Racing: War of Attrition triumphs for Ireland in thrilling Cheltenham Gold Cup
'He ran a blinder, landed running and stayed on'
Saturday 18 March 2006
The quality of the Gold Cup had been called into question beforehand, but not in the aftermath, by those who rode in it at least. "If that was a bad Gold Cup I'd be amazed," said Richard Johnson, on sixth-placed Monkerhostin. "We went some gallop the whole way. I was travelling, but I couldn't have gone a stride faster. And if anything faltered there was something there to jump in and take over the pace."
Johnson's judgement of speed was spot on. War Of Attrition stopped the clock at 6min 31.7sec. In the past 50 years only two Gold Cup winners have gone faster, Looks Like Trouble (6:30.3) six years ago and Norton's Coin (6:30.9) in 1990.
"I was tapped for toe the whole way," confirmed Andy Thornton, seventh on Sir Rembrandt. "I thought I was half getting back into it at the top of the hill and then they just kicked away again. In last year's ground he would have got into the money again. But bring on the Grand National."
After last year's Aintree hero Hedgehunter's valiant effort in second place, Golden Miller remains the only horse to win a Gold Cup after a National. "He ran a blinder," said rider Ruby Walsh, "and I thought I might get there going to the last, but the winner landed running and stayed on."
Forget The Past, third, will also be jumping spruce in due course. "He wants further," said trainer Michael O'Brien's daughter, Anne-Marie Cullen, "and he'll be entered in the Irish National this time. But he could be an ideal one for Aintree next year."
Fourth-placed L'Ami will be back at Cheltenham 12 months hence. "He had a hard time laying up with the gallop early," said trainer François Doumen. "He was having to put in long ones and was never really comfortable. But he was flying at the end. He's only seven, and perhaps a little tender, but he should be an ideal Gold Cup horse next year."
The 4-1 favourite Beef Or Salmon, though, is unlikely to return. His 11th place was his fourth successive defeat in the race and his trainer, Michael Hourigan, has finally hoisted the white flag. "I'll have to try to get him to run the Gold Cup at Leopardstown," he said. "I probably have to believe what people say about the horse and Cheltenham now. He was never travelling, Paul [Carberry] was slapping him down the shoulder after a circuit. But he's safe and sound and there are plenty of good races for him in Ireland. He'll probably run in the Heineken Gold Cup at Punchestown and then have his holiday."
Monkerhostin may go chasing yen. "I can't see him running in the National off top weight," said Trainer Philip Hobbs, "but he is in the three-mile conditions race [the Betfair Bowl] and the Nakayama Grand Jump, which has £500,000 to the winner."
On the pulled-up Iris's Gift, discretion was the better part of valour for Tony McCoy. "We were in a good position for a circuit, but once he was off the bridle he was struggling, and the way he jumped the last ditch he'd have fallen if we'd carried on."
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