The Big Bite forced to dig deep to clinch Greatwood Gold Cup glory at Newbury
Third in the race behind Umbrigado in 2021, he was without a victory since his debut for trainer Henry Oliver in November 2020 and was sent off the outsider in first-time cheekpieces for a contest which delivered a thrilling finish.
The new headgear seemed to spark some life into the 10-year-old who moved up to challenge long-time leader Gemirande as the field exited the back straight. A good jump at the third last saw the veteran move to the front and it briefly looked like Jonathan Burke was going to quickly sail clear of the field. But Gemirande proved a tough nut to crack and Venetia Williams' game seven-year-old was giving The Big Bite plenty to think about all the way up the Newbury home straight - still only a head in arrears as the pair flashed past the winning post. "We were delighted with him," said Oliver. "The owners have been superb and incredibly patient because he isn't a horse who runs every week. He is quite a light-framed horse and he doesn't take a lot of racing. "He didn't stay three miles at the start of the season and then we ran him over two and a half on deep ground at Chepstow which wasn't for him. "He had some tidy form last year - he was second, beaten a length, behind a horse who was second in a Champion Chase (Funambule Sivola) and he is more of a spring ground type horse these days. "Johnny Burke gave him a lovely ride and he had dropped to a nice mark." On the impact of the cheekpieces, he added: "To be fair, he just needed sharpening up because he was quirky here two years ago, looking around and being the (son of) Scorpion that he is. I think he is genuine when he puts his mind on the job and they just help put his mind on the job. "He was quite sharp when I tried them on him Thursday and I thought that's going to help him keep his mind on the job. Johnny had suggested them at the end of last year and we decided to save them for a day like today." The victory brought up a half-century of winners for the successful rider Burke, who can look forward to partnering the likes of Love Envoi and Queens Gamble at the Cheltenham Festival later this month.
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