By rights, Rushing Wild should still be embroiled in an intensive learning course to help him make the usually grinding transition from point-to-pointer and hunter chaser to Gold Cup contender. Instead, he is 6-1 second favourite with Ladbrokes for chasing's foremost event, despite the fact that his win in the Anthony Mildmay-Peter Cazalet Chase at Sandown was only the second time he has competed outside the arm-flapping, Corinthian realms of amateur racing.
Pipe had told us that Rushing Wild is 'a real gent about the yard' but nothing prepared us for the smugly professional way he disposed of the Gold Cup winner, Cool Ground, as well as a British Legion coach-load of distinguished but ageing warriors. The mathematicians will point out - rightly - that Cool Ground's rucksack carried fully 27lb more than Rushing Wild's, but still this was a swaggering, territory-marking performance that will leave Peter Scudamore grateful that he has two months to decide between Chatam, Rushing Wild and Run For Free.
Sometimes it is easy to forget that neither Pipe nor Scudamore have won a Gold Cup or Grand National, and while Pipe, if he can control the discomfort in his injured leg, will have many opportunities to vault from numerical supremacy to success in jumping's greatest contests, time is running on the short side for Scudamore. Given the unsettling memory of Carvill's Hill and his apparently unstoppable march to an investiture this time last year, Scudamore is unlikely to be writing victory speeches yet, particularly as the Jockey Club prohibits jockeys from riding three or four horses, Ben Hur-like, in a single race.
William Hill and Coral were probably correct yesterday to talk about 'getting it in perspective' and thereby leaving Rushing Wild on the relatively unflattering 8-1 mark. Even so, it is hard to assemble many negative considerations when you recall what Rushing Wild did to that veterans' parade in a race that has an almost faultless record of accommodating top-class chasers. From the last five runnings of the Mildmay-Cazalet have come Grand National winners in Rhyme 'N' Reason and Mr Frisk and a Gold Cup winner in Cool Ground.
Thus it is not a race for duffers. Though Pipe was too far away (Tenerife) to supply paeans there were plenty of the horse's earlier connections on hand to stack the bonfire of hyperbole. Like Richard Barber, Rushing Wild's original trainer, who revealed that he had acquired this milk-monitor, this head boy of a horse after 'Tom Brake, a horseman from Somerset, spotted him in a field in Sussex', and recommended that Barber take a look. A cheque for pounds 5,000 was enough to remove Rushing Wild from this muddy environment.
The rescue operation worked. Rushing Wild won four of his six point-to-points and in his sophomore year won two more such competitions before being elevated to hunter chases, of which many racegoers take no more notice than they would a half-time display at a third division football ground. Less than a year on from his win in the cup final of that discipline - the Foxhunters at the Cheltenham Festival - Rushing Wild's value has risen from pounds 5,000 to pounds 150,000 and Pipe can expect a spirit of heightened anticipation at his stables when he returns this week.
Doubtless Barber has already earned himself 'a drink or two', to employ a familiar racecourse euphemism, for advising Rushing Wild's owner, John Keighley, that Pipe's yard was the perfect home for such a promising student.
'When people started phoning up making ridiculous offers for him last year, I took the view that this was a Gold Cup horse and recommended to the owner that he send him to a professional trainer,' Barber said yesterday.
However far Rushing Wild's ascent takes him towards the supposed citadel of The Fellow's form, the Gold Cup is assuming a bright complexion with Run For Free, Jodami and now Rushing Wild emerging as potential champions. Barber believes that the newest member of this pack will require at least one, but preferably two more runs before Cheltenham, though given his saintly demeanour he is hardly likely to be intimidated by the experience of competing on the big Thursday in March.
'This horse improved enormously from six to seven and if he improves as much from seven to eight, as I believe he will, then anything is possible,' Barber says, safe in the knowledge that he will be lauded as highly as anyone if Rushing Wild's graduation is successfully pushed through. Swots everywhere will hope to see it happen.Reuse content