Racing: Scintillating win puts Fundamentalist into Gold Cup contention

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The Independent Online

It was the same race but a different heroic deed in the Cotswolds yesterday. Fundamentalist won the Independent Newspaper Novices' Chase, just as Britain's best chasers Best Mate and Azertyuiop had done before him, and his greatest accomplishment was that his awesome effort did not pale in the comparison. He looks like the next coming.

It was the same race but a different heroic deed in the Cotswolds yesterday. Fundamentalist won the Independent Newspaper Novices' Chase, just as Britain's best chasers Best Mate and Azertyuiop had done before him, and his greatest accomplishment was that his awesome effort did not pale in the comparison. He looks like the next coming.

The winning distance was eight lengths, but the impression created by the horse having only the fifth race under rules of his life was immeasurable. Even those associated with Fundamentalist appeared numbed, albeit pleasantly anaesthetised, by the experience. They could not identify where the gelding could go next, either short-term or in the distant future, past his own box at Nigel Twiston-Davies's local stables at Naunton. "It's the Arkle, Champion Chase, Gold Cup or SunAlliance isn't it?" Carl Llewellyn, the winning jockey, said.

It was, as usual, a small field for the Independent. There are never puddings in this early season delight, just icing. Martin Pipe's Contraband cut out the early running, until the field poked out on to the far side. At that juncture, Fundamentalist bobbed through on the inside and eased into a destructive rhythm.

"Down the back he was so relaxed and wasn't doing a tap," Llewellyn reported. "I felt like we were hacking but they were pushing in behind. I thought we were going too slow, but they weren't getting to me. That's always the sign of a good horse."

My Will, the favourite, provided a brief flourish coming down the hill, but nothing disturbed the clean vaulting of Fundamentalist at the head of the field. When Llewellyn fully opened the taps the rest gurgled away. His mount scampered clear, at the same time blasting a huge hole in the theory that he did not possess the speed for this two-mile mission.

Twiston-Davies's rubicund complexion suggested embarrassment at the size of his success, but the only confusion now is over which golden path to chart. Fundamentalist proved in victory over hurdles at the Festival in March that he has staying ability. Now we know fleetness is there as well. It is a problem for the trainer, one which all his brethren wished they had to confront.

"Perhaps I shouldn't mention him in the same breath as Desert Orchid, but he had the class and ability to win at the top level over two miles and three, and I'd like to think Fundamentalist might prove half as good as him," Twiston-Davies said.

Connections can now afford to be greedy. The smell of currency is likely to dominate their route. "Now he's won over that trip it opens up everything," Llewellyn said. "We'll look at the best prizes now and see where the best money is."

Twiston-Davies himself will rub his hands and then make a decision. "I have no idea where we will end up. Everything is possible and I don't know what the hell to do," he said. "It could be the SunAlliance, but there are plenty of alternatives to consider, like the the [Irish Independent] Arkle and even the Gold Cup. We could go the Gold Cup route this year.

"This is a very big, scopey individual and clever with it, in that if he gets a fence wrong he will put himself right. He has such a high cruising speed that I never felt coming back in trip would be a problem and he has not yet been off the bridle until the business end.

"They tell me only good horses win this race and that Best Mate is on the roll of honour. I'd love to think we we might have the next Best Mate."

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