Reports16 March 2023

'He went unbacked but we'll still enjoy it' - JP McManus delight as festival regular Sire Du Berlais strikes

Mark Walsh celebrates after victory aboard Sire Du Berlais
Mark Walsh celebrates after victory aboard Sire Du BerlaisCredit: Edward Whitaker

It wouldn't be the festival without Sire Du Berlais but even his most ardent fan would have been hard pressed to have seen his 33-1 Paddy Power Stayers' Hurdle success coming.

Under different circumstances he would not have even been on the start line but having failed to qualify for a fourth tilt and third win in the Pertemps Final, he was called up for a second attempt at the Stayers'. The rest is now history.

Sire Du Berlais's love affair with the festival started in the 2018 Martin Pipe. He hasn't missed a year since but on his sixth visit at the age of 11 he produced his most stunning effort yet, coming from off the pace under Mark Walsh to pass the winning post at the meeting in first for the third time in his career.

If it had not have been for a troubled journey to Warwick in January, when Sire Du Berlais had been slated for a Pertemps qualifier, the story would have almost certainly have been different but owner JP McManus was pleased to see plan B come to fruition, despite not having a penny on the winner.

Spotlight success

Sire Du Berlais' 33-1 victory may have been a surprise to some – particularly given he had been as big as 80-1 on Wednesday evening – but not to our expert Spotlight expert Ben Hutton, who tipped the surprise winner in the Racing Post newspaper and online.

The Spotlight team provides expert race analysis, tips and verdicts on each horse for every race in Britain and Ireland – to get the full Spotlight experience sign up to Racing Post Members’ Club now!

"This fella, I'm afraid, went unbacked but we'll enjoy it all the same," said McManus. "Gordon Elliott has done some job with him. We were kind of training him for the Pertemps. He came over here [to Warwick] to qualify him but he didn't travel well, I think, so Gordon didn't run him. As a result he was in the Stayers'.

"I thought he had a little chance coming in and after the last I felt he'd run up the hill well. I didn't know how well the others would do but I thought he'd give it his lot."

In a Stayers' Hurdle that took some staying to win, Sire Du Berlais certainly gave his all.

Flooring Porter, bidding for a third consecutive win in the race, stretched the field early but when his run faltered between the final two hurdles, Dashel Drasher — another senior citizen at the age of ten — took up the gauntlet.

Despite drifting left and right, Dashel Drasher led until deep in the final furlong but by that stage Sire Du Berlais had reached full steam and went chugging past to prove there is nothing quite like previous form at the festival come Cheltenham in March.

"After a hurdle or two I knew we were in a good rhythm," said Elliott. "Of course it's a surprise but Sire Du Berlais can do that — he can be either first or last and it's just great to win the race."

Elliott might have expected to be standing in the number one spot but undoubtedly Teahupoo, sent off the 9-4 favourite and promoted to second having been third past the post, was his first string in the race.

Dashel Drasher (centre): demoted to third after being judged to have interfered with Teahupoo (left)
Sire Du Berlais: gritty winner of the Stayers' HurdleCredit: Patrick McCann

"I thought I was going to win it with the other horse," admitted Elliott. "Maybe he just weakened out of it but he ran well. Sire Du Berlais is like the child's pony in the yard — anyone can ride him out and I imagine it will be Aintree next for him."

Victory capped a remarkable comeback for winning rider Walsh, who had only returned to the saddle five days earlier having fractured vertebrae in his neck when taking a heavy fall at the Dublin Racing Festival in February.

"You're on top of the world one minute in this game and then you're on the ground getting kicked around," said Walsh. "I'm lucky to have made it back for the festival and I'm very grateful to the people who pieced me back together."

Paying tribute to Sire Du Berlais, the 36-year-old added: "He's a great little horse and loves this place. Gordon had him in serious form. They went a right good gallop and I was actually surprised with how well he travelled today and he really stuck his head down when I wanted him up the hill."

It was impossible not to feel for the small-scale Somerset yard of Jeremy Scott and connections of Dashel Drasher, who not only looked the most likely winner over the last but also lost second after the stewards deemed he had taken Teahupoo off his intended line at the final hurdle.

Before the stewards called an inquiry, Scott, who watched the race with wife Camilla who also bred Dashel Drasher, said: "I'm speechless almost. He was leading all the way and gets collared but gee, what a brave, tough horse he's been. The ground just came right for him but we hadn't had the best of run-ups and we were thinking maybe we could have done with another ten days but he's run his little heart out and I couldn't be prouder."

Asked what he had felt watching the race unfold, Scott added: "It was really nice. That's the first time my wife, who is the instigator behind all the breeding, has actually come to see him race. So it was quite emotional. It's amazing stuff."

Read these next:

'We're going to sleep on it' - Dashel Drasher camp not ruling out appeal against Stayers' demotion 

'I've no excuses but it was unlike him' - Nicky Henderson puzzled by Shishkin's Ryanair Chase defeat 

'He was electric' - Envoi Allen storms to Ryanair win for De Bromhead and Blackmore as Shishkin's jumping lets him down 

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Lewis PorteousReporter
Published on 16 March 2023Last updated 20:03, 16 March 2023