Racing Commentary: Jodami closes on rich harvest

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The Independent Online
THE GOLD CUP is unusual in that the absurdly romantic can happen. In this age, thoroughbreds from small Flat stables do not win the Derby, non-League football teams do not win the FA Cup, but a horse from the lowliest background can win chasing's blue riband.

Sirrell Griffiths, the two-horse farmer from Nantgaredig in Carmarthen, proved that with Norton's Coin three years ago, and another farmer, Peter Beaumont, may be about to match him with Jodami.

It was perhaps appropriate that as Norton's Coin was retired at the weekend, following yet another dismal run, at Newbury, Jodami should again advertise his cause by winning the Hennessy Gold Cup at Leopardstown yesterday.

Beaumont is no mirror image of Griffiths: he has 20 inmates at his Brandsby yard at the foot of Yorkshire's Howardian Hills. But he is closer to the Welshman than most of today's leading trainers, those who train by numbers.

Jodami has won three consecutive races now, though he had only a head to spare over the other British challenger, Chatam, yesterday. This was in keeping with the race's tradition, as the home team has won it just once in six runnings. Beaumont will be hoping another statistical pattern is not repeated, the one that shows the winner has never been placed at Cheltenham.

While Chatam was cut to as low as 7-1 with Coral for 18 March, Jodami was as static in the market as Mark Dwyer had been on his back for much of yesterday's race.

'Once you get him running it's important to keep him balanced rather than use the whip,' the jockey said. 'There was no gallop and I was always conscious of keeping a good position but, in a truer run race at Cheltenham, hopefully I can ride a more confident race.'

Beaumont believes his eight- year-old has progressed to the point where there is just one to beat at Prestbury Park. 'He went very well on perfect jumping ground, but it would help if it's a bit softer at Cheltenham, which may also hinder The Fellow,' he said. 'On form we can't beat The Fellow, but Jodami can improve on that and there's a little more to work on.'

Chatam's performance means Martin Pipe holds the strongest numerical hand for Cheltenham, as he already has Run For Free and Rushing Wild in the race.

'That's the best Chatam's jumped and he hasn't had much experience so he's entitled to improve,' Peter Scudamore, his rider yesterday, who has not won a Gold Cup, said. 'The race can sharpen him up. Martin has three horses with an excellent chance, but it's up to him to tell me what to ride.'

Pipe was not in attendance and has not raced in Ireland since his Milford Quay was the victim of an administrative error at Punchestown last year.

Sirrell Griffiths, however, is a regular visitor to Ireland, where he ran Norton's Coin in the Hennessy two years ago. The old horse will not be running anywhere again, though, after pulling himself up at Newbury on Saturday, suffering from an ailment which has afflicted him since he won the Gold Cup.

'I just wish you could find someone out there in the world who could come along and pinpoint what is wrong with the horse,' Griffiths said. 'I've had the best vets in the country to look at him for the last 2 1/2 years, but I'm no wiser.

'My opinion is that he carries some sort of infection on his lungs and he's carried it all his life. Like someone with bad bronchitis.'

What Griffiths will always carry is the memory of the day his horse caused a 100-1 shock and stamped his face in many minds. 'I don't remember much about that day, but tremendous days have come out of it, and I've been to a lot of new places and made a lot of new friends, things I wouldn't have done if I hadn't won a Gold Cup.'

Beaumont will have added to his social circle after yesterday's victory, but this will be as nothing if Jodami goes on to win the Gold Cup. 'I can go down the street in our local town and not many people know me,' Griffiths said. 'But if I go to Ireland every other fellow seems to recognise me.'

Griffiths knows he has achieved the absurdly romantic, and will now settle for standard good fortune. 'You've got to keep your hopes up, but it's hard to believe we'll have another Norton's Coin. Deep down I know there's no way that will happen to me again,' he said. 'All I want is to carry on having a couple of horses and having a bit of luck.'

LEOPARDSTOWN 3.50 (3m Hennessy Cognac Gold Cup): 1. JODAMI (M Dwyer) 11-8 fav; 2. Chatam 5-2; 3. General Idea 3-1. 7 ran. hd, dist. (P Beaumont, Brandsby) Tote: pounds 2.50; pounds 2.20, pounds 2.80. DF: pounds 3.30. CSF: pounds 5.25.

THE GOLD CUP (Cheltenham, 18 March): Coral: 11-8 The Fellow, 7-2 Jodami, 7-1 Chatam, 8-1 Run For Free, 10-1 others; Ladbrokes: 6-4 The Fellow, 4-1 Jodami, 5-1 Run For Free, 10-1 Chatam & Rushing Wild, 12-1 Blazing Walker, 20-1 Cherrykino, 25-1 others; William Hill: 6-4 The Fellow, 4-1 Jodami, 8-1 Chatam & Run For Free, 10-1 Blazing Walker & Rushing Wild, 20-1 Cherrykino & Cool Ground, 25-1 others.

(Photograph omitted)

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