One race does not make a season, but David Noonan hopes his victory aboard Warthog in the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup at Cheltenham on Saturday can help him take his career to the next level.
Christmas may still be over a week away, though for 24-year-old Noonan it will have felt like it arrived early after galvanising David Pipe’s talented, but frustrating, charge to the biggest success of his career in the Grade Three.
Noonan is no stranger to teaming up with Pipe on the big occasions, having ridden the likes of Ballynagour in the Grand National and Ramses De Teillee in last year’s Welsh equivalent, however, it was the first significant success the pair had celebrated together.
Noonan said: “I rode one of my first winners as a conditional at this meeting four years ago – to come back and do that is brilliant.
“The last couple of years have been busy but lacking the winners, although I’ve already surpassed the amount I had last season.
“I’ve lost my claim now, but thankfully I still get plenty of support from the likes of David and hopefully this might help me progress again.”
Given his previous efforts, Warthog has gained his fair share of detractors with his hit-and-miss profile, although Noonan had nothing but praise for the grey, who provided part owner Professor Caroline Tisdall with the perfect 74th birthday present as he snatched victory from the jaws of defeat.
Noonan added: “He was brilliant. He obviously ran very well in the BetVictor, but sometimes he has not been the strongest of finishers.
“When it looked like he was floundering, he found another reserve which has got the job done. That was special.”
With Noonan starting out his career in England with the Pond House Stables handler, there is arguably no trainer that knows him better and he was delighted to see him make the most of an opportunity to shine on the big stage.
Pipe said: “David has been with us from the beginning. He has ridden in some big races – he is a hard worker and a real grafter. It works well with him and Tom Scudamore.
“He has ridden in the Grand National and a lot of the festivals for us. He was second in the Welsh Grand National on Ramses De Teillee last year, so he does show up on the big occasions for us, but it is good for him to get a win like this.”
Some horses respond better to certain riders and in the case of Noonan and Warthog, the Grand National-winning trainer believes they are a well-matched pair.
Pipe added: “It just worked out that David had ridden Warthog a few times and that he gets on well with him, so the owners thought they would let him keep the ride.
“It is hard to get opportunities whoever you are, but he rode a winner on Friday and Saturday so it has been a great two days for him.”