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Sandown: Camitrov realises ambition for rider.

Rupert Sturgis enjoyed one of the thrills of his life when driving 25-1 chance Camitrov to a nine-length win over Druid's Brook in the Alvis Grand Military Gold Cup, writes Graham Dench.

A troop leader with the Household Cavalry at Windsor, Sturgis bought the former winner of a Grade 2 chase at Punchestown specifically with yesterday's race in mind.

The pairing had failed to set the world alight in two point-to-points at Larkhill in January, but family friend Nicky Henderson worked the oracle when asked to help knock them both into shape.

Sturgis, having his first ride in the race, said: "I've had my heart set on this since last year, and I bought Camitrov in July. Nicky very kindly took up the challenge, and Camitrov was absolutely brilliant. In fact, he couldn't have jumped any better."

Henderson said: "Toby and Gail Sturgis have been great friends over the years, and they asked me to help prepare horse and rider for this race. I've only had Camitrov about a month, and he was hopping lame both times Rupert came down to ride him out, but Rupert's given him a great ride."

Druid's Brook was finding one too good for the second successive year, but the unlucky horse of the race was favourite Yorkshire Edition, who gave Dominic Alers-Hankey a tremendous ride until unseating him when challenging for the lead at the last open ditch.

At the same fence Ballyea Boy also unseated, while Spring Saint fell, bringing down Bearys Cross. Master Nova was pulled up here, but his rider then had second thoughts and eventually completed for sixth-placed prize-money of pounds 165, albeit so long after the rest that the horses were already in the winner's enclosure when the judge officially placed him.

There had earlier been a disappointment for Henderson and the Queen Mother, who presented the big-race trophies as usual, when Kings Rhapsody weakened quickly before the second-last in the two-and-a-half-mile novice hurdle and finished only fifth behind Silver Streak.

The winner, trained by Josh Gifford and ridden by Philip Hide, came home seven lengths clear of King Kato and is expected to be seen to even better advantage over fences next season.

nAnother who should make up into a chaser next term is Chalmers Place, who got the better of a good battle with Festival Leader in the concluding two-mile novice hurdle, winning by a length in the hands of Jim Culloty.

Trainer Henrietta Knight, who has been buoyed by the drying conditions at Cheltenham for her big-race hopes Edredon Bleu and Lord Noelie at next week's Festival, is "very excited" about the prospect of Chalmers Place going novice chasing next season, and believes he will "be a good horse if all goes well with him".

Tony Martin won the Duke of Gloucester Memorial Hunters' Chase for the second year running when Ships Decanter, ridden by his friend John Nicholl, beat Danegeld by 13 lengths.

Martin is another trainer with plenty to look forward to next week, as he rides Tremallt for Tom George in the Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Chase and saddles three fancied runners of his own, Ross Moff in the Coral Cup, Fandango de Chassy in the four-mile National Hunt Chase and It's Himself in the Christie's Foxhunter Chase. He will ride the last two himself.

The Graham McCourt-trained Fin Bec followed up his win at Leicester last week by making most of the running to beat Madam Muck by five lengths in the novice handicap chase. He was ridden once again by Eugene Husband, and connections now have one eye on a valuable novice handicap at Punchestown.

Anthony Jones, who used to train Fin Bec but no longer holds a licence, was in the winner's enclosure with owner Alec King. He recalled: "I bought him for Alec at Saint-Cloud as a two-year-old and stored him for a couple of years before running him a few times in bumpers and over hurdles. He's just starting to bloom and chasing was always going to be his game."

Royal Snoopy continues to do Charlie Mann great credit, and won for the fourth time this season when just holding Jim Jam Joey in the Showcase handicap hurdle. He was ridden by Norman Williamson.
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Title Annotation:Sports
Author:Dench, Graham
Publication:The Racing Post (London, England)
Date:Mar 11, 2000
Words:706
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