You need talent and good luck to win a Cheltenham Gold Cup, and on the evidence of the Hot Power Chase at Fairyhouse yesterday afternoon, Dorans Pride has an abundance of both.
Yesterday morning, he was the 5-1 favourite to win the centrepiece of the Festival next March, and in the afternoon he started at 2-5 for his latest assignment, but with four fences left to jump, it seemed that Merry Gale at least might make a race of it. A second later, though, Merry Gale was down and out after slipping on the turn to the fourth-last. Then Corket fell at the next and brought down Opera Hat, leaving Dorans Pride with just Jeffell to beat, a task he accomplished with ease.
For Tom Doran, his owner, it was a stress-free pounds 22,750 in the bank, but punters hoping for a rigorous test of Dorans Pride's claim to be the best chaser in training must now wait until just after Christmas at least. "It's the Ericsson Chase at Leopardstown now at the end of the month," Michael Hourigan, his trainer , said. "That's the third win this season without getting a hard race. He has come back stronger than ever and is definitely getting better, but the way things have gone in his last two races we are getting away with murder as he hasn't really been asked a serious question."
Richard Dunwoody, Dorans Pride's jockey, reported that "he got in close to a couple but did what he had to do in a race that told us little new," and Ladbrokes saw no reason to adjust their 5-1 quote for the Gold Cup. Merry Gale, meanwhile, emerged unscathed from his mishap, and completed the course to pick up the pounds 3,000 third prize once Norman Williamson had satisfied himself that nothing was amiss.
The knives were out on the ante-post lists a little earlier, though, following the racecourse debut of Khairabar in the Power's Whisky Hurdle. Not only did he canter home as the well-backed favourite, he did so in the green and yellow silks of JP McManus, a combination of factors which was enough to see him introduced to the Triumph Hurdle market at 14-1 by Ladbrokes, who report, unusually, that there had been no inquiries for Khairabar before yesterday's debut. Like Dorans Pride, he now heads to Leopardstown's Christmas fixture, where he will contest the Denny Juvenile Hurdle.
A slightly longer rest will probably be the reward for See More Business, winner of the Rehearsal Limited handicap Chase on Saturday. "He's entered for the King George on Boxing Day but would only run if the ground was really soft and truthfully, I don't think there's much chance of that," Paul Nicholls, his trainer, said yesterday.
Nicholls is also reluctant to run See More Business until Timmy Murphy, who starts a 30-day suspension for whip offences today, is again free to take the ride. "It seems very unlikely that See More Business will run until Timmy, who rode such a brilliant race on him at Chepstow, is back," the trainer said. "I will be looking at races like the Peter Marsh Chase at Haydock in the middle of January or the Pillar Chase at Cheltenham for him but where he runs will depend on the ground being soft."
See More Business is now a 20-1 chance with Coral for the Gold Cup, but his trainer is reluctant even to declare him a runner at this stage. "People keep asking me about the Gold Cup and I keep telling them I hope he's good enough to win the race but in which year I don't know. We've got a bit of time with the horse as he's only just getting his act together. The only two horses to have beaten See More Business when he's got round are Dorans Pride and Suny Bay and he could go to Cheltenham if it were soft. He still hasn't run on soft ground and when he does he will be even better."
Adrian Maguire too will be out of action for the immediate future, after fracturing his right arm in a fall from Mulligan at the second-last in Saturday's Tingle Creek Chase. "Adrian is feeling a lot better considering he has fractured the radius in his right arm," the jockey's wife, Sabrina, said yesterday. "It isn't as bad as he first thought and his chances are about 50-50 of being fit to ride on Boxing Day. I suppose he has missed the last two Cheltenham Festivals so to miss a couple of weeks in December isn't too bad."
NAP: Leap In The Dark
NB: Mister Gebo
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