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banner Thursday, 7 March, 2002, 17:05 GMT
Noel's treble chance
Jumps trainer Noel Chance
Chance landed wins in 1997 and 2000
Paul Castles reports on the trainer looking to clock up an enviable hat-trick at the Cheltenham Festival.

Playing the Chance card has proved a winning hand with punters trying to solve the annual brain-teaser of the Cheltenham Gold Cup.

Popular jumps trainer Noel Chance has sent out two Gold Cup winners in the past six years and is hopeful of landing a remarkable treble in the Blue Riband this month.

Mr Mulligan, with a distinctive white blaze down his nose, triumphed in 1997, and at the last Festival two years ago, Looks Like Trouble ran out an impressive winner of the great race.

Looks Like Trouble sat out most of last season with tendon trouble.

But with the foot-and-mouth epidemic forcing the cancellation of the Festival in 2001, steeplechasing's crown still sits proudly on his head.

Tony McCoy steers Mr Mulligan to victory at the 1997 Cheltenham Gold Cup
First strike: McCoy on Mr Mulligan in 1997

Chance, a lively 50-year-old, has certainly come a long way since embarking on a career in jump racing.

He left his native Dublin at the age of 25 and pointed his boat in the direction of Australia where he spent five years working alongside a succession of leading trainers.

He returned to Ireland to train just three horses on the famous Curragh but went largely unnoticed amongst the established top rank of Irish handlers.

In May 1995, Chance made the move to England setting up base at Folly House Stables in the Lambourn valley dominated by the sport of National Hunt racing.

In charge of a small string of horses compared to the full infantry of neighbours such as Jenny Pitman and Nicky Henderson, Chance barely caused a ripple in the early days.

One man who did have faith was entrepreneur Michael Worcester who made his fortune through his ice-cream cone business.

Richard Johnson saluted the crowd after Looks Like Trouble wins the Gold Cup in 2000
Second success: Looks Like Trouble in 2000

He wanted Chance to train his horses and was rewarded when his colours were carried to victory in the 1997 Gold Cup by the charismatic chestnut Mr Mulligan.

Surprisingly, his triumph failed to attract any new horses to the yard.

But when Looks Like Trouble landed the Gold Cup, the doubters had to sit up and take notice.

Chance had bought the horse after seeing it run an encouraging second in an Irish point-to-point.

He knew then this was the real thing and his substantial wager at 50/1 on Trouble for the 2000 Gold Cup confirmed he was willing to back his judgment with the folding stuff.

The non-believers have long-since vanished.

And Saxon House Stables in secluded Upper Lambourn now flourishes with 50 horses in Chance's care at the yard made famous by legendary jumps trainer Fulke Walwyn.

Win or lose this month, the once overlooked Chance will not go unrecognised as he goes about his business with steely determination and a cheery grin at Cheltenham.

See also:

19 Jan 02 |  Horse Racing
Looks Like Trouble wins on return
Links to more Cheltenham Festival stories are at the foot of the page.

 

Links to more Cheltenham Festival stories

 
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