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Focus: Spotlight On Mark Bradburne: Willing deputy preparing to tackle fears of the final fence.

Byline: Rodney Masters

Newbury's final fence is likely to appear more menacing than Becher's Brook for former world champion amateur jockey Mark Bradburne today when he makes his Hennessy Gold Cup debut on the fancied Behrajan.

Although Henry Daly's consistent chaser invariably completes his races safely, he has made a mistake at the last jump in each of his four most recent appearances over fences, including when ridden by Bradburne for the first time two weeks ago in Haydock's Edward Hanmer Chase.

Bradburne's association with Behrajan comes about as a result of Richard Johnson's injury and the failure of connections to secure the services of Norman Williamson, who rides Ad Hoc today.

With Bradburne deputising on the majority of the Daly-trained horses, Johnson has been generous with his advice on how best to ride them, and there'll be more of the same today from the jockey who knows Behrajan inside out.

Bradburne says their tactics didn't quite pan out as planned at Haydock.

"The idea was to give him a breather on the bend," he explains, "but he was leading and actually quickened up from there. He then fluffed the last fence-I don't know why he does that-but it was a great performance all the same, and he has definitely come on for the run.

"I am doubly thrilled that my first Hennessy ride is on a horse with such an outstanding chance."

He adds: "We were disappointed that he wasn't more impressive when he won a novice chase when odds-on at Huntingdon in the spring, but it now appears that that race was highly competitive. We had Montifault more than 13 lengths back in third.

"It was all the more commendable because Behrajan wouldn't have been suited by Huntingdon. He's much happier on a galloping track like Newbury."

Bradburne does not accept that the horse is a weak finisher, and reasons that the last-fence errors may have led to that impression.

The son of 15-horse Fife trainer Sue Bradburne and former amateur jockey Johnny Bradburne, he was working for Oliver Sherwood when he struck up a rapport with Daly.

His first mount for the trainer was at the 2000 Cheltenham Festival on Relaxation in the four-mile National Hunt Chase. Relaxation won, and so did his next ride for Daly, Young Spartacus, in the valuable Tote Silver Trophy at Chepstow. Of his following 14 mounts for the stable, just one finished outside the frame.

Bradburne says: "Henry has given me opportunities, and I don't want to let him down. He's very fair and tells me exactly how it is. For instance, he warned that if Norman had been available he'd be on Behrajan at Newbury."

World amateur champion while with Sherwood, riding winners in seven countries to secure the title, Bradburne is still kicking himself for falling off Mister One in this year's Martell Grand National.

"Having missed the pile-up at the Canal turn by the skin of our teeth, I then allowed myself to get unseated at the next fence. I hold my hands up, it was my fault and I'm still having nightmares about it," he confesses.

That wasn't his only Aintree frustration. He'd missed the ride on his mother's Blue Charm, runner-up to Bobbyjo in 1999, after taking a fall from Rough Quest and breaking a collarbone. "Can you believe that, falling on Rough Quest?"

At least his girlfriend is well qualified to appreciate, and console him after such calamities. He lives with Gee Armytage at her cottage at East Ilsley, near Lambourn, and commutes the 100 miles to Daly's Ludlow stables two or three times a week.

"Gee is very good for me," he says. "She keeps my feet on the floor when things are going well, and picks me up when they're not."

Armytage, a former secretary to Hughie Morrison and Oliver Sherwood, is Girl Friday to Tony McCoy, and Bradburne says she is very protective of the champion jockey.

Asked whether he has ridden more winners than his girlfriend, he laughs: "I don't know. That was before my time."
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:The Racing Post (London, England)
Date:Dec 1, 2001
Words:675
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