Handicap blot Lil Rockerfeller wins by 15 lengths on return to the Flat
Glorious Goodwood winners do not tend to go novice chasing next. But then Lil Rockerfeller is not your normal Goodwood winner.
Lil Rockerfeller is a flint-honest hurdler better known for slugging it out at Cheltenham, where he has been second in a Stayers’ Hurdle, or in the mud at nearby Fontwell on February afternoons.
High summer was never his thing until Wednesday, when trainer Neil King pitched the seven-year-old into his first Flat race for 1,166 days.
A 15-length victory in the 2m4½f handicap left connections in raptures at a plan hatched by co-owner Andy Smith last year.
He said: "Oh what a great day! It's been a long time coming. I wanted to come here last year but the horse wasn't right. We thought he'd win it easily and he did. We've all come down, had a great picnic, and can count a few quid now."
Supported into 11-4 favourite, Lil Rockerfeller was at the head of things not long after the flip start in front of the stands.
Towards the top of the hill turning for home, Silvestre de Sousa swept into a seven-length lead that proved decisive. When Kloud Gate and Ryan Moore briefly threatened, De Sousa kicked on again, the last two furlongs a procession against a rising swell of cheers and applause from the stands.
"He can’t go into stalls because he failed his stalls test, so we were limited with where we could run him," said Smith.
"We booked the champion jockey two weeks ago and told him Lil Rockerfeller would keep galloping and galloping and galloping. And he’s carried it out to the letter. We’ve won £400,000 with him now."
King said: "We’ve had two aborted attempts this summer, first going to France, and then he made the trip to Perth but we were very disappointed to find the ground had gone like concrete so we turned around and came home again.
"We’ve been so lucky that in the year of a huge drought we got rain at the weekend and here he is today and he's won. Full credit because he’s been on the go a long time, running over hurdles all winter. I’ve been his work-rider of late to make sure he was ready!"
King added: "He’ll go novice chasing next. He’s schooled superbly over fences and when the ground is safe we can make a start over fences, but there would be no reason he couldn’t go back to Ascot for the Coral Hurdle if we needed to."
De Sousa, who received a two-day ban for using his whip when clearly winning inside the final furlong, said: "He travelled strongly. He’s a typical jumper. I let him bowl along. He got tired a bit at the end but he was well on top."
The champion will not be in the saddle next time, though. De Sousa said: "I leave that to the big boys!"
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