Racing: A bitter Business for poor Nicholls

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The Independent Online
BEFORE the Gold Cup, Paul Nicholls told an interviewer that in his dreams he had imagined every possible way that the race might unfold for his runner, See More Business, from an easy victory to a fall at the first. It seems unlikely, however, that the list included the chaser's eventual fate - carried out at the 12th, when Cyborgo broke down and dragged both See More Business and Indian Tracker past the wrong side of the fence.

Indian Tracker, a stablemate of Cyborgo at Martin Pipe's Wellington yard, was among the outsiders, but See More Business set off as the second favourite, and the most obvious standard bearer of the British challenge to Dorans Pride.

The stewards inquired into the incident, and decided that Cyborgo lost his action as the result of a pelvic injury, giving Tony McCoy, his jockey, no option but to pull out of the race. The officials took no further action, while Cyborgo was taken to the racecourse hospital for examination. It was unclear last night whether he was fit enough to travel back to Pipe's yard.

The injury to Cyborgo was a bitter blow for all concerned, but McCoy more than made it up to the punters later in the afternoon. A treble in the last three races of the meeting was completed by victory for Blowing Wind, the hot favourite, in the County Hurdle.

The success earned his connections a pounds 50,000 bonus offered by the sponsors of last Saturday's Imperial Cup to any horse which could win their race and an event at the Festival. Out in the ring, however, the cost was much greater. After a series of bad results for the bookmakers, they had laid Blowing Wind at all rates down to 15-8, knowing that the other 27 entries were running for them. Salvation appeared to be at hand when Bless Me Sister strode to the front on the turn for home, but Blowing Wind came late to snatch victory and as dusk fell over Cheltenham, long lines of backers were still queueing to be paid.

Another successful punter was Matt Archer, the joint-owner of Upgrade, who started backing his runner for the Triumph Hurdle several weeks ago with a pounds 500 each-way bet at 33-1, added to his stake as the race approached. When Upgrade charged up the hill to repel the persistent challenge of City Hall in yesterday's opening race, Archer collected an estimated pounds 150,000 from his betting alone.

This was a brave performance by Upgrade, who was at the head of affairs throughout but still had enough in reserve to stay on dourly in the closing stages. If his effort has not drained him too severely, he will run in the Glenlivet Hurdle at Aintree next month, with the 1999 Champion Hurdle the long-term target. If Archer wants to play up his winnings, Ladbrokes offer 25-1 for next year's championship.

There were visions of future Festivals too after the Stayers' Hurdle, won by Jenny Pitman's Princeful. "He will be chasing next season," the trainer said, "and we may take in the Royal & SunAlliance Chase before winning the Millennium Gold Cup."

McCoy's treble in the final three races - the first two legs were Edredon Bleu in the Grand Annual Chase and Cyfor Malta in the Cathcart - ensured that he finished the meeting as the leading rider, with five winners, three more than any of his rivals could manage. For Adrian Maguire, however, the week finished in the worst possible way. Riding at the Festival for the first time in four years, he had drawn a blank before the Grand Annual, in which he took a heavy fall from Zabadi.

Maguire sustained a broken collarbone as well as knee and head injuries, and was taken to Cheltenham General Hospital. A spokeswoman said that Maguire was conscious and stable, but would be detained overnight, and possibly longer. It was a bad day for Maguire all round as his old friend Barton Bank was retired after finishing eighth in the Gold Cup.

The Tote recorded a new record turnover of pounds 7,296,310 for the three days of the Cheltenham Festival, an increase of pounds 445,195 on last year's total.