Racing: Rushing Wild walks into Gold Cup contention

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The Independent Online
THE ECHOES were impossible to ignore. A big, dark chaser, Peter Scudamore in the plate, galloping his rivals to defeat with the typical ease of a Martin Pipe runner. But this was not Carvill's Hill. For a start, this one could jump.

Rushing Wild's success in the Anthony Mildmay/Peter Cazalet Handicap Chase here yesterday was his fourth win in just five races under Rules. Despite such inexperience, Ladbrokes now offer just 6-1 about him for the Gold Cup in March, when he could offer Scudamore one of his last opportunities to secure chasing's finest prize.

Rushing Wild led throughout the extended 29-furlong trip, was 15 lengths clear approaching the home turn, and then quickened again just when it seemed certain that he must tire and capitulate. When he passed the post, eased down, he was a long-looking 25 lengths clear of Cool Ground, last year's Gold Cup winner.

Scudamore is the most successful rider in National Hunt history, but the Gold Cup and Grand National continue to elude him. After the crushing disappointment of Carvill's Hill's performance when even money favourite last season, he could be forgiven his post-race caution.

'At this stage it is difficult to compare him with horses like Carvill's Hill and Burrough Hill Lad, but he has done enough to earn a run in the Gold Cup. He was foot perfect here, and that is very encouraging from such a young horse.'

It is as easy as it is futile to pick holes in the form, particularly since the handicap allowed Rushing Wild to receive 27lb from last year's Gold Cup winner Cool Ground - hence the cut in the latter's odds for a repeat win at Cheltenham cut to 16-1 from 33-1.

Cool Ground's inconsistent form this term provides no sort of yardstick, while the third home, Nick The Brief, had been off the course for the better part of two years. Until he faces the best at something approaching level weights, Rushing Wild can be no more than promising and 6-1 could look an overreaction by March.

Rushing Wild's next engagement will be decided when Pipe returns from holiday in Tenerife, but of one thing there can be little doubt - he will run in the colours of his current owner, John Keighley. All week, the rumour mill assured us that a bloodstock agent with at least pounds 150,000 to spend was on Rushing Wild's trail, but Keighley was adamant his horse is not for sale at any price. To turn down such an offer for any steeplechaser requires either supreme confidence or terminal foolishness. In the winner's enclosure yesterday, Keighley was quietly radiating the former.

Scudamore arrived at Sandown by helicopter in mid-afternoon, having partnered yesterday morning's Triumph Hurdle favourite Her Honour, to a 1-5 defeat at Warwick. The swing in his fortunes - he completed a double on Sausalito Boy in the last - was appropriate on a day when Rushing Wild was one of the few last- fence leaders who managed to hold on to the line. In the Grade One Tolworth Hurdle, run over two miles and half a furlong, Dreamers Delight seemed sure to make that extra 110 yards look an irrelevance, but tied up close home and was caught by Sun Surfer.

A few minutes later, Native Mission jumped the last in Leopardsown's Ladbroke Hurdle three lengths clear, but was swallowed up by a gang of challengers in the shadow of the post and only just scraped into the frame. Glencloud, keeping the prize in Ireland for the fifth consecutive year, emerged from the maul a neck ahead of Kilcash - who would surely have taken the winner's money home to Sussex but for a clumsy jump at the last. Atone was a short head away in third.

At Haydock, the Newton Chase culminated in a weary crawl to the line, as the favourite Katabatic attempted to overhaul the tiring front-runner Kings Fountain. He suceeded, only to succumb to the flying finish of the outsider, Gold Options, whose success in the day's most valuable domestic race was some compensation for Native Mission's trainer, Jimmy FitzGerald.

Somebody, somewhere, no doubt had a win patent on Katabatic, Dreamers Delight and Native Mission. Punters make their own misery, certainly, but spare that poor unfortunate a thought the next time your own luck seems unbearable.