40-1! A case of seeing is believing as Beer Goggles proves simply irresistible
His heart said Thistlecrack and his head said Unowhatimeanharry, but at the end of just over six minutes of relentless galloping, trainer Richard Woollacott was only too happy to greet his own diminutive Beer Goggles in the winner's enclosure.
The unconsidered 40-1 shot proved the hero of a race that more often than not goes to the subsequent winner of Cheltenham's Stayers' Hurdle.
It remains to be seen how much was owed to the race's two most recent winners underperforming and how much to an inspired ride from champion jockey Richard Johnson.
However, Beer Goggles has improved out of all recognition since joining Woollacott last year and, as a race-fit and 152-rated thorough stayer, it's easy to say with hindsight that he was overpriced.
Woollacott is a former champion point-to-point rider who grafts hard and he is hoping this success will attract new owners to his 15-horse string. He said: "I told Dickie, 'Do what you want, just go and enjoy yourself and see what happens', but while we knew he'd stay we weren't expecting that.
"In my heart I hoped Thistlecrack would win because of what a good horse he is, and I thought Unowhatimeanharry would probably win, but I hoped we might come third or fourth. I thought we'd be swallowed up, but I knew we would stay."
He added: "When we bought him he'd won off 104, but he's just thrived. He's not very big – he's only around 15.2hh and top of the handicap, so we couldn't keep doing that. We'll miss the Long Walk now and go for the Cleeve to see if he handles Cheltenham. If he doesn't we'll go to Aintree."
Beer Goggles is just 12-1 with sponsor Sunbets for Cheltenham, but 25-1 with Paddy Power.
Barry Geraghty had no excuses for Unowhatimeanharry, who had a fitness edge over Thistlecrack. He said: "I thought at the last I might get Beer Goggles, but he's a six-year-old on the up and he never stopped.
"Unowhatimeanharry was giving 6lb and has run a good race. I've no excuses. I'd say the winner is a good horse."
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