Rock On Ruby (7g Oscar-Stony View, by Tirol) starred on the opening day of the 2012 Cheltenham Festival when landing the G1 Champion Hurdle in brilliant style.
The 11/1 shot pulled clear of runner-up Overturn to give champion trainer Paul Nicholls, who ran four in the race, his first Stan James Champion Hurdle.
He attributed the victory to ‘Team Ditcheat and Team Seaborough’, a reference to his own yard and that of Richard Barber, who runs Nicholls’ satellite base. Barber, a point-to-point trainer, bought the John O’Dwyer-bred Rock On Ruby for £23,000 as a four-year-old at Doncaster and has housed him at his Manor Farm stables ever since.
His assistant, Harry Fry, said: “I was surprised the challengers didn’t come – I didn’t expect him to win that well. It is marvellous for Noel (Fehily). It’s a brilliant day.
“You never dream these things will happen. We hoped last year he might be Champion Hurdle class and the Neptune [Investment Hurdle, in which Rock On Ruby was second last year] has traditionally been a good trial for the race. We were all bar the winner of that and we knew we could get better.”
Nicholls said: “It’s a big team thing. Harry worked for me as assistant before joining Richard full time and everyone deserves praise. It’s a big reflection on the team headed by Richard and it was a great ride by Noel.
“I’m speechless. As time went on I fancied him more than my other runners. He did a great piece of work at Wincanton recently and he’s slowly come into the picture. I’ve always thought of him as a hurdler, not a chaser. He idled a bit in front, but kept galloping. Everyone gets so much pleasure from this and I feel privileged to be part of it.”
Owner Richard Barber added: Richard Barber added: “It’s unbelievable but we thought that we had a chance. Coming down the hill, we had every bit of a chance – Noel’s extended his lead and had them all at it – and it’s a dream come true for us.
“This is a bunch of friends who got together, put £5,000 in apiece. Everybody was told to flush the money down the toilet – we have been offered a lot of money for the horse and nobody had accepted. These are the fruits of our labour and we can’t describe it.”