Cheltenham success for Skelton as Mohaayed springs surprise

Bridget Andrews (left) on Mohaayed celebrates with fellow jockey Harry Skelton after winning the Randox Health County Handicap Hurdle.

BRIDGET Andrews won the first Cheltenham Festival race of her career as Alcester trainer Dan Skelton’s Mohaayed (33-1) caused a surprise in the County Hurdle on Friday.

The 3lb-claiming conditional rider was embraced by her partner Harry Skelton, who rode stablemate Spiritofthegames into sixth place, when the horses pulled up after the line.

Sternrubin and Tigris River took the 24-runner field along until the serious end of the ultra-competitive contest and it was hard to call the winner at the final flight.

Mohaayed (33-1), trained by Skelton‘s brother, Dan, produced the best turn of foot to take the spoils by two and three-quarter lengths from Remiluc, with Whiskey Sour third and Chesterfield fourth.

Andrews said: “It’s unbelievable. He’s given me a dream ride. He galloped all the way to the line.

“I couldn’t believe he handled the ground. He’s got some good form in the book, we knew he could do it but sort of wrote him off because of the ground.

“I just can’t believe it.”

A tearful Dan Skelton said: “I’m a professional and I shouldn’t be crying, but Bridget has just won a race at the Festival.

“I’m so pleased for her. She works so hard, she’s the epitome of our sport.

“The English haven’t been doing that well this week, I didn’t think we had any chance.

“I feel like an idiot! I’m a bit speechless.”

He added: “I really fancied the horse three weeks ago, but it kept raining and I said to June (Watts, owner) ‘do we run, do we not?’ and June said, ‘let’s run’. I’d probably have pulled him out but it just shows you, sometimes it’s meant to be.

“It’s amazing.”