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Derham eyeing Cheltenham with expensive new recruits

© Photo Healy Racing

Big-money buys Imagine and Mollys Mango could both head to the Cheltenham Festival having been picked up by Harry Derham at the Andy and Gemma Brown dispersal last week.

Over €5million was spent across 29 lots offered by Tattersalls Ireland, with Derham’s former boss Paul Nicholls set to train the top lot Caldwell Potter and Gordon Elliott pulling out all the stops to retain the next four highest-earning offerings at his Cullentra House base.

However, there was a statement of intent by Derham and owner Ian Barratt to bring the hammer down at lofty six-figure fees for Imagine and Mollys Mango, who have both impressed this term.

Imagine – who was sent off favourite for the Martin Pipe at last year’s Cheltenham Festival – created a taking impression in his first two chasing starts for Elliott, including winning the Grade Two Craddockstown Novice Chase in November, before a below-par effort back at Punchestown.

It took €320,000 to bring Imagine back to Berkshire, while Mollys Mango commanded €170,000 having won two of her three starts over hurdles, romping to a 17-length success at Fairyhouse on New Year’s Day.

“They are two very nice horses bought for Ian Barratt, who is a very nice man and also a relatively new owner to me,” said Derham.

“If they are both OK, they will both run at Cheltenham – Molly in the Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle and Imagine in the Golden Miller (Turners Novices’ Chase).

“They have to be OK and Ian and his family know it’s quite an interesting time to buy a horse and there isn’t that long to Cheltenham, so if they are OK, then they will run.

“But we know the more we get to know them, and my team get to know them and they get time in a new regime, then they will obviously be better.”

In just his second season with a trainer’s license, the acquisitions add a touch of quality to Derham’s ever-expanding string, with the young handler already closing in on a half-century of winners.

He added: “It’s obviously nice to get two very smart horses like that. It’s never nice in those circumstances, where you are taking them from another trainer, but they were there for sale and are two to look forward to.

“Monday’s sales results show how serious the owner is and they are two nice horses, but as I said to my team, it’s irrelevant and it doesn’t matter how much they cost, once they are in the yard, they will get the same care as everybody else.

“It’s lovely to get horses of that quality into the yard and hopefully we get some luck.”

If both Imagine and Mollys Mango make it to the Cheltenham Festival, they will take their place on a small but select Prestbury Park team Derham is assembling, as he tries to add success in the training ranks to the victory he enjoyed at the Festival aboard Salubrious during his time as a jockey.

The current ace in the trainer’s Cheltenham pack is unbeaten hurdler Queens Gamble, who Derham feels has more in her locker and is as short as 10-1 with Paddy Power for the Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle.

“Queens Gamble will run in the Mares’ Novices’ and that has been the plan all season,” said Derham.

“I’m very excited about her and it’s a really good race but I believe there is plenty more to come from her.

“If I think my horses have realistic prospects of running nice races, then I will get involved, but I’m not really into going for a day out.”