Sarah Humphrey ‘speechless’ after Nickle Back and James Best help West Wratting trainer win first Grade 1 race at Sandown
Sarah Humphrey admitted she was ‘speechless’ and described the experience as ‘extraordinary’ after she won her first Grade 1 race with Nickle Back at Sandown on Saturday.
The West Wratting trainer saw her horse, ridden by James Best, set the pace from the start to create an unassailable lead ahead of favourite Hermes Allen, and cruise to victory by more than 20 lengths in the Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase.
“It’s beginning to settle in at last,” said Humphrey.
“I was speechless. I didn’t think we would win but I was hoping we would be well-placed. It was just extraordinary actually.
“I don’t think I had appreciated quite what a big deal it is either. I’ve had hundreds and hundreds of messages from people I know, people I don’t know, fans of Nickle Back and it’s been absolutely fabulous.
“Whether they (the opponents) just gave him too much rope on Saturday because we’re a small yard and James wouldn’t be called one of the top-10 riders. I think they just slightly underestimated us really.
“That’s fine, I quite like being the underdog, there’s far less pressure,” she joked.
After starting brightly, the eight-year-old horse had an interrupted hurdling career, filled with injuries, so Humphrey switched him to chases.
Having dominated races at Warwick and Stratford in October and November respectively, Nickle Back was tested at Newbury and Kempton in December, where he finished second in both, before his success at Sandown. A formidable record in such a short space of time.
“He’s like all good horses or human athletes, a bit quirky. He’s reasonably fragile so he takes a lot of managing and he’s quite accident-prone. He will do things like just jump out his field and go off,” said Humphreys.
“He knows he’s good, he’s got that air about him and he always has had that. He’s a little bit arrogant and he does take some managing, he’s not the easiest ride at home.
“We spend the whole time just basically trying to keep him cool, calm collected and happy. We’ve worked out an efficient way of managing him.”
The stunning victory at the weekend was also Best’s first win in a Grade 1 race and Humphrey was delighted they could both achieve the landmark triumph together.
“James is brilliant, I’ve known him for quite a few years now and he’s very hard working,” she said.
“He’s a very good schooling rider on the younger horses and gives great feedback, very personable, the owners love him and he’s just a lovely person.
“I’m delighted we gave him his first grade 1 winner as well.”
Humphrey had registered Nickle Back into the Turners Novices’ chase at Cheltenham, but she has doubts as to whether she should let him race in March after the horse had a bad experience there 18 months ago.
She hopes he can compete in the Manifesto Novices’ Chase at Aintree.