SUNDAY TIMES SPORT
28 November 2021
They don’t call it “the winter game” for nothing. On a day of sub-zero temperatures and a wind chill to peel the skin, something special was needed to warm the heart, and with Cloudy Glen’s 33-1 Ladbrokes Trophy victory from Fiddlerontheroof and Brahma Bull we certainly got it.
Cloudy Glen was providing a fourth success in the race for the colours of his late owner/breeder Trevor Hemmings, whose memorial service was only on Thursday. For his trainer, Venetia Williams, it was a hark back to Teeton Mill’s win in 1998 that first put this Grand National-winning trainer into the big time. And for his 25-year-old jockey, Charlie Deutsch, it was the ultimate redemption three years after a moment of motor-car madness earned him a prison spell.
Since then, Deutsch has won as much respect for his attitude as for his increasingly effective long-legged horsemanship, crowned yesterday by his handling of a little horse whom his trainer says “is a weird one who is as likely to hook off rather than start”.
Yesterday was definitely one of Cloudy Glen’s going days and Deutsch immediately had him up with the leaders and for a long way was alongside last year’s winner, Cloth Cap, also carrying Hemmings’ famous green and yellow silks. Swinging into the straight Cloudy Glen was clearly going the better only for Remastered to attack on the outside moving more strongly than either of them.
But at the fourth from home Remastered’s momentum turned into a somersault and as Cloth Cap faded Cloudy Glen was left to fend off Fiddlerontheroof. The pride of the Colin Tizzard stable might even have taken Cloudy Glen but for an awkward jump at the last and finally came up half a length short with a huge gap back to his stable companions Brahma Bull and Ontheropes.
Demachine plugged on to be fifth, with Cloth Cap sixth of the 11 finishers. For once the Rachael Blackmore/Henry de Bromhead combination left a big race without making an impression, the favourite, Eklat De Rire, fading out badly before being pulled before the 17th of the 21 fences. The spotlight could rightly rest on a young man in his twenties and a stylish woman just into her sixties who has serenely marched to her own drum since she survived breaking her neck as an amateur jockey and set about training in a blissfully rural loop of Herefordshire’s part of the River Wye.
“He’s always been a weird one,” Williams said of Cloudy Glen, whom she first ran to be fifth of six under a rookie Deutsch in December 2017. “But he did a piece of work last week and I thought, ‘Blimey, where did that come from?’ and decided to run him in this race. He’ll be out partying with us tonight because he’s that sort of horse.”
Deutsch himself was anxious to defer any praise. “I can’t believe it to be honest,” he said of this day of days. “It’s huge for me and to do it in such distinguished colours is so special. We turned in and we were going so well, we just needed to keep going and he’s done that.
“He’s a funny little horse,” he said of Cloudy Glen who had clearly benefited from a breathing operation in the summer but whose 25-race, 6-victory career includes an afternoon when he ran out with Deutsch at Cheltenham last year. “He’s very quirky. Venetia’s a genius.”
One final note on a day when snow-hit Newcastle had a dead heat between Not So Sleepy and former Champion Hurdler Epatante in the Fighting Fifth. Four races before Cloudy Glen’s Ladbrokes triumph, the Scottish-trained Ahoy Senor put up such a spectacular display of jumping in the John Francome Novices’ Chase that one sharp-eyed operator immediately got £600 on at 33-1 for the 2023 Cheltenham Gold Cup. You read it here first.