Racing / The Cheltenham Festival: Jodami power fuels northern Gold rush

AN old-fashioned victory for an old-fashioned Cheltenham yesterday as Jodami won the Gold Cup for the small Yorkshire yard of Peter Beaumont.

On an afternoon when Ireland took its Festival total to six wins to conjure memories of the fruitful years of the early 1980s, Jodami decorated the meeting with a performance of awesome power. In these days when sleek horses bred primarily for the Flat take a growing hold on winter racing, Jodami's win was also a success for the National Hunt traditionalists' idea of what a steeplechaser should be.

Jodami is a brute of a horse, a huge and stocky animal, and there was no more possessing a runner as the field tracked to post. Beaumont later revealed that all had been unusually fluent in his horse's preparation throughout this season, and the race itself proved a microcosm of this winter conditioning.

As Rushing Wild pulled the rest round Prestbury Park's demanding contours there was no one travelling as smoothly as Jodami. At the back of the field, Chatam's crude fencing made a nonsense of Peter Scudamore's decision to pick him in preference to Rushing Wild. The most damaging error, however, came from Cherrykino, who fractured an elbow at the seventh and had to be destroyed.

Other elbows were flying, as many of the jockeys tried to pump their way back into contention, but Mark Dwyer, Jodami's rider, was perched with the stillness of a winner.

Then the swing into the straight, and the eight-year-old's only dubious moment as he slipped slightly on the bend. This was swiftly overcome and, on the run to the last, Dwyer, who had been a loser in the Festival's roulette until yesterday with defeats on well-fancied horses to go with a fall, knew his time had come.

Behind there was nothing but toilers, including the short- priced favourite The Fellow, who had been caught out by the late change in tempo. 'When the race quickened my horse was a bit surprised,' Francois Doumen, the trainer of the French contender, said. 'After that he could not get back.' On the run- in, Rushing Wild was brushed away like a speck as Jodami swept to a two-length win, the north's first in the race since The Thinker in 1987.

Dwyer's race report suggested that this had not been the most demanding of assignments. 'I was always travelling well, and was just where I wanted to be throughout the race,' he said. 'Everything was covered as we came into the straight and my only worry was that something might come from behind. I didn't intend to be in front so soon, but when I got there I kicked on because I didn't want to disappoint the horse.'

This striking horse was an incongruous partner in the winners' enclosure for trainer Beaumont, a quiet figure without a trace of a ostentation. A farmer with a countenance to match his trade, Beaumont has eyes partially hidden behind unmanicured brows.

This is no arriviste in National Hunt training. Beaumont was a major force in the lesser realm of point-to-pointing before being persuaded by his owners to take out a full licence seven years ago at the age of 51. He is not a minnow, in the sense of the Welsh farmer Sirrell Griffiths, who won this race three years ago with Norton's Coin, yet when Beaumont returned to his stable at Brandsby last night there were just 15 mouths to feed.

Jodami's potential first manifested itself three years ago when he won a bumper race at Kelso at 33-1. He will never be those odds again. 'This is what we have aimed him at all season. We have brought him gently through,' Beaumont said. 'This time the plan worked out but they rarely do. Jodami is by far and away the best I have ever trained and he will develop a bit more next year.'

By that time, Jodami may well be an even more fearsome opponent as Dwyer believes the zenith has not been reached. The eight-year-old is not yet in the league of Forgive N' Forget, who delivered Dwyer's previous Gold Cup in 1985, but appears to have the aptitude to reach fresh heights.

'I had a great opinion of Forgive N' Forget because on his day he was very good,' Dwyer said. 'Jodami is progressing very much along the same lines. The horse hasn't been abused and you have to think there is a bit more left in there. He will be back next year boys. And he'll win it again.'

CHELTENHAM GOLD CUP

1. JODAMI M Dwyer 8-1

2. Rushing Wild R Dunwoody 11-1

3. Royal Athlete B de Haan 66-1

16 ran. Won by 2 lengths and 7. 5-4 fav The Fellow (4th). Winner trained by Peter Beaumont.

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