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Friday, 18 January, 2019

The day The Fellow finally conquered Cheltenham's Everest

The Fellow returns to the winner's enclosure having at last ended his Gold Cup hoodoo at the fourth attempt
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By the time of the 1994 Gold Cup, The Fellow's efforts at Cheltenham had already guaranteed him a warm place in British racegoers' hearts. A dual King George winner at Kempton, he went down by the narrowest of margins in the Gold Cup behind Garrison Savannah in 1991 and 12 months later behind Cool Ground.

In 1993 the firm ground meant he disappointed when favourite under his regular pilot Adam Kondrat, who by now was becoming a target for journalists and punters alike.

"Later on I used British and Irish jockeys who really knew the tracks as well of course as Thierry, who learnt them quickly," said Doumen.

"Cheltenham is such a tactical racecourse that to have a jockey like Kondrat was of course difficult and definitely cost a few lengths. You could say that with a McCoy aboard the horse would have won three Gold Cups. But I wasn't really known and there was no way that I would have been able to get a real crack jockey.

"I said to the Marquesa [de Moratalla, The Fellow's owner] that the choice was either having a jockey who knew the horse really well or else taking an English jockey that was probably not out of the top drawer and who didn't know the horse. So I kept with Adam and finally it paid off."

And how, as the nine-year-old fought off the late charge of 1993 winner Jodami and Mark Dwyer to secure Doumen's place in history.

"I learnt that you needed to put a lot of work into the horses if you were going to take on the English because the trainers there are not idiots," said Doumen.

"They always presented their horses hard fit and the French method of training is a lot less intensive. I worked those Cheltenham horses really hard up the Piste des Lions. The other thing that helped is that I had a really top group of horses that came through together - The Fellow, Ucello, Ubu - and they all brought each other along."

You could say with a McCoy up the horse would have won three Gold Cups, but I wasn't really known and there was no way I'd have got a real crack rider

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F Doumen The Fellow
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