Arkle showdown has O'Sullevan purring

Peter O’Sullevan will at least have two good reasons to celebrate should the aptly-named Overturn turn over first-day Cheltenham banker Simonsig in the Racing Post Arkle Trophy.

If Donald McCain’s Overturn – who carries maximum stable confidence – upset the odds in the two-mile novice championship, it will evoke special memories for the legendary ’voice of racing’ – as well as landing him a decent ante-post bet.

Overturn is in good company thanks to winning two top staying handicaps on the Flat, the Chester Cup and Northumberland Plate.

Those two prestigious Flat handicaps were won by O’Sullevan’s pride and joy, another front-runner Attivo in 1974, later on that same year in his black and yellow colours.

In those days the race was sponsored by the Daily Express, the newspaper O’Sullevan worked for, and he also had the added pressure of commentating on it for the BBC.

O’Sullevan is convinced Attivo would never have won those races had he not gone hurdling.

“As far as my little horse was concerned it was jumping that fired his imagination,” he said.

“He hadn’t been a brilliant horse at all on the Flat but once he jumped a hurdle it totally transformed his life. He thought it was the greatest fun. For a change it wasn’t that boring thing of just running about, there were things to jump. He thought it was wonderful. It just changed his attitude altogether.

“That year in 1974 he started on New Year’s Day with his first ever run over jumps in the Evesham Hurdle at Cheltenham which he won by a distance. He beat Fighting Kate. trained by my great friend Frenchie Nicholson, who had said my little horse had no chance.

“He then went on to win the Stroud Green Hurdle at Newbury, where one of his opponents included Birds Nest, by 20 lengths.

“He actually started odds-on when he won the Triumph. I called the race and at the end of the day I couldn’t speak.

“I tried to phone the office, but couldn’t get any words out.

“His next two races after that were the Chester Cup and the Northumberland Plate and he won those.”

As well being a great race-caller and racing journalist, O’Sullevan has always enjoyed a tilt at the ring and is a renowned shrewd punter.

He holds a tasty ante-post voucher at odds of 8-1 for Overturn, although he does expect Simonsig to justify his short price for the Nicky Henderson team.

“I’ve had a good bet each-way Overturn. I got 8s so it’s not too bad. I’d like to see him win, but I think Simonsig nearly unbeatable. If anything can beat him, Overturn has a good chance.

“He just goes out and does it his way and runs his heart out. It will be an absolutely brilliant race.”

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