For three years they have waited and watched, looked on as they are painful denied yet again in a big-field two mile handicap hurdle, yet Sunday 18th November 2012 was to finally be the day that Tom George's Olofi would be victorious in a race that he was narrowly denied in only twelve months before.
Held up for the majority of the race, the 2011 Greatwood Hurdle second-placed Olofi travelled smoothly under Paddy Brennan at the rear of the field, waiting to deliver his challenge at the perfect moment. With Patrick O'Brady's One Cool Shabra towing his seventeen rivals over the early obstacles, it had looked for a moment that the Irish raider would kick on off a tepid pace under a clever ride from Ryan Treacy. However, one by one the challenges from the four-year-old rivals would come at a rate of knots.
The experienced hand of Snap Tie, the stoutly-bred Prospect Wells and the handicap-starlet Bothy would all throw down their challenges towards the home turn, yet the ominous sight of a smooth-travelling, battle-hardly Olofi was there for all to see. As the field angled towards the final set of hurdles, Paddy Brennan would angle his mount towards the wide outside, only for Danny Cook aboard Bothy to significantly block his path and cause Brennan to check his mount heading towards the second last hurdle.
A move that would have been a catastrophic blow which could have prevented Olofi, yet again, from winning a two mile handicap hurdle, Brennan and Olofi were able to regather themselves and deliver one final challenge at the final flight, breezing past Bothy as they flew over the last hurdle and pull away, leaving their rivals in their wake for a two-and-a-half length success. Cash and Go and Causes of Causes, both of whom flew late on, claimed second and third respectively, with Bothy a further neck-distance back in fourth.
“Things have gone wrong for him over the years,” said George, “When they do the jockey gets blamed, the trainer gets blamed, even the horse gets blamed but there hasn’t been any one thing, it’s just been circumstances each time and it finally all came right today".
Last seen in the winners enclosure in December 2009 after he was victorious in a novice hurdle at Cheltenham's December meeting, Olofi has experienced a turbulent time within the gruelling, competitive handicap hurdle division for a number of years. Seen to good effect within some of the toughest handicap hurdles of the 2011 season, Olofi would be seen to fall short to superbly handicap rivals or a sequence of occurances that failed to allow him to show his true colours within the closing stages of a race.
“He’s the sort that has had to be held up, he’s been too keen for his own good in the past, and if you have to come late then there’s always going to be a fair chance of getting into trouble on the way through" said winning jockey, Paddy Brennan, "As he’s got older he become more settled and today he showed what he can do.".
Patience is a virtue, so they say, and Olofi harbours patience in abundance. Having finally got his head in front within the turbulent handicap hurdle division, trainer Tom George now holds bigger hopes for Olofi with the Cheltenham Champion Hurdle a realistic target in March 2013.
"He’ll have to improve but you have to aim high and I don’t particularly want to keep running him in big-field two-mile handicaps." said George, "There are just too many hard luck stories and you can only do that to a horse so often, but today he’s got his confidence and belief in himself back"
Photos Courtesy of Emma-Louise Kerwin (Goodtosoft.co.uk)