Beer Goggles a surprise winner of Long Distance Hurdle

The £50,000 G2 Ladbrokes Long Distance Hurdle was billed as a match between the latest two winners of the contest - 2015 scorer Thistlecrack (Colin Tizzard/Tom Scudamore, 11/10 Fav) and last year's winner Unowhatimeanharry (Harry Fry/Barry Geraghty, 7/4).

However 40/1 chance Beer Goggles (Richard Woollacott/Richard Johnson) threw a spanner in the works by making all the running to score by two and a quarter lengths from Unowhatimeanharry with Taquin Du Seuil (Jonjo O'Neill/Aidan Coleman, 33/1) another three and three quarter lengths back in third of the six runners.


Thistlecrack, making his seasonal debut, raced keenly before weakening two out to come home a disappointing fifth.


Successful trainer Richard Woollacott, who is based at South Molton Devon, said: "I am nearly crying, it's absolutely fantastic.


"I have got fantastic support from everyone at home working so hard and we are so lucky now that we have got a couple of owners with some slightly better horses. This horse is wonderful - he is not very big, but absolutely fantastic.


"There are so many ups and downs with racing and horses. Everyone is trying to achieve the same thing and have good winners in nice races, but they don't come around all the time.


"He won off 104 (at Hexham in March, 2016 before joining Woolacott) and I went and brought him thinking that we would have a bit of fun. We didn't really expect him to keep going (up the ratings) the way he has. He does everything that you want - he is tough and sound - and just a lovely horse.


"I am flabbergasted. This is absolutely amazing. First of all, it was fantastic from Dicky. He said 'what are the instructions' and I said 'do what you like - go and enjoy yourself and see what happens!'


"We knew Beer Goggles would stay and keep going. His jumping is good. But to be honest, we did not think he was the class of that. He has just kept improving.


"Because of his handicap mark (152) and not being very big, we couldn't keep asking him to run from the top of the handicap. We felt we had to go here.


"Originally, we were going to go for the Long Walk at Ascot (later in December). We will probably miss that now, give him a break and then perhaps go for the Cleeve (at Cheltenham). We will see if he copes with Cheltenham first and if he does, we will go there (for The Festival in March), but if not, we will go to Aintree (in April) where he has run well before.


"I have 15 horses and my wife has 15 pointers. Horses like this and another one at home called Lalor that we like - it is amazing. A day like this is wonderful and you hope it will attract more horses."


Richard Johnson added: "We joked beforehand that 50/1 was a bit rude about him. He has been in great form and is a real improver. He ran a great race last time off top-weight at Aintree.


"I think, realistically with Thistlecrack and Unowhatimeanharry, you always felt that it would be hard to beat them.


"He has just jumped and travelled. Richard told me to do whatever he was happy doing - I was enjoying myself up there and so was Beer Goggles. We kept it very simple and he stayed and jumped really well.


"Beer Goggles has done everything before. He has made the running or dropped in. Today there was not a lot of pace and Richard said to go out and enjoy yourself.


"I thought he was a little bit over-priced this morning. He probably should have been a 20/1 shot rather than a 40/1 shot. He has jumped nicely and travelled well - I don't think there is any massive fluke about it.


"I thought Tom Scu would not want to commit too early because it was his first run for a long time and Unowhatimeanharry can be a bit idle in front. I didn't dare look round because I thought they were running away in behind me.


"I don't think there is a massive fluke about it. Horses like Colin's Sister and Unowhatimeanharry had won (already this season) so I can't see that they have all run badly - Thistlecrack fair enough because he has having his first run of the season after a lay-off. It looked a decent, six-runner field that was competitive and he has got his head in front.


"I have been lucky for Richard Woollacott. I have ridden his two big winners - Aintree last year [Lalor] and this one today. He has only got 15 horses and is doing really, really well. He is an up and coming trainer and, if he has the right horses, he can do the job. The all important thing these days is getting the horses."


Trainer Harry Fry said of the runner-up: "Barry was very happy with Unowhatimeanharry and we were just beaten by a better horse on the day.


"Unowhatimeanharry has run his race. They have gone a good pace and it looked like we had every chance up the straight. I thought jumping the last we would peg Beer Goggles back, but the winner has pulled out more and was better than us on the day. Fair play to Richard Woollacott and his team.


"We could have finished second today and been delighted to finish second to Thistlecrack. I did not think coming here that if you said we finished second that it would have been to Beer Goggles. Fair play to him.


"We will still go, all being well, to the Long Walk at Ascot. We will let the dust settle and confirm that in a few days."


Barry Geraghty added: "Unowhatimeanharry had every chance but couldn't get to the winner either. The winner is a only a six-year-old and could be 10lb better than his mark, which combined with the 6lb penalty, puts him nearly level with us. The winner will be no pushover next time off level weights." 


Trainer Colin Tizzard was not too disheartened with Thistlecrack's fifth place and commented: "Basically, he looked like the winner two out.


"He looked a bit burly in the parade ring when compared to horses who have already run this season and he ran a bit fresh.


"I think it was right to come here first rather than going straight to the King George. Thistlecrack is a big, heavy horse and he just got tired in the last two furlongs. If all is well tomorrow, he will still go to the King George.


"He needed the run today. He was a bit gassy and doing too much. The others looked race fit whereas he looked like he needed it."


Tom Scudamore added: "Thistlecrack felt full of beans and has taken me all the way through the race.


"He was very happy to be back on the track and, in himself, felt well. He got tired on me going to the second last but up to that point he felt as good as ever. He has still got a hell of an engine.


"It is tough coming back from what he has had and everything. It was a big ask first time and I think he has acquitted himself well.


"The one thing you are looking for when they have had an injury like his is that they are still able to use themselves and do everything like before. Going to two out, he felt as well as he has ever been. Normally, after two out, off he goes 20 lengths clear in his own little world but today he got tired. We have got a bit to work on between now and Boxing Day, all being well."