When bloodstock agent Alex Elliott bought The Grand Visir for 170,000gns at Tattersalls’ Horses In Training Sale in Newmarket last year his dream was to win a race at the Cheltenham Festival with the five-year-old.
However, after being sent to join top dual purpose trainer Ian Williams things didn’t go to plan as the gelding unseated his rider at the first on debut over the obstacles at Aintree before finishing a well beaten fourth of seven at Doncaster.
Connections then decided to switch him back to the level and after a solid run when seventh at Newmarket the son of Frankel landed the biggest success of his career when defying top weight to land the £90,000 Ascot Handicap over 2m 4f on the opening day of Royal Ascot.
After being held-up early doors by Richard Kingscote, The Grand Visir (12/1) made stealthy headway to take up the running a furlong from home
He then ran on strongly in the home straight and battled all the way to the line all the way to the line to deny 7/1 chance Buildmeupbuttercup, who stayed on to take second for top Irish jumps trainer Willie Mullins – the most successful in the history of the Cheltenham Festival having saddled 65 winners – and jockey Ryan Moore.
Time To Study, also trained by Williams, was a further 3 1/2 length back in third.
Bought with Supreme Novices’ in Mind
The battling success left Elliott, who became part of the team who own the horse, shocked and emotional.
Speaking of the day he bought The Grand Visir, he said: “I thought he was the best horse in the sale and a half-a-million pound horse, but he failed the scope [veterinary inspection of the horse’s airways], despite having won a race the week before.
“We just had to ask ourselves how much the scope could stop him – we thought he was a Supreme Novices’ Hurdle or even Champion Hurdle horse. That didn’t quite go to plan and here we are now. Quite unbelievable.
“Ian is the master of this type of horse – the best in the country if not the world, which is why I and two friends, my best friends who have done a lot for me, chose Ian to do the training.”
Other partners in the syndicate include Sky Sport Racing television presenter Gina Bryce.
Hurdles Remain an Option
Winning handler Williams said: “The hurdling career is not finished, but it is open to interpretation. We ran him back on the Flat at Newbury last month and fortunately he dropped a pound in the handicap which enabled him to get in here, albeit carrying top weight.
“We weren’t sure he would stay the trip, but Richard gave him a lovely patient ride which enabled him to get into the race. Turning for home I thought there was only two who were travelling well, The Grand Visir and Time To Study. The winner stayed all the way to the line, but Time To Study probably didn’t quite get the trip.
!It’s great for Alex who bought him and also has a good share in him, and it’s wonderful to have a winner at Royal Ascot. For a son of Frankel to win a race over this distance is pretty unusual, but if anyone can make his progeny slow it’s me!”
Williams was then congratulated by his old boss Martin Pipe and during a selfie session with the former master of Jump racing, declared: “When I worked for him he always said I was deaf.”