General raises the roof with victory on his 100th Southwell start
Rarely has a 46-55 handicap attracted so much attention, and never has a winner of a such a modest handicap been given such an ovation as there was barely a dry eye in the winner's enclosure after the remarkable General Tufto won the mile handicap on his 100th race at Southwell.
It was his 17th career win, all but two of them coming on the Fibresand, and he did it in style.
As usual he was off the bridle and not travelling in the early stages, but in the end he trotted up, scoring by a cosy two and a half lengths under Joey Haynes, who was winning on him for the fifth time.
"That's brilliant," said the rider. "It's a fairytale and he is an amazing horse. He runs every race the same. I was off the bridle early on and trying to keep him in touch and I only thought I might have a chance of winning when we went into the bend. In the end I got there too soon."
Now an eleven-year-old the winner was formerly owned by Anthony Oppenheimer and was bought out of Roger Charlton's for 4,000gns by trainer Charles Smith back in July 2008. What he purchased that day wasn't just a racehorse but a legend, running 187 times and even at the age of 11 showed he is still capable of winning.
Smith said: "It was no surprise that he won today, he ran well last time and I knew I had him in the form of his life. He's the family pet, my daughter Rebecca has looked after him since he was a three-year-old and she worships him, and the grandchildren love him.
"When I first bought him I was told he would be a bit stiff in the morning, and he's had a few problems but he's been an amazing horse. At home I let him do exactly what he wants to. I don't work him much, I have a neighbour who has a pack of draghounds and occasionally he pops over the drag jumps, it keeps him interested. He needs to be happy."
For the past five years he has run in the colours of John Theaker who said: "I don't think I'll ever have a better day. He's just amazing and Joey gave him a great ride.
"Charles has done incredibly well with him, it's all credit to him and to Rebecca for not only keeping him sweet and interested but to run all those races. This is his time of year, there are no bugs or pollen about, and he seems to like the clean air.
"I thought everything was in his favour today and though I don't normally back him – I did have a small bet on him today."
When asked about retirement Theaker said: "That's up to the trainer."
But Smith has no thoughts about that, not in the near future anyway, as he's already planning his next race as he said: "Hopefully he'll come back here on New Year's day."
General Tufto at Southwell In numbers
100 races run at the track
36 races since he last won, on January 29, 2015
7 jockeys to have won on him, with Tuesday's rider Joey Haynes jointly the most successful with four
6 years since his first run
20-1 longest price he has won at, and that was when winning his first race in February 2009