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Grade 1 and Cheltenham winner Belfast Banter set to come under virtual hammer

Mixed feelings for connections ahead of ThoroughBid sale date on Tuesday

Belfast Banter: exciting prospect for new connections
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It is not often a horse of Belfast Banter's quality is sold online and the Grade 1 winner's connections believe there is plenty more to come from the six-year-old, who comes under the virtual hammer in ThoroughBid's auction on Tuesday. 

The son of Jeremy had steadily graduated from maiden and novice hurdles when bursting onto the stage at last season's Cheltenham Festival, taking the County Hurdle, before his career-best effort when winning the Grade 1 Top Novices' Hurdle at Aintree. 

Bred by Seamus Cooney, the six-year-old gelding could sell for a significantly greater sum than the £30,000 paid by Direct Bloodstock from Kingsfield Stud at the 2019 Tattersalls Cheltenham April Horses in Training Sale, especially as he also holds an entry in Saturday's Betfair Fighting Fifth Hurdle. 

Fergal O’Neill, owner of Direct Bloodstock, said: "We’re very lucky to be in the position we are with Belfast Banter. I set up Direct Bloodstock in 2018 as an operation to buy and sell horses, and never really set out to own horses longer term.

“He was offered to Dan Skelton after coming second in a point-to-point, with a view that he’d be able to secure a nice owner for him, but that didn’t come off, so we were then prepping him for the sales in January 2020."

O'Neill intended to sell Belfast Banter at the Goffs UK January Mixed Sale, but circumstances dictated that didn't happen, and it is safe to say fate smiled on connections over the following 15 months. 

He continued: “Two weeks before his intended sale date he took a fall at Cork and we had to withdraw him. After that he wasn’t at a point where he was really sellable, so we kept him in training under our name, and the rest is history.

Kevin Sexton celebrates his County Hurdle victory on Belfast Banter

“We’ve thoroughly enjoyed the success we’ve had, and you can’t ask for much more than a Cheltenham win and a Grade 1 at Aintree, but we’ve now got to a point where he's a nice prospect for someone else."

Originally trained by Skelton, Belfast Banter has won three hurdle races for current trainer Peter Fahey, who described the last year with the horse as "incredible."

Fahey said: "To go and win at Cheltenham and to back it up at Aintree was unbelievable. To turn him around in three weeks and see him back up the Cheltenham performance was a huge achievement.

“Fast-run races suit him better, so as the winter comes along and you’re getting into these better races, I think you’ll see more improvement.

“Fergal and I had been speaking about going over fences this season, but we’re sticking to the hurdle route and hoping he runs a big race in the Fighting Fifth. After that I can’t see why a Champion Hurdle wouldn’t be a realistic option. He’s an ideal horse for someone who wants to go to all the big meetings."

He added: “Of course, there are mixed feelings about the sale as I’d love to keep training him, but if he goes elsewhere then we’d love to keep following him too. Hopefully whoever has him next will have as much fun with him as we’ve had.”

The sale starts at 5pm and ends at 7pm. 

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After that he wasn’t at a point where he was really sellable, so we kept him in training under our name, and the rest is history
E.W. Terms