CHRISTMAS came early for Coltherd Racing this year, when Captain Redbeard stormed home to win Haydock Park’s feature race on Saturday, December 23 - the prestigious Betfred Tommy Whittle Handicap Chase - by six lengths and at odds of 14/1, writes John Smail.

Trained and owned by Stuart Coltherd, and ridden superbly on the day by his 19-year-old son Sam, Captain Redbeard’s victory was the first of the season for the Clarilawmuir yard, and with a first prize of £15,640 it was also the most lucrative.

“Our horses have been running well, but prior to today had been missing out by narrow margins,” said Stuart. “In such circumstances you’ve just got to keep faith and believe the wins will eventually come.

“Captain Redbeard was in good form going into the Whittle Chase, and had been unlucky at Aintree a couple of weeks ago when a horse fell in front of him. Today everything went according to plan.

“I thought Sam handled the race really well, and the horse put in an immaculate round of jumping. I believe Captain Redbeard is the first Scottish-trained winner of the event since Earls Brig lifted the trophy for Billy Hamilton in 1985, so it’s a red-letter day for the yard.”

Equally delighted by the victory was jockey Sam Coltherd. “It’s definitely the biggest win of my career,” said Sam, “and the reception we received coming into the winners enclosure was tremendous.

“Going into the race I thought we had a good chance of finishing in the top three, but the longer the race went on the more confident I became. This is my eighth victory on Captain Redbeard overall – six coming under rules and two in point-to-points. He’s a brilliant horse.”

Saturday’s win was Sam’s second of the season, and takes the conditional jockey’s total career victories to 30. This season Sam is based at Sue Smith’s Craiglands Farm yard in Yorkshire, and when allowed still pilots horses for Coltherd Racing should owners so wish.

Stuart added that he’d like to thank all the well-wishers who’ve been in touch to offer their congratulations. “My phone’s hardly stopped ringing since the end of the race, and both Sam and I really appreciate everyone’s support.”

Captain Redbeard joins an elite group of horses who have triumphed in the Tommy Whittle Chase. Gold Cup winners Little Owl (1982) and Forgive N’ Forget (1986) both lifted the trophy, as did such famous racehorses as The Thinker (1988), Twin Oaks (1992) and One Man (1995).