Champion jumper salutes in Grand National Steeplechase

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Tallyho Twinkletoe

An excited flourish of the whip by Shaun Phelan as he crossed the finish line said it all as champion jumper Tallyho Twinkletoe wrote his name into Australasian jumping folklore as he took out the Racecourse Hotel & Motor Lodge Grand National Steeplechase (NZ) (5600m) at Riccarton.

The Kevin Myers-trained eleven-year-old became the first horse to complete the New Zealand and Australian Grand National Hurdle and Steeplechase double as he completed his eleventh victory from 15 starts over fences.

Phelan also made history, becoming the first jockey to ride the winner of the race on four separate occasions, having taken the event out previously on Eric The Viking (2014), Upper Cut (2017) and It’s A Wonder (2019).

Sent out at prohibitive odds of -200 following an effortless 16-length victory in the main lead-up event, the Koral Steeplechase (4250m) seven days earlier, Tallyho Twinkletoe never put a foot wrong during the 5600m of Saturday’s contest.

Allowed to settle in the rear of the field by Phelan, the pair bided their time before setting out after the pacemaking Shamal with 1000m to run,

Tallyho Twinkletoe reeled in the pacemaker on the point of the turn and gradually strode clear to win by a conservative 12-lengths from stablemate Mandalay, who pipped a gallant Shamal for second in the very last stride.

An ecstatic Phelan was in awe of his mount as he dismounted in the Riccarton birdcage.

“What an awesome horse, he has a huge heart,” he said.

“We were a little flat, but he just kept picking up and picking up and in the end, it was just unbelievable.

“I was happy to just switch him off and wait for as long as I could. When I looked up going down the back, I could see Shamal was still going pretty good and it was going to be hard to pick him up in that heavy ground.

“I had to work to get to him and honestly, if I wasn’t on such a classy customer I wouldn’t have got there.

“I’m just very grateful to Kevin and Jo (Rathbone) for putting me on, although anyone could ride him and I’m just the lucky bloke who is on him.”

Part-owner and former top jumps jockey Jo Rathbone cut an emotional figure as she welcomed her pride and joy back to the Riccarton birdcage.

“This is just amazing, I’m absolutely rapt,” she said.

“He tried so hard and gave everything he had.

“He has an amazing temperament and is such an easy horse to do anything with, just a beautiful horse all round who tries his heart out.

“There aren’t too many horses, if any, who have won a National Hurdle and Steeplechase on both sides of the Tasman.”

Purchased by Rathbone for $9,000 out of the Yaldhurst Lodge draft at the 2012 New Zealand Bloodstock South Island Sale, Tallyho Twinkletoe has now won 15 of his 33 starts and over $667,000 in prizemoney.

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