Reports17 March 2023

'A dream come true' - 33-1 Faivoir and Bridget Andrews give Dan Skelton a fourth County Hurdle success

Bridget Andrews celebrates victory in the County Hurdle
Bridget Andrews celebrates victory in the County HurdleCredit: Michael Steele

Willie Mullins remains the County Hurdle king with six wins, but Dan Skelton is making a bold bid to catch him.

Faivoir became Skelton’s fourth winner of the McCoy Contractors-backed handicap since 2016 – following in the hoofprints of Superb Story, Mohaayed and Ch’Tibello – when springing a 33-1 shock under Bridget Andrews, who battled back from a broken neck to ride him.

Stable number one Pembroke, who was sent off a heavily-backed 9-2 favourite, could finish only 17th as Faivoir fought out a tremendous tussle with Pied Piper up the most famous hill in racing.

Andrews, who had been on board Mohaayed in 2018, galvanised Faivoir for one final thrust near the finish and the pair fought off Pied Piper and Davy Russell by a head.

Faivoir (left) gets the better of Pied Piper in the County Hurdle
Faivoir (left) gets the better of Pied Piper in the County HurdleCredit: Patrick McCann

Skelton, who was enjoying his sixth Cheltenham Festival winner, said: “I was watching Pembroke the whole way round and when he made the mistake two out that was it.

“All power to Bridget. Once Faivoir went down to the last like that I just felt it was possible. That was absolutely brilliant from Bridget.

“She doesn’t get many dances on the big stage because obviously Harry [Skelton] takes precedence, but as you can see she's more than capable and I'm very proud of her.

“Faivoir is a good horse on his day and understands the big fields.”

County Hurdle success was the crowning glory for Andrews, who sustained career-threatening injuries in a fall from Dazzling Glory at Warwick last April.

“I always felt like Faivoir was just keeping his nose in front and giving me everything,” she said. “He’d never be a horse who would go on and go clear, but I always felt like I was just holding on. He gave me his all today.”

Dan Skelton hugs Bridget Andrews after the County Hurdle
Dan Skelton hugs Bridget Andrews after the County HurdleCredit: Edward Whitaker

Casting her mind back to last summer, Andrews recalled: “I was out of action for considerably longer than I had hoped. At the time of the fall I just thought, ‘eight weeks, bit of rehab’.

“But then I developed a few symptoms that not many people had seen before. It's called Lhermitte's syndrome, I was getting this weird sensation when I started looking down. 

“At that point, I was getting into my recovery, I was doing my rehab in Oaksey House and then it developed. It felt like such a massive step back and I was out for six months in the end.”

Andrews added: “It was the summer and actually the year before, I'd had five months off in the summer for no reason other than not having any rides. So most people thought I was taking a holiday.

“It was hard and a couple of times I questioned whether I would come back. But I didn’t want that to be the end.”

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Richard BirchReporter
Published on 17 March 2023Last updated 16:53, 17 March 2023