Noelie carries local hopes at Cheltenham

RACING: When Cheltenham Gold Cup contender Lord Noelie canters to post for the Pillar Chase tomorrow the hearts of Sarah Pasteur and Trevor Woolnough will be beating like a drum.

By Colin Adwent

WHEN Cheltenham Gold Cup contender Lord Noelie canters to post for the Pillar Chase tomorrow the hearts of Sarah Pasteur and Trevor Woolnough will be beating like a drum.

The gelding has proved successful beyond the wildest dreams of the Suffolk pair who are part of the 11-strong Executive Racing syndicate which owns the horse.

For Sarah and Trevor the mere mention of the nine-year-old's name is enough to make the pride they feel shine ever more brightly from their eyes.

Although tomorrow's race is one of the major trials for racing's Blue Riband on March 14, Sarah, from Grundisburgh, and Trevor, from Bentley, see it as a stepping stone.

The important thing is for an encouraging run from which jockey Jim Culloty and 'Noelie' as he is affectionately known, emerge unscathed. Then they will really know whether their dreams of glory can be a reality.

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Sarah and Trevor can hardly believe their luck in having one of he favourites for the Gold Cup. And whatever the horse does in the Pillar Chase, Trevor has not been afraid to put his money where his mouth is for the big race, having already snapped up odds of 20/1 on Lord Noelie for the Gold Cup.

"There are very, very, few people who have the opportunity that we have got," said Trevor, a freelance IT consultant. "Cheltenham suits him because of the uphill finish."

To prove the point Lord Noelie has already won at the Festival before – taking the Royal Sun Alliance Chase for novices in 2000.

"I think we are terribly lucky," said Sarah, a 62-year-old retired teacher. "Even if he does not do well we have such fun with him.

"We are nervous this year. I feel we are just waiting in the wings. If we could get into a place it would be lovely. The thing about Noelie is that he does like Cheltenham because it is undulating and he likes left handed racecourses."

The pair are hoping Lord Noelie, who prefers ground on the firm side of good, remains untouched by the cough which is currently affecting some of trainer Henrietta Knight's horses.

After finishing second to First Gold in the Martell Chase at Aintree last season following the abandonment of the Gold Cup in 2001 due to Foot and Mouth Lord Noelie's ability has remained intact this year.

Although he fell when in contention for the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby in his opening start, he thrilled his connections with a fourth in the Hennessey Gold Cup at Newbury next time giving weight all round.

"All of us who were there were very, very encouraged," said Trevor, 41. "We didn't think he would finish quite as well as he did carrying so much weight."

However the adrenalin still flows freely no matter how much confidence the owners have in the horse.

Nerves play an ever-increasing part as post time approaches but it is a cross Trevor bears stoically.

"Once the horse is paraded before the race, the jockey is mounted up and you find a good place in the stand to view the race it's then the butterflies start.

Sarah joined Executive Racing with an old friend, Maida Whitty, four or five years ago.

Trevor has been in the syndicate for nearly ten years and joined up a year after a friend he worked with, Ian Reece, started the partnership. Despite owning other lesser lights with the syndicate in the past his enjoyment for racing remains as strong as ever, although he admitted: "The Plumptons and Herefords on a wet Monday afternoon test your love for the game."

Despite financial burdens and the ups and downs Sarah also thoroughly enjoys the involvement.

"It's like tearing up £10 notes," she said. "But it's enormous fun and gets you through the winter."

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