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From jump racing star to eventing - is Saphir du Rheu's second career about to take off?

Saphir du Rheu & Charlotte Alexander negotiating Barbury's famous Woodhenge obstaclesSaphir du Rheu & Charlotte Alexander negotiating Barbury's famous Woodhenge obstaclesWith next season's jump stars coming back into training from their summer months out at grass, it is a good time to look at the new career of the former and very popular jump racing star Saphir du Rheu.   A 16.3 hands grey gelding, he is now 10 years old.

 

His appearance in the Barbury International Horse Trials' Novice eventing competition was given special prominence by the commentators - and he responded with a scorching cross country round clear of jumping and time faults.

Trained by Paul Nicholls at Ditcheat, Saphir du Rheu was retired in April 2018 - after he was pulled up by Sam Twiston-Davies four from home in the Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup.

Saphir du Rheu flying over the jumps in Barbury's main arena Saphir du Rheu flying over the jumps in Barbury's main arena

In 2015, Saphir du Rheu won Cheltenham's Cleeve Hurdle (by a neck from Reve De Sivola) and the Aintree Mildmay Novices Chase (by 15 lengths).  His total earnings were £339,849 - and he won nine of his thirty jump races.

Owned by the Stewart Family, he passed into the care Charlotte Alexander who had previously retrained another Nicholls horse - the great Denman who died last year.  After some experience team chasing and hunting, 'Saphy' has been retrained for eventing.

From his first competitive outing at Aston-le-Walls in March, he has completed eight events.  For a race horse that has been trained to get going and go fast and keep going, of the three eventing disciplines - dressage, show jumping and cross country -dressage is the most challenging part of retraining.

Saphy has averaged 38.6 penalties - with a best score of 35.8.  His Barbury dressage score was, unfortunately, his worst so far: 40.5.  And with sixteen show jumping faults, his final tally of 62.10 put him in a very creditable 18th place out of the 42 competing in his section of the Novice competition.

But, to date, the most important part of his score line to notice is his run of eight cross country clear rounds - all clear of jumping and time penalties.  That is an amazing achievement.

Charlotte Alexander was delighted with his performance round Barbury's famous cross country course.  And they have entries in the novice eventing classes at Cholmondeley Castle in Cheshire (27 -28 July) and at Homme House in Herefordshire (5-7 August).

Saphir du Rheu's new career as an eventer will certainly be one worth watching.

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