Simon Hunt hoping for Giant killing act in Gold Cup
Owner Simon Hunt is hoping that “the people’s horse” The Giant Bolster can once again defy his odds and run a huge race in this year’s Cheltenham Gold Cup.
The nine-year-old, whose two runs in the Gold Cup have seen him finish runner-up to Synchronised 2012 at 50/1 and fourth to Bobs Worth 12 months ago when sent off 16/1, comes alive at Prestbury Park.
He has won three times on Festival Trials Day at the home of jump racing, with the latest of those successes coming in the Argento Chase in January.
This year will be the fifth in succession that The Giant Bolster has lined up at the Festival, and his rise through the ranks has been a “dream come true” for Hunt who purchased him after his first venture into racehorse ownership ended with the David Bridgwater-trained Lady Romanov being claimed after finishing second at Huntingdon back in 2008.
“We were delighted with Lady Romanov’s run, we were enjoying a drink when we found out she had been claimed and already been loaded into a horse box and taken away from the course, ” said Hunt.
“It left us feeling distraught and the search then began to find another horse.
“Bridgie had been over to Germany at the time and met up with bloodstock agent Niall McLoughlin to view a three-year-old that he thought had a real good look to him and plenty of potential.
“That horse turned out to be The Giant Bolster, and after having him checked over by the vets he was bought.
“Bridgie told me straight away that, although he had not trained any big winners yet, he had ridden plenty and this was going to be a very good horse.
“He told me with his heart on his sleeve that the worst case scenario was that we had a Welsh National horse on our hands and he had the potential to be even better than that.”
At that point of his training career Bridgwater, who rode Winnie the Witch to victory in the County Hurdle for his father at the Festival in 1991, had around just seven horses in training.
However, that did not put off Hunt who struck up an immediate bond with him and admired the hard work he and his team put in.
“I really liked Bridgie as soon as I met him,” said Hunt. “He was at the top of his game when a jockey and it’s hard when you are starting off as a trainer as you need the support of owners and a flagship horse in the yard to act as a catalyst to attract better quality animals.”
The Giant Bolster has proved to be that flagship horse, and his progress through the ranks has been carefully nurtured by Bridgwater and his team to reap the benefits.
After finishing runner-up on his second start in a bumper he shocked connections by winning at 28/1 on his hurdling debut.
“It was at this point I thought ‘here we go’ we really have got a proper horse on our hands, “said Hunt. “He ran really well on his next three starts and we then decided to have a crack at the Neptune at the Festival.
“He was 200/1 for the race, and many questioned why he was even running in it. However, all owners have to pay virtually the same fees and are entitled to have a crack if they think their horse is good enough.
“As it turned out he ran a cracker to be beaten just 7 lengths into sixth behind Peddlers Cross, and we knew then that the dream was well and truly alive as fencing would be his game.”
The Giant Bolster, known in the stable as Sammy, won on his chasing debut in The Fred Rimell Chase at Worcester and since then has become a real star.
Hunt, who runs his own construction business, explained: “His success is down to everyone at the yard. Bridgie and I drew up a plan on day one of the campaign and he has done a bloody good job in achieving what we set out to do – and more.
“To get a horse to Cheltenham is one thing, but to get one to finish placed in two Gold Cups and win three times on Festival Trials day is another.
“This will be the fifth time in succession Sammy has run at the Festival, and that in itself is a remarkable training feat.
“It’s been a roller-coaster of a ride, but what has been achieved is beyond my wildest dreams.
“I thought we would win the Gold Cup in 2012 when we led coming to the last, but we were done by an inspired ride by AP McCoy on Synchronised.
“He threw him at the final fence and galvanised him into action up the hill. I have spoken to his owner JP McManus since and he said that we were denied by a horse at the top of his game and a machine in the shape of AP.
“However, it was an amazing day and many thought we had no chance after finishing only fourth to Long Run in the Denman Chase going into the race.
“I was expecting a big run though, as Bridgie told me after the Denman that Long Run would not beat us at Cheltenham and he didn’t think we would be out of the first two.”
The Giant Bolster went on to run another cracker in the Gold Cup when finishing fourth to Bobs Worth last year, and has a growing fan club.
“He’s become a real people’s horse,” said Hunt. “I get cards and messages from the length and breadth of the country from people asking where they can get a scarf in his colours and is there a fan club they can join.”
Hunt is hoping that the nine-year-old can make it third time lucky in this year’s Gold Cup, for which he is a 20/1 chance with Coral, after bouncing back to form in the Argento last time out.
“He’s in really good form. It all about confidence with him and he seems to come alive in the spring. Bridgie and his team have proved they are capable of producing him right on the big day, ” he said.
“Can he beat Bobs Worth and some of the other better fancied horse? Who knows?
“If it all comes together on the day then he certainly wouldn’t be out of it. You have just got to keep dreaming.”