Burdened by top weight of 12st, Jodami made all the running for three miles to hold the tenacious challenge of Cab On Target, carrying 15lb less. A performance full of power, but what struck home hardest yesterday was news of the grim fate suffered by a novice chaser named Abnegation.
Rated by Co Durham trainer Howard Johnson as one of his most exciting prospects, Abnegation took a crashing fall in a race at Wetherby on Tuesday. The eight-year-old broke his neck in three places when coming down at the 11th fence.
Despite his crushing injuries, Abnegation rose to his feet and was led back to the racecourse stables. After signs of recovery, his condition deteriorated during the evening. On Tuesday night he was put down. The extent of his injuries was discovered only later. Johnson explained yesterday: 'The vet told me he has never known anything like it. Just how Abnegation managed to walk back with a broken neck is amazing.
'He was uneasy on his feet but we just thought he was punch-drunk because it was such a heavy fall. How he coped, I just don't know. He must have been very brave.
'The vet gave him a pain- killing injection and he seemed to be all right after that. But his condition deteriorated and by 7.30pm it was obvious he was struggling. There was nothing else we could do to save him.'
Johnson believed Abnegation was talented enough to eventually take on the best over fences. 'It's a terrible tragedy because he was a really good horse who could have gone all the way to the top. It's just a shame he won't be able to ,' he added.
Wetherby's fences also caught out Jodami last month, the eight-year-old emerging unscathed from a fall in the home straight. Yesterday, Jodami jumped superbly for Mark Dwyer to win by three- quarters of a length in Haydock's Edward Hanmer Memorial Chase.
The display saw him strengthen as favourite for the Gold Cup in March. He is now 5-2 with Ladbrokes and 3-1 with Corals to retain his title at Cheltenham.
Peter Beaumont's gelding, runner-up in the Edward Hanmer race 12 months ago before filling the same spot in the Hennessy Gold Cup, picked up a 4lb penalty for this year's Newbury prize a week on Saturday.
Most bookmakers deleted Jodami from their Hennessy betting after Beaumont said: 'I'd say he's very doubtful for the Hennessy now. With 12st 2lb on his back, it would pull the guts out of him. It has to be odds against him going to Newbury, especially as he has the option of running in the Rehearsal Chase at Chepstow the following weekend.'
Mary Reveley, trainer of the runner-up, said: 'I was delighted with the way Cab On Target matched strides with Jodami all the way round, but in the end we were beaten by a superior horse. It was a smashing contest but Jodami is a top- class performer, and I don't think Cab On Target would ever beat Peter's horse. Our fellow is nowhere near as good.'
The seven-year-old's principal target remains the King George VI Chase. 'I think we have every right to go to Kempton if he's on song,' she reasoned.
GOLD CUP ante-post odds: Ladbrokes: 5- 2 Jodami (from 4-1), 10-1 Barton Bank & Carvill's Hill, 12-1 Whispering Steel (from 14-1), 14-1 Cab On Target & Run For Free, 16- 1 bar.
HENNESSY GOLD CUP ante-post odds: Corals: 4-1 Whispering Steel (from 9-2), 5-1 Black Humour & Rolling Ball, 8-1 Royal Athlete & Zetas Lad, 10-1 others.
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