EXETER RACEDAY NEWS: Richard Mitford-Slade hails Devon National triumph “the highlight of my career” as jockey Micheal Nolan is compared to Richard Dunwoody

Published 2021/02/26

Richard Mitford-Slade watched Samuel Jackson execute his season-long plan to perfection by landing the Thank You NHS Devon National Handicap Chase at Exeter – then described it as the highlight of his career.

After missing last season, the nine year old, who claimed the headlines when scoring at 100-1 on his debut under rules at Taunton in 2017, opened his account for the campaign when going one better than his last appearance at the track in the 3m 6½f prize.

Jumping well throughout, the 4-1 favourite moved into contention to battle out the finish of the marathon contest with eventual runner-up Tea Time On Mars over the final line of fences down the home straight.

It was only in the final 100 yards that Samuel Jackson, who finished fourth in this race back in 2019, forged into a narrow lead before going on to score by a neck and complete a double on the day for jockey Micheal Nolan.

Mitford-Slade said: “This has always been the plan this season as he missed last season. We thought as the likes of the Welsh National would be out we would aim for this.

“We gave him two early runs over hurdles to get him ready, then he had a nice prep run over three miles here last time and we know he stays and is on form and we have an on form jockey as well. It is lovely when a plan comes together. You get all nervous about it but I couldn’t be more delighted.

“He is a real trier. He is such a genuine horse and he jumped beautifully. There was some great opposition but luckily he got there first. It is lovely to win the Devon National, it is just a shame there are no crowds here.

“We’ve got plenty of support back home that can’t be here but hopefully they will be cheering at the television like I was cheering in the trainers’ room. I probably upset the rest of the trainers up there as I was shouting so loud.

“We weren’t sure he stayed the distance when he was fourth two years ago but he is clearly an out and out stayer. I thought my career was over when he won at 100-1 on his first run (under rules) at Taunton. One hundred per cent this is a career highlight.”

Assessing his future plans, Mitford-Slade said a trip to Uttoxeter on March 20th for the Listed Attheraces.com Midlands National looks to be on the cards for Samuel Jackson.

He said: “He is entered in the Midlands National and after today that is probably what we will set our sights on. It is a realistic aim and the handicapper shouldn’t put us up too much. I think it should be a nice target. The Welsh National is the sort of race (next season) he has looked like he has developed into a contender for. The dream is still alive.”

There was success earlier on the card for Nolan, who steered the Philip Hobbs-trained Earth Moor to glory by four lengths in the Dartmoor Novices’ Limited Handicap Chase, which led to the successful rider being compared to former champion jockey Richard Dunwoody.

Sarah Hobbs, wife of the winning trainer, said of the 12-1 chance:

“He is such a dream horse as he is easy at home and on the track and he jumps very well. He is the perfect racehorse.

“I’m pleased for the Pennys (the owners) as they are lovely people. He just had an off day at Newbury the time before last but the jumpers bumper run put him spot on for this.

“Micheal is having a bit of a run of it (in the saddle) but he is a very good jockey. He sees a stride a long way out, a bit like Richard Dunwoody used to.”