Festival success for Gloucestershire trainers has been hard to find in recent years, but the British comeback after the greenwash by Ireland last year gathered pace yesterday, and Ben Pauling was the first of our county's trainers to reach the scoresheet when Global Citizen won the Grand Annual Chase.
The Pauling stable has had a poor couple of seasons by Ben's own admission. Although 30+ winners have reached the tallyboard, no big scalps have been taken. The yard has now moved to Naunton Downs, by the golf club, and within hailing distance the other side of the valley of Nigel Twiston-Davies' horses as they start their canter on the All-Weather.
Pauling is no stranger to Festival success. Whilst for some, like one time champion trainer David Nicholson, success took a long time in coming, Pauling's first Festival winner came relatively early, with Willoughby Court in the now Ballymore Novices Hurdle back in 2017. Le Breuil kept the bandwaggon moving in the National Hunt Chase of 2019 before yesterday's handicap triumph.
Global Citizen's previous attempts at chasing have been less than remarkable, pulled up in the Haldon Gold Cup and Desert Orchid Chase at Kempton a season ago. His reversion to the smaller obstacles has pitched him against leading hurdlers like Tommy's Oscar and Goshen, so this was a canny piece of training to put him back over the bigger fences to win at a loing price.
It looked as if the only people cheering on the 28/1 shot were standing on the bookies stools in the betting ring, looking for some light relief after a series of short-priced favourites have obliged, even despite the ground, which normally throws up an upset or two.
It's a highly competitive market at the Festival and the concentration of the best bloodstock in the hands of little more than 6 Irish and British handlers makes it very hard for any trainer to acquire a horse good enough to win a graded race at Cheltenham. Even our own champion trainer Paul Nicholls has a small team of entries compared to the massed ranks of Elliott and Mullins. It's in the handicaps that fairy tales can still be enjoyed.