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Tuesday, 11 December, 2018

Remembering Jeffell’s victory in the Victor Chandler Handicap Chase

Jeffell and Conor O'Dwyer (right) on their way to victory in the Victor Chandler Chase
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First published Sunday, January 5th, 2014

When Arthur Moore gets one ready for a raid on a rich prize he rarely returns home empty handed. At the start of 1998 the renowned target trainer was the name on everybody’s lips on both sides of the Irish Sea as he scooped the week’s big pot on consecutive Saturdays.

Having landed an ante-post plunge with Graphic Equaliser in the Ladbroke Hurdle at Leopardstown, he set sail for Ascot the following weekend, placing his faith in the well-backed Jeffell to try to repeat the trick in the Victor Chandler Chase.

The bulid-up

Jeffell showed promise over hurdles but his electric jumping was his main asset and he was made for fences. He had physical problems to overcome that made the courageous attitude he showed at times all the more endearing. However, he had a highly strung nature and that was on display three races before the Victor Chandler when he refused to race at Galway.

Arthur Moore, Jeffell’s trainer He came from an old-fashioned north of England jumping family and had a lovely head with big ears. I was very happy to get him for 8,200gns from Richard Rohan at the Tattersalls Ireland Derby sale. He won a maiden hurdle at Fairyhouse on his third start and the following season we fancied him for the Ladbroke at Leopardstown [1996] but he fibrillated and pulled up.

Conor O’Dwyer, Jeffell’s jockey I only started riding the horse as I was filling in for Francis Woods, who got injured in a car crash. I was freelance and it was a temporary arrangement so I spent a good few mornings schooling and riding work to get to know the horse. He definitely had a quirky side and at home he wouldn’t always want to go on to the gallops. He had a heart fibrillation earlier in his career and I’m not sure whether that played on his mind.

Moore We were excited about going chasing as he was a brilliant jumper and fences suited him better. He did well as a novice chaser winning three Graded chases at Punchestown and the following season we aimed him at the second-season novice handicap [First National Bank Gold Cup Chase] at Ascot in November. He pulled up in it but again he fibrillated.

The preliminaries

The first visit to Ascot, two months before the Victor Chandler, was Jeffell’s maiden voyage – the first time in 22 races he had raced outside Ireland. It may have been a washout but it certainly wasn’t a wasted trip. It acted as a fact-finding exercise before the real mission and helped prepare connections for the big day.

Moore He was a bit highly strung and at the November meeting I saddled him up at the racecourse. When we came back for the Victor Chandler I saddled him down at the racecourse stables half a mile away and then arrived at the parade ring just as the jockeys were mounting. It was all planned to prevent him from getting too buzzed before the race.

O’Dwyer I remember him being funny at the start so we broke the parade. He’d got very worked up on his previous visit to Ascot, so that’s what got me thinking about forgetting the parade. He was starting to boil over and I said to the lad leading him to get the chain off as I had no intention of parading. I got a wrist-slap off the stewards but it didn’t matter as we’d won. They told me the parade was part of the protocol but I told them the horse broke himself when in fact it was me who sent him on. We got away with it lightly enough, but in fairness to Arthur it was a brilliant piece of training as I’m sure the plan was to go to Ascot the first time to see how he’d react.

The race

Moore’s meticulous plan briefly came under threat from the weather as Ascot had to pass an inspection to race. The rain had turned the ground soft and resulted in a relatively small field of nine runners for the big handicap chase. In truth, from the halfway point only two mattered as Jeffell and Celibate went hammer and tong in an exhibition of jumping at speed.

Moore He was such a good jumper and had such a high cruising speed that we wanted him to be prominent and Conor gave him a great ride. I remember him jumping the last with Celibate and hitting the front.

O’Dwyer Both horses were at their peak and the accuracy of their jumping was amazing. It was so quick and accurate that they didn’t give any of the other runners a chance. Turning in it looked like Mick Fitzgerald had me as Jeffell was a little flat-footed. My boy never really had that turn of foot and he didn’t pick up much off the bridle. What he did do however was gallop relentlessly and, having gone the pace we went, his staying came into it. As we approached the last I thought if he jumped it well we were definitely going to win.

Charlie Mann, Celibate’s trainer It was a wet day and there weren’t many runners. He went on any ground, won a few around Ascot and always gave 100 per cent. He got them on the stretch and went clear up the straight. His biggest asset was his jumping, but in the end he ran out of petrol and got reeled in by Jeffell. He was second to Jeffell twice as we finished behind him in Ireland the previous season. He was a great little horse to ride and Mick Fitz and Richard Dunwoody used to argue about who was going to ride him.

Moore We backed Jeffell ante-post in the week and his owner Tom Bailey had a good bet on him. From the proceeds of the bet he bought a house on Ailesbury Road in Dublin. He wasn’t racing on the day but his family and friends were there and we had great celebrations.

O’Dwyer I’d ridden a few winners for Arthur earlier that season but nothing as big and it was one of the first big races we’d won together. It definitely cemented the relationship. Jeffell was so exciting over a fence when he was on song. The jumping down the back with Celibate was absolutely amazing and still to this day I’ve not seen it matched anywhere. His owner had plenty on him and afterwards there was plenty of sterling flashed around.

The aftermatch

A couple of months later Moore masterminded another successful raid on Britain with Jeffell. This time Aintree’s Red Rum Chase, another of the most valuable 2m handicap chases on the calendar, was snared. Connections left Aintree with Champion Chase aspirations for the following season, but Jeffell’s form tailed off and he raced exclusively in Ireland until he died aged 11 in a fall at Navan.

Moore He ended up winning two valuable handicap chases in England and put up a very gritty performance under a penalty to win the Red Rum Chase. He was passed by Paul Webber’s horse [Flying Instructor] on the run-in but got back up to beat him on the line in testing conditions. They were both punch-drunk and he was terribly game and certainly didn’t have a bad heart that day.

O’Dwyer I rode Native Upmanship in the race at Navan in which Jeffell died. He was coming to the end of his career while Native Upmanship was starting on his trip. For such a superb jumper it was sad to see him end his life that way. You hate to see any horse getting hurt but for those exciting jumpers, you hate to see them go out that way. He was probably one of the most exciting horses I’ve ridden. Every day you got on him, you got a buzz.

Moore He broke his shoulder in a fall at Navan and sadly had to be put down. He’d lost his best form by then but it wasn’t a nice way to go. We were very pleased to have such a talented horse and he was great to watch in his races because of his jumping ability. He was a great servant to the yard and it was a pleasure to train him.

Mann Celibate is still alive and still goes hunting at 23. Mick O’Toole named him and he did a job as he’s out of Dance Alone by Shy Groom. He was the best buy I ever made in terms of what he won.

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The jumping down the back was amazing and to this day I’ve not seen it matched
E.W. Terms
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