jockey Mikey Fogarty, as trainer Willie Mullins was awarded leading trainer by Cheltenham. Mullins has since won this award six times in total.
Despite the success, there have certainly been some dips over the course of Don Poli’s timeline. The 11-year-old thoroughbred has run in many significant races since 2013, experiencing a range of results over this period. Last season, he only placed 19th in the Grand National Handicap Chase, earning the nickname ‘Don Slowly’. He was also pulled up at Gowan Park in January 2019 and again at the Punchestown festival by jockey Thomas Dowson last May. Thanks to last weekend’s win, connections including trainer Nick Pearce and owner Darren Yates are hoping that Don Poli’s Alnwick victory will kickstart another season of success.
Darren Yates purchased Don Poli just two days prior to the Aintree showdown last April for £170,000. Yates has raised eyebrows in the past as he has switched trainers for some of his horses due to superstitious reasons. Last year he moved the likes Don Poli and Blaklion from Philip Kirby to Dan Skelton on this basis. However, upon Skelton’s recommendation, Yates was advised to switch Don Poli over to Nick Pearce.
Yates is looking forward to this years’ Cheltenham Festival, stating, ‘It’s all systems go for the Foxhunter and I’m delighted to see Don Poli back enjoying himself.’
‘The ground was really sticky and the race didn’t really go as planned as we wanted him to get a lead a bit longer, but it fell apart and he was left in front.’
‘We thought we were in a bit of trouble when Killer Crow came to challenge at the last but Don took one look at him and off he went.’
Yates is confident that Don Poli has what it takes to win this years’ Foxhunter, a race which has been won by 11-year-olds in three of the last four runnings.
‘He only had his flu jab nine days ago and wouldn’t have been absolutely primed, but this gives us plenty of time until Cheltenham now’.
‘At the end of the day, he’s done it before and although the Foxhunter won’t be easy, he could be twenty pounds well in with some of his rivals.’
Here’s hoping that we see Don Poli shine through at this year’s Cheltenham Festival and we see him replicate 2015’s winning performance.
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