Gentleman At Arms at Aintree with from L-R Ciaran Gethings, Harriet Edmunds, Diana Gardiner & Barry Iseton
Gentleman At Arms at Aintree with from L-R Ciaran Gethings, Harriet Edmunds, Diana Gardiner & Barry Iseton

Warwick preview: Gentleman At Arms out to secure emotional success for passionate owner

Stuart Edmunds admits it would mean a lot to his team if Gentleman At Arms could rise to the challenge and provide owner Diana Gardiner with a poignant success in the Hampton Novices’ Chase at Warwick on Saturday.

After finishing second on the card 12 months ago in the Grade Two Ballymore Leamington Novices’ Hurdle, the gelded son of Reliable Man is now in contention for a return to the track at the same level for a tilt at the £55,000 prize.

Any success at Pattern-race level comes with an added significance. However, victory for Gentleman At Arms would be particularly special for Sheringham-based Gardiner, whose husband and fellow owner, Barry Iseton, passed away in July.

Edmunds said: “Barry worked for the Foreign Office then after retiring he used to man the gate crossing at Towcester Racecourse.

“We always used to talk to him there and when they came into a few quid they decided to buy a racehorse and he said because you always spoke to me I’m going to send it to you and he did.

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“They were on holiday in Tenerife last year and unfortunately Barry had a heart attack. Diana has been left on her own but she loves her horses, and Arthur, as she calls Gentleman At Arms, is her pet.

“She has led him back to the lorry after his races before, while when she has stayed the night she has gone down to the yard in the morning and help lead him to the walker. She loves doing all that.

“She is a lovely lady and of course it would mean a lot to give her a good winner. She would be over the moon if she won a race like this.”

Having signed off last season finding only Gelino Bello too strong on his Grade One debut in the Cavani Menswear Sefton Novices’ Hurdle at Aintree in the spring Gentleman At Arms failed to feature in his first two starts this term over hurdles.

Despite only finishing third on his chasing debut at Leicester last month, the Newport Pagnell-based handler was pleased with that effort and believes the return to three miles will unlock further improvement.

He added: “We are probably paying the price handicap wise over hurdles for doing well in those graded races last year. I thought he ran adequately over two and a half at Aintree then we went to Haydock, and though he was down the field, he galloped through the line.

"We wanted to go to Doncaster over three miles in a novice chase but that was frozen off so we had to go two and a half miles at Leicester in what was probably a decent race but I thought he ran okay.

"I think there is improvement over three miles. At home he can be a bit careful over fences but we were satisfied with that run. He is not a natural looking chaser as he is a ball of a horse but, touch wood, his technique is very good.

"He is ready to go and he didn’t take a lot out of himself at Leicester. I’d rather run in a five or six runner novice chase, even though it is a good one, than go in a tough handicap somewhere as I don’t think he is ready for that.

"The track suits him and I don’t think there is a chink in his armour track-wise. The five down the back come quick but I can’t see that being a problem. He is a very neat jumper and I think there is a nice prize in him."

Stuart Edmunds (left) on Mexico and Harriet Edmunds (right) on Gentleman At Arms
Stuart Edmunds (left) on Mexico and Harriet Edmunds (right) on Gentleman At Arms

Meanwhile, owner John Horgan claims he would be "smiling for a fortnight" if stablemate Mexico could provide him, and his sister Katherine Armstrong, with the biggest winner of their career in the Leamington Novices’ Hurdle.

Hitting the target on his third start of the season last time out at Southwell, the Sea The Moon gelding will bid to go one better than on his previous visit to the track in the two miles and five furlongs contest.

Horgan said: "I couldn’t believe Southwell was on but he jumped beautifully that day. He was really low at his hurdles and got away quick. Hopefully he will get his conditions at Warwick.

“The softer it is, the better for him. We know he stays and will get further. I’m looking forward to it. We have had three great runs from him and he will certainly jump fences next season so we should have fun with him.

“A Grade Two would be the biggest win I’ve had and I wouldn’t stop smiling for a fortnight if he won. I would be buzzing."

Horgan, who lives in Barton-le-Clay near Luton, has been involved in racehorse ownership since the 1990s but his interest in the sport stems back decades earlier.

He said: “It was in the 1960s that I first started taking an interest in racing with my dad. I was eight in 1964 and he took me on the Vauxhall works outing to Royal Ascot on Gold Cup day.

“I remember watching the horses go down then come running into the bar and said they have called the racing off as it was waterlogged. I then went in 1965 and 1966 and saw Fighting Charlie win back-to-back Gold Cups and I’ve had the bug ever since.

“My first involvement with ownership was at the end of the 1990s with Middleham Park with John Upson. The first horse I was involved in was called The Millmaster who was rubbish and the second horse I had with them was Over Zealous. He won nine chases, all low grade, but he was a great jumper."

Harriet Edmunds holds Gentleman At Arms (left) with owner John Horgan holding Mexico
Harriet Edmunds holds Gentleman At Arms (left) with owner John Horgan holding Mexico

Although not the most straightforward character, Mexico is beginning to fulfil the potential Edmunds thought he possessed as youngster, and despite needing to step up on what he has shown so far he believes he merits a go in deeper waters.

Edmunds said: “He came over as a three-year-old but he has always been a chronic box walker and head shaker. He is a very tricky horse but Harriet (Edmunds, daughter) does a great job with him.

"We always thought he had an engine but he had a few little niggles with his previous owner and he decided to sell him and I offered him to John, who was already in a syndicate here, and he liked him and his form

"I think he beat a useful horse at Southwell and the more rain there is, the better. John is a sporting owner and he is keen to have a go. He has had time between his races and he is bang ready. Sometimes you can think you are pitching them in a bit strong but I think it is worth having a go.”

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