Suffolk hopes lost at Cheltenham

FOR two Suffolk owners The Cheltenham Gold Cup was destined to be the thrill of a lifetime.Their horse Lord Noelie was among the bluebloods of steeplechasing hoping to carry off the jumping crown.

FOR two Suffolk owners The Cheltenham Gold Cup was destined to be the thrill of a lifetime.

Their horse Lord Noelie was among the bluebloods of steeplechasing hoping to carry off the jumping crown.

COLIN ADWENT was at Cheltenham to share their ups and downs.

BROODING clouds gathered above the majestic splendour of Cleeve Hill sadly proved prophetic for Trevor Woolnough and Sarah Pasteur.

The two Suffolk owners of the 11-strong Executive Racing partnership had dared to dream their precious Lord Noelie could join the pantheon of greats as winner of the Cheltenham Gold Cup. Titans of the turf such as Golden Miller, Easter Hero and the great Arkle.

But, alas it was not to be.

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Oblivious to the bitingly cold wind which swept across the course piercing all in its path they had come with hopes of triumph.

Sadly for Trevor, of Bentley, and Sarah, of Grundisburgh, along with the rest of the syndicate, life rarely follows our chosen script.

Gallantly though the 9-year-old tried, the cloying mud of Prestbury Park proved to have his measure.

Before he could join the heat of battle against the bravest of the brave in earnest the soft ground anchored him like a millstone.

In less than 10 minutes Trevor's mood had turned from upbeat to slightly crestfallen as Lord Noelie trailed in tenth behind victor and stable companion Best Mate.

Sarah, although understandably disappointed herself, sportingly cheered the 7/1 winner as the Henrietta Knight-trained champion made his way back past the packed enclosure paying homage to his victory.

"Obviously the ground was softer than we thought," said Trevor. "It was not the characteristic finish we have come to expect of Lord Noelie. But there's always next year."

It proved a crushing blow for Trevor. One of life's good companions, he had also been one of Lord Noelie's most loyal supporters.

In the hours leading up to the race his placid, friendly demeanour had masked the mass of butterflies fluttering within.

Despite any apprehension they may have had he and Sarah were determined to savour the thrill of having a live contender for the jewel in steeplechasing's crown.

Sarah and her husband Tom arrived at Cheltenham shortly after 10am.

Trevor, his wife Anna and sister Karen emerged from the traffic jams around two hours later.

Almost immediately Trevor was out on the track to walk the course hoping Lord Noelie, who needs ground on the firm side of good, would have the conditions to show his best.

As he made his way round Prestbury Park the sun began to shine and the stiff breeze whipped across Cheltenham helping to sooth Trevor's worries.

Only two years ago Lord Noelie had given Sarah and Trevor unbelievable joy when emerging as the victor in the Royal and Sun Alliance Novices Chase.

And no stone was left unturned in seeking a victory in yesterday's Gold Cup. Trevor and his wife Anna even sought refuge in superstition. They stopped at the same petrol station on the way to Cheltenham as they did on that glorious day and Anna wore they same lucky dress.

After walking the course they retired to the owners bar to calm the nerves and prepare themselves for the race ahead.

"This is it. You can get any better than this. said Trevor. "It's like having all your Christmas' early. How many people get this chance?

"It's a bit different from two years ago because I don't think we really expected to win. I think we would hope to get a place today. The last time he didn't really know what it was about and we didn't come with so many expectations."

Despite having a sound night's sleep Trevor admitted to having difficulty concentrating.

"You are thinking about little else," he said. "It's the whole experience. The race only lasts seven minutes but the whole build up has been going on for months."

After watching Lord Noelie being saddled up and mounted Sarah and Trevor went to watch the race with their co-owners in the stand.

"I'm so frightened he might fall," said Sarah. "I've been in a dream all day. I can't really believe it.

"If he gets a place I will be thrilled."

By 3.15pm the hearts were pounding louder than ever as the tapes went up to the roar of the thousands in the crowd.

Favourite and champion in 2000 Looks Like Trouble set off in the lead tracked by eventual third See More Business. The pair were stalked in third by Lord Noelie whose jockey Richard Guest had him hugging the inside rail.

Throughout the first circuit he kept in close order but it was when they went down the back straight for the final time that he began to lose his place, unable to rein those in front in.

As Trevor and Sarah's hearts began to sink Guest accepted his fate without being unduly hard on Lord Noelie while the lion hearts Best Mate and Commanche Court did battle up the Cheltenham hill.

This was their day. But for Trevor, Sarah, and Lord Noelie there will be others.

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