Racing: Cheltenham awakes to a Dawn raid - Sport - The Independent

Racing: Cheltenham awakes to a Dawn raid

A HORSE bought to be a nice ladies' runaround won the Cheltenham Gold Cup yesterday. Cool Dawn, who was purchased as little more than an equine sofa for his owner, Dido Harding, proved himself in the fiercest crucible of National Hunt's blue riband.

As a rider of Cool Dawn, Dido is now an extinct species. The 10-year- old's new partner is Andrew Thornton, though his owner has not yet extinguished the thought of reclaiming the mount. "I live in hope that one day I will get to ride a Gold Cup winner in a race," she said yesterday.

"I got him about five years ago when I asked Robert [Alner, yesterday's winning trainer] to find me a nice, safe ladies' point-to-pointer that might one day win a hunter-chase. He's a bit off-brief I suppose but I'm not complaining.

"We never expected him to be this good and even this morning we were saying that if he does his best and gets round we would really be delighted." Others had similar assessments of Cool Dawn's ability. He was allowed to go off at 25-1.

The gelding had not been the most prepossessing figure in a Cheltenham parade ring bathed in unusual Festival warmth. That honour belonged to the huge and intimidating horse that was to cause him the most discomfort, Strong Promise.

Alner had decided not to cloud Thornton's mind with any complex riding instructions. He didn't give him any at all. The jockey himself developed just a single strategy. He was to lead from start to finish. Thus, Cool Dawn towed the field along until the definitive moment of the race on the approach to the 12th fence.

It was here that the injured Cyborgo swerved off the course, taking out of the race both stablemate Indian Tracker and the greatest hope of Britain, See More Business. It took plenty of meaning away from the contest.

The melee went unseen, however, by Thornton. At the top of the hill his mind wandered momentarily to think about his beloved grandmother who died last year. Then he just put his head down and rode like stink.

It seemed this would not be enough, however, when the massive spectre of Strong Promise joined the leader on the turn into the straight. Dorans Pride, the favourite from Ireland, had been creeping closer too, but he was never to get out of creeping gear.

Cool Dawn was to be no ice sculpture in the Cheltenham heat, though. He kept boxing to the line, and by the time he reached it he was a length and three-quarters ahead of Strong Promise. Dorans Pride finished well to be a further head behind.

For anyone who had seen Cool Dawn at Wincanton in November this would have been an eye-rubbing moment. That day, in the hands of Dido, he, in her words, "ran like a drain". Robert Alner steeled himself to tell the owner she should not ride the horse again. "It was the hardest thing I had to do," he said. "I knew the horse was pretty good, and Dido's good in her own right, but not at this level.''

That was Thornton's cue. It seemed most apt that a rider who had been once relegated himself should take the posting.

Andrew Thornton was a promising, if unglamorous, young rider in his native North-east. He is a tall man and rides with his stirrups so long that he could probably kick rabbits from horseback. This technique, he found, was not de rigueur when he moved to Upper Lambourn and Kim Bailey. He pulled "the pedals" up and his fortunes started going the other way.

"Riding too short just didn't work for me," he said. "I was just trying to fit in with the stylish way they did it down south. Basically I just wasn't being myself. I was just being stupid and I needed my head looking at.

One day, in November 1994, he knew the game was up. "I dropped off this horse," he said. "He was in front but I just fell off him.'' By then the alliance with Bailey had ended, but at least Thornton decided to return to his natural style.

The simple approach has yielded great results this year. Thornton, at 25, won a King George VI Chase on Boxing Day (ironically on See More Business) and ignited his Festival on Wednesday with French Holly's victory.

Success will not go to Andrew Thornton's head though. Like Cool Dawn himself, there is no ostentation about this athlete and he will continue to tread the path that has resurrected his career. "I'll be still going to the Hexhams and Perths and Sedgefields," he said.

There is little pomp either about Alner. He will again be at the horsebox wheel this morning as he drives to the rather more prosaic Folkestone. He'll see Thornton there. It was all a rather appropriate, if unexpected, result in the end. The field had paraded before the race to the melody of "Fanfare For The Common Man".

tote gold cup

1. COOL DAWN (trained by R Alner) A Thornton 25-1

2. Strong Promise (G Hubbard) N Williamson 14-1

3. Dorans Pride (M Hourigan) R Dunwoody 9-4 fav

Also ran: 4th Senor El Betrutti (33-1), 5th Suny Bay (9-1), 6th Simply Dashing (33-1), 7th Challenger du Luc (20-1), 8th Barton Bank (33-1), 9th Strath Royal (100-1), 10th Yorkshire Gale (100-1), 11th Go Ballistic (12-1).

Casualties - Pulled Up: Addington Boy (before 4 fences out) (12-1), Couldnt Be Better (before last fence) (33-1), Cyborgo (before 7th, lame) (10-1); Carried Out: Indian Tracker (before 7th) (150-1), See More Business (before 7th) (11-2). Fell: Rough Quest (17th) (14-1).

17 ran. won by 13/4 lengths, head, 14, 3, 4.

News
Paper trail: the wedding photograph found in the rubble after 9/11 – it took Elizabeth Keefe 13 years to find the people in it
newsWho are the people in this photo? It took Elizabeth Stringer Keefe 13 years to find out
Arts and Entertainment
Evil eye: Douglas Adams in 'mad genius' pose
booksNew biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Sport
FootballFull debuts don't come much more stylish than those on show here
News
i100
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Kim Kardashian drawn backlash over her sexy swimsuit selfie, called 'disgusting' and 'nasty'
fashionCritics say magazine only pays attention to fashion trends among rich, white women
Arts and Entertainment
TVShows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Arts and Entertainment
Hit the roof: hot-tub cinema east London
architectureFrom pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
Travel
travel
News
The ecological reconstruction of Ikrandraco avatar is shown in this illustration courtesy of Chuang Zhao. Scientists on September 11, 2014 announced the discovery of fossils in China of a type of flying reptile called a pterosaur that lived 120 millions years ago and so closely resembled those creatures from the 2009 film, Avatar that they named it after them.
SCIENCE
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Matisse: The Cut-Outs exhibition attracted 562,000 visitors to the Tate Modern from April to September
art
Life and Style
Models walk the runway at the Tom Ford show during London Fashion Week Spring Summer 2015
fashionLondon Fashion Week 2014
News
Kenny G
news
News
peopleThe black actress has claimed police mistook her for a prostitute when she kissed her white husband
Life and Style
techIndian model comes with cricket scores baked in
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Primary Teacher

£110 - £150 per day: Randstad Education Newcastle: Our clients are looking for...

KS1 and KS2 Primary NQT Job in Lancaster Area

£85 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Preston: Randstad Education is urgently...

Supply teachers needed- Worthing!

£100 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Crawley: Supply teachers needed for va...

KS1 and KS2 Primary NQT Job in Lancaster Area

£85 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Preston: Randstad Education is urgently...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week