Truly a Mas­ter

Gra­ham Bud­dry re­mem­bers the great Cham­pion chaser Mas­ter Minded

Racing Ahead - - YESTERDAY’S HEROES -

If you ask some­one to name their favourite race­horse it’s a sure thing that most will come up with a horse that won the Gold Cup, Cham­pion Hur­dle or Grand Na­tional. Fine races and fine horses all, but why is it that the two mile chasers, the Fer­raris of the jump­ing game are of­ten over­looked? For my money there is no finer sight than th­ese in­cred­i­bly fast and ac­cu­rate jumpers at their sub­lime best,yet they are so quickly out of mind when out of sight.

We have been spoiled of late with the likes of Sprinter Sacre but al­though he raced only a hand­ful of years ago, how many re­called Mas­ter Minded with­out a lit­tle prompt? Once hailed as the great­est race­horse seen for many years but too quickly his bub­ble of in­vin­ci­bil­ity burst and he was scratch­ing to re­gain some sem­blance of the lofty rep­u­ta­tion he held.

Where once all the top chasers be­gan their ca­reers in Ire­land, the em­pha­sis has shifted firmly to France and that is where Mas­ter Minded hailed from. Trained by the mas­ter French trainer, Guillaume Ma­caire,Mas­ter Minded be­gan his ca­reer be­fore his fourth birth­day with a win at Au­teuil. In his next six races, all at the same course, Mas­ter Minded notched an­other brace of vic­to­ries in lower class events but fell on both starts in Graded com­pany. This didn’t de­ter Clive Smith from buy­ing him and prior to his move to Paul Ni­cholls’ yard in Eng­land ran a fine se­cond place on his fi­nal start for Ma­caire in a Grade 1 at Au­teuil.

With loud whis­pers al­ready do­ing the rounds,Mas­ter Minded made his English de­but at Ex­eter on 20 De­cem­ber 2007 but got no fur­ther than the third fence where Sam Thomas was un­seated.

Off the mark in his next race at Sandown, the five-year-old Mas­ter Minded was then pitched in against the reign­ing Cham­pion chaser, Voy Por Ust­edes,in the Game Spirit at New­bury.In re­ceipt of six pounds, Mas­ter Minded made all to win as he pleased be­fore his date with des­tiny at the Chel­tenham Fes­ti­val.

Here Mas­ter Minded put in the per­for­mance of a life­time,an earth shattering run of epic pro­por­tions as he bounded fur­ther and fur­ther clear with con­sum­mate ease to smash Voy Por Ust­edes by a mas­sive 19 lengths (which could eas­ily have been far more) with an­other 16 lengths back to the third placed horse. Voy Por Ust­edes got his re­venge next time out over an ex­tra half mile at Ain­tree when Mas­ter Minded hit the se­cond last so hard he was lucky to re­main stand­ing but still fin­ished well clear of the third home.

A new sea­son saw the cham­pion even stronger as he romped away with the Tin­gle Creek and Vic­tor Chandler (now the Clarence House) be­fore a de­mo­li­tion job onWell Chief and the Cham­pion Chase back at Chel­tenham.

Hav­ing won the three big­gest two mile chases in Eng­land, Mas­ter Minded next headed to Punchestown for a Grade 1 clash with the best Ire­land had to of­fer, Big Zeb.Mas­ter Minded led from the start and seemed to have mat­ters well in hand as they en­tered the home straight as Big Zeb came un­der strong pres­sure but he re­sponded well and they were along­sides as they jumped the last.

Big Zeb made a mis­take here and Mas­ter Minded kept the ini­tia­tive, al­though both horses gave their all and only a head sep­a­rated them at the line.

Per­haps this race took far more out of Mas­ter Minded than any­one re­alised at the time.Maybe,like many French horses, he had peaked for his ca­reer and the best was now a mem­ory. Ei­ther way the new sea­son would not be any­thing like the last two.

Mas­ter Minded started off with a tame third place of six run­ners at Chel­tenham. Next up he won the Game Spirit at New­bury, again de­spite a mas­sive blun­der at the last. Odds on to win his third Cham­pion Chase at the Fes­ti­val on his next start, Mas­ter Minded was al­ready well beaten be­fore the last as he took a poor fourth place be­hind Big Zeb and that was the end of his sea­son.

The 2010/11 sea­son saw what many hoped was a resur­gence of the for­mer cham­pion as he quickly opened his

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