PUNTERS in the Fishguard and Goodwick area are celebrating an unexpected bonanza this week, after the Little Newcastle father-and-son racehorse team of Peter and Sean Bowen pulled off a stunning upset in the legendary Bet365 Gold Cup Race, held at Sandown on Saturday.
In what had proved to be the biggest shock of the steeplechase season, 40/1 outsider Henllan Harri led from start to finish to claim the victory in a race which – in its better-known carnation as the Whitbread Gold Cup – was won by the likes of Arkle, Mill House and Desert Orchid.
Henllan Harris is more accustomed to racing at Ffos Las, near Llanelli, so it had seemed a daunting step up in class for the nine-year-old who, having won just once in 11 previous starts this season, was 4lb out of the handicap. But Sean Bowen capped an excellent season by producing an attacking ride which saw his unfancied mount dictate the pace from the start.
Having jumped the final fence in front, Harri then had to stave off the challenges of seven fast-finishing horses who all finished within two lengths of each other.
The rank outsider somehow clung on to win by a head from Vyta Du Roc, who finished like an express train, with Theatre Guide third and Benbens fourth.
“I thought I had won, but then Daryl Jacob, on Vyta Du Roc, said he’d got it,” a breathless Sean said afterwards.
“Henllan Harri held on well and battled on very hard. He did what he does best.
“He stuck on well all the way through and stayed every yard. He’s very tough.”
Proud dad Peter said the fact his 19-year-old son was in the saddle “makes it twice as special,” and suggested Harri may go on to try and win the race he covets most of all – the Grand National at Aintree.
“He only had 10st, which helped, but he was 4lb out of the handicap - however he handles that ground,” Peter added.
“We were not sure about the trip but he stayed it well. I thought he would run well and I thought he would be in the first six. However, he ran above himself.
“We were a bit worried as he has jumped a bit left, but he jumped really straight. He will have a long break now and we will see what he does early on in the season.
“On that form, if he goes up higher enough in the weights he could possibly be even seen as a National horse.”
Owner Einsley Harries, of Llandyfriog, who watched the race’s final moments unfold alongside trainer Bowen, reflected: “Henllan Harri jumped the last and I thought the other horses were going to finish him off, but he just kept fighting.
“We thought he’d just been caught on the line, but after a photo finish the result was announced and my feet left the ground! Peter was nearly crying - he kept saying it was the biggest win of his career.”