HORSE RACING: Trainer Curtis made his mark at Towcester

Cropredy Lawn trainer Paul Webber has enjoyed a Towcester winner at each of the first three Northants fixtures this season courtesy of Copperfacejack, Cosmic Diamond and Miss Tongabezi
Cropredy Lawn trainer Paul Webber has enjoyed a Towcester winner at each of the first three Northants fixtures this season courtesy of Copperfacejack, Cosmic Diamond and Miss Tongabezi

Towcester supporters focusing on the Northamptonshire track’s next fixture in a fortnight’s time on February 1 (first race 1.40pm), might do well to stop for a moment this week and remember trainer Roger Curtis who died at the age of 68 from prostate and bone cancer on Blue Monday.

It is almost seven years ago since Curtis saddled his last Towcester winner with Its A Classic ridden by Mark Grant in a 3m handicap chase and excitement that day centred more around the fact that Leon Max, the Russian owner of the Easton Neston estate, was making a presentation to Henrietta Knight in the winner’s enclosure after the victory of Benmore Boy in a handicap hurdle.

Yet Curtis, who trained 248 winners over the jumps and on the flat between 1986-2013, deserves his own mention in Towcester history as he was always likely to pop up with an improbable winner when least expected. Quite early in his career he proved that point with 33/1 bumper winner Rum Cay in January 1989.

Romney Marsh also obliged at that price when he scored on his first ever Towcester appearance under Charlie Studd in a 2m 3f handicap chase in March 2007.

Romney Marsh won five of his 73 starts in total. He was one of those quirky performers littered among racing and although he ran at Towcester on another 11 occasions he failed to repeat his convincing 10-length defeat of Lusaka De Pembo, although he was placed three times here, once at 28/1. He seemed to prefer Plumpton where he was successful twice.

The career highlight for Curtis was winning the Midlands Grand National with Mister Ed at Uttoxeter in 1993 but perhaps a better example of his Towcester skills was Hillwalk, who recorded three chase successes at the track between April 1995 and May 1996 while the trainer who was based at Surrey and Lambourn during his career, also enjoyed a Towcester double with the first two races on the card in March 1997 with Pleasureland and Funcheon Gale.

Many of the Curtis winners were ridden by Ray Goldstein and Derrick Morris while one of his three children from his first marriage is the leading conditional rider Ned Curtis who is based with Nicky Henderson.

THE victory of Big Jim in Saturday’s Betfred Mobile Edward Courage Cup Handicap Chase at Warwick had a poignant ring, just as it did two years earlier.

Edgcote trainer Alex Hales sent out the nine-year-old by Revoque for a repeat front-running success, this time under Harry Bannister, by a length and three quarters from Imjoeking.

Of course, Hales trains from the estate where Edward Courage enjoyed considerable success in the 1950s and 1960s after breeding from an unraced mare named Drumrora who was descended from the 1903 Grand National winner Drumcree.

Drumrora produced three fillies in consecutive years which set Courage off on a thrilling journey he could scarcely have predicted, namely French Colleen, Tiberina and Tiberetta.

While French Colleen was the dam of dual Champion Chase winner Royal Relief, Tiberina and Tiberetta won 15 races between them and produced offspring which landed a further 88.

Tiberetta won the Becher Chase and Grand Sefton at Aintree and finished third, second and fourth in consecutive Grand Nationals behind Sundew, Mr What and Oxo in the late 1950s.

Tiberetta was also the dam of the legendary Spanish Steps, the winner of 16 races including the Tote Champion Novices’ Chase at the Cheltenham Festival in 1969. Spanish Steps went on to win the Hennessy Gold Cup the following year and finished fourth in Red Rum’s first two Grand Nationals (1973 and 1974) as well as a third behind L’Escargot in 1975.

AUSTRALIAN racing enthusiast Rob Rexton celebrated his 70th birthday last week and the boss of Brackley concern Agetur UK which sponsors the Nigel Twiston-Davies yard can look forward to some exciting spring runners in the form of Flying Angel, Arthur McBride and Thunder Sheikh.

A FIRST run under Rules saw 18-year-old Charlie Case finish fifth of 17 runners on board his father Ben’s Phare Isle in the 3m amateur riders’ hurdle at Ludlow last Wednesday.