It is difficult to win a big handicap chase here from the front at the best of times. It is harder still when there is a riderless horse in close attendance for much of the way, threatening to take you along a stride too fast.
Coole Cody and Tom O’Brien deserve plenty of credit for carving out a two-and-a-half-length win in the Paddy Power Gold Cup on Saturday, having been in the lead from soon after the first fence when Siruh Du Lac unseated his rider.
O’Brien admitted he felt Coole Cody had no more than an each-way chance going into the race, which was his fourth start over fences. But the rider also knew the 10-1 shot was getting plenty of weight from most of his rivals and, try as they might, they could never quite close the gap when O’Brien kicked ahead after jumping the third.
Coole Cody was still in front despite a serious slip on landing at the fourth, and at least eight lengths clear with four to jump. His dominance seemed threatened as Al Dancer, the 5-1 favourite, and Spiritofthegames started to eat into his lead going down the hill, but he kicked again turning in and found more after jumping the last to beat Spiritofthegames, with Al Dancer third.
“It looked very hot, but I knew I had the light weight on my side and that was a help when I got him into a rhythm,” O’Brien said. “He slipped [at the fourth] and I thought he was going down, but thank God, he didn’t.
“It’s come at the right time for him, he’s relatively unexposed over fences even though he had good form over hurdles around here. The light weight allowed him to do it, there were some very proven horses in behind him but with a lot more weight. He got into a rhythm, I managed to fill him up at the right times and he just kept going.
“It was a brilliant effort from the horse, I was hoping for the line to come but I had a very willing partner.”
The card’s two Grade Two events – a juvenile hurdle and a two-mile novice chase – had disappointing favourites in Hell Red and Fusil Raffles respectively and also had a Robbie Power-ridden winner, giving the jockey a 22-1 double.
First, Power showed a fine judgment of pace on Duffle Coat in the JCB Triumph Trial, while Eldorado Allen, perhaps fortunate to benefit from Gumball’s fall at the second-last, made short work of his remaining rivals.
The last race of the day, a mares’ bumper, caused some controversy among punters, after Elle Est Belle and Ishkara Lady crossed the line together, with the judge eventually calling a dead heat. A dark, grainy print which subsequently appeared on Twitter suggested to some users at least that Ishkara Lady could have been called a narrow winner.
However, Robin Mounsey, the British Horseracing Authority’s head of media, said: “In order to call a winner, a judge has to be certain that one horse has crossed the line first … In this instance in the dark conditions it was not possible to say with certainty that either horse finished in front, even despite the fact that the judge has access to a higher definition image than is posted online. Therefore a dead heat was called and this decision was verified by the stewards, as is standard procedure.”