A FIRST win at Cheltenham for David Christie next week will mean even more to the local horse trainer as he has been struggling with ill health recently.
A mystery virus first laid him low at the South West Acute Hospital, before matters took a turn for the worse and he contracted meningitis followed by a blood clot on the brain.
The 62-year-old trainer from Derrylin is still recovering in Belfast’s Royal Victoria Hospital, but his son David Jnr has kept the stable running smoothly in his absence.
They will have only one runner at the famous Cheltenham Festival, which starts on Tuesday next week, but in Vaucelet they have a horse primed and ready to deliver.
The genuine stayer will be lining up in the prestigious St James’s Place Festival Hunters’ Chase on Friday week, which also happens to be St Patrick’s Day.
Last year the Christies made a successful raid to Stratford in England with Vaucelet who landed the Stratford Foxhunters Champion Hunter Chase, and they’ll be hoping for the same result at the famous National Hunt racing festival.
“I know myself how dad likes to do things. He has a particular routine going into races and I’ll be sticking to it. Fingers crossed everything will come right on the day,” David Jnr, 35, said.
“Vaucelet’s an out-and-out stayer and the plan has always been to run him at Cheltenham. His win at Stratford last year showed he can handle the travel over there, which is very important too.
“It’s been hard with dad not being well and it’ll be emotional if Vaucelet wins. No matter what happens, it will be emotional.”
The Fermanagh stable will be looking to go one better than last year when their horse Winged Leader was narrowly denied victory after the Willie Mullins-trained favourite Billaway got up in the last strides to win.
That loss was a bitter pill for Christie to take, but his son hopes that they can go one better this time around.
“It would be absolutely huge if Vaucelet wins. It would be the biggest achievement in my father’s career and mine,” David Jnr said.
“It would be great for a family-run business in Derrylin like ours to win a race like this. It’s hard to put into words what it would mean to us all if I’m honest.”
Christie Snr has trained more than 350 winners so far but his first winner at Cheltenham would top it all as the local stable goes from strength to strength.
“Dad has sourced these horses himself and that’s a great testament to him, and his ability to spot good horses early on,” David Jnr said.
“He’s a grafter. We’ve built our stable up over the last three or four years and it’s all coming to fruition now.”
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