Remembering intricate details of riding that first Cheltenham Festival winner can be difficult given the celebrations which follow – but Wayne Hutchinson has a vivid recollection of his in the 2009 Grand Annual with Oh Crick.
With the two-mile contest bringing down the curtain at the four-day meeting, the reaction from those in the stands was somewhat muted compared to the races run before, with many bidding to beat the mass exodus.
While the decibel levels may not have raised the roof it led to Hutchinson – who will be hoping to add to his tally of two Festival winners in March – being able to pick out the congratulations of several familiar faces.
Hutchinson said: “Oh Crick only had 10st on his back that day and because Choc (Robert Thornton) couldn’t do the weight, I rode him.
“I hadn’t ridden him on the track before, but he was a novice that season going into the race rated 130. I was looking forward to riding him, though, as I thought he had a good each-way chance.
“I can’t remember too much in the build up to the race, but as for the race itself it all went very well. He jumped and travelled great and at the top of the hill it was the first time I started thinking this could really be happening.
“I remember Choc said to me you never want to be pushing them down the hill as you want try to save as much as you can to come up the hill well.
“Turning in I felt I had plenty of horse left and jumping the last I knew we had enough horse to get to the line. We were strongly pressed by Noel Fehily and Moon Over Miami, but we managed to come out on top at the end.
“Thankfully I had a feeling I always had the other horse held and that was nice, but I was willing the line to come all the time. I was just really overjoyed and that is the best way to describe it.
“It was not a relief for me, it was just that childhood dream coming true, as I always went to the Festival while I was at school as dad use to let me have one day off.
“So from standing there watching it to passing the line in front was a joy.
“Being the last race of the entire meeting it was a surreal feeling walking back in as it felt half-empty. There were plenty of cheers, but it felt like half of the atmosphere.
“What does stick out in my mind vividly was that a good few of Alan (King’s) owners had boxes in the stands and I could all hear them cheering and hollering and I remember waving back to them.
“I didn’t want the walk back in to end as it is the one thing that separates a Festival winner from riding one anywhere else.
“Alan King had a blank week so it was nice to get one on the board for him as well, that was rewarding.”