THE Hunter Chase Evening at Cheltenham may seem like a low-key finale to the course’s season to the uninitiated, but to the Point to Point fraternity it’s the pinnacle of the season, and Clarbeston Road trainer Rob Luke had a night to remember.
The United Hunts' Challenge Cup was won by Chosen Milan, who stepped up two places on her third in the 2013 Red Mills Final, under regular jockey Evan David, making it a first time winner on the course for both trainer and jockey.
"She's improved again this year," emphasised the trainer, who for five years was head lad to Olympic silver and European gold eventing medallist Ian Stark, gaining invaluable experience throughout.
"We do plenty with her at home because she's still learning, and she's been doing her best work in the last week," said the trainer, who along with his partner Rowenna Sinlair, do all the work at home when it comes to their horses. And what a team they are, coming out with not only an impressive winner on the night, but also two best turned out prizes, emphasising how well their horses look and turn heads.
Rob had left nothing to chance where rider Evan David was concerned, and ran his own Tiermore - who himself has been a successful Hunter Chaser over the last couple of seasons - in the opening race of the night, in order to give the jockey who was a Cheltenham rookie, some experience of the track.
"I can't believe it," commented Evan, who works for South Wales trainer Tim Vaughan. But it was the jockey’s father Martyn who best summed up his son's delight by remarking "He doesn't smile very often, but he did tonight."
Three lengths clear at the last, Chosen Milan was coming to the end of her tether up the final hill but still had sufficient reserves to see off the challenge of Foundry Square.
Owner David Morgan was full of praise for jockey Evan David, saying: “The jockey was brilliant. The mare has to be driven along and he did just that.”
Connections say that Chosen Milan may head to the John Corbet at Stratford at the end of the month, in which she finished an honourable sixth last year.