Fortress Cheltenham may, however, get its ultimate test today. If Danoli wins the Gold Cup, there will be armies of Irishmen attempting to storm the gates with ladders. Mr Gillespie may be going home with footprints on the back of his tweed jacket this evening.
Danoli is a nation's darling. His keeper, Tom Foley, is an unassuming, delightful figure and the horse has fought back from the near-death experience of a broken leg. The travelling romantics are with him to a man.
Danoli is a mercurial figure, who either wins or falls over fences. He has also developed the tendency of becoming emotionally disturbed at the course. This is not the perfect credential for the Cleeve Hill bear pit.
Danoli, like Dorans Pride and Cyborgo, is a novice and a member of their ranks has not emerged victorious since Captain Christy 23 years ago. Whether Dorans Pride tries to arrest that statistic will emerge this morning, when the track will be unusually busy while the mists are still lingering.
Michael Hourigan, Dorans Pride's trainer, and Walter Dennis, the preparer of Coome Hill, will monitor the Prestbury Park turf, now described as good to firm in places, to determine whether it is safe to let their charges participate. In addition, Gordon Richards, the man behind Addington Boy, will make a decision on whether his charge has recovered sufficiently from a leg problem he sustained at work on Saturday.
Dorans Pride also carries with him some poignancy. Just over 12 months ago he was struck by colic and it took two operations and the removal of guy-rope lengths of intestine from his gut to save him. It is his legs which are now threatened as the moisture disappears from the ground.
Coome Hill is a more likely runner. The farmer's horse from Cornwall arrived at the course last night with the driver of his box expressing considerable concern about the surface. Walter Dennis may be persuaded by Jamie Osborne, Coome Hill's jockey, that the course will not endanger England's equivalent of Danoli in the realm of melodrama.
The class horses of the race can be identified as Imperial Call and One Man. The former appeared unconquerable in his win here 12 months ago, but has since become an equine Frank Spencer, finding calamity rushing to him wherever he goes.
One Man was to have been part of a four-strong battery saddled by Gordon Richards which now may be halved as The Grey Monk has been withdrawn and doubts surround Addington Boy. The grey is reported on particular good terms with himself after a session out in the fields chasing Reynard. However, Cheltenham's undulations seem to have a peculiar effect on him and it may be that he will react as if someone has ripped out his spark plugs in the straight. The otherwise redoubtable Dublin Flyer is another who looks as brittle as a butterfly over this course and distance.
In this porridge of imponderables there is one horse who has shown aptitude for these surroundings and will not be hindered by the going. Jenny Pitman has established with Garrison Savannah that she can nurture a horse from the proving ground of the Sun Aliiance Chase through to the greatest prize of all. She may be about to do it again, quite shockingly for most, with NAHTHEN LAD (nap 3.15).Reuse content