Cooldine beaten but Gold Cup beckons

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The Independent Online

Most people will consider Kauto Star's prospects of a third Totesport Cheltenham Gold Cup rather more menaced by confirmation that Tony McCoy will ride Denman than by the outcome yesterday of Ireland's most prestigious steeplechase. After all, the winner of the Hennessy Gold Cup has not even been given an entry. But it may yet prove hasty to rule out the possibility of Cooldine, beaten a neck by Joncol, intruding in this great private duel between Kauto Star and Denman.

After that awful comeback here at Leopardstown at Christmas, this was immeasurably better from Cooldine. Bar one blunder on the first circuit, he jumped boldly in the lead for Ruby Walsh and rallied furiously when pressed by Schindlers Hunt going to the last. In seeing off that challenge, however, Cooldine left himself vulnerable to the late charge of Joncol, who just wore him down after lurching alongside on the run-in.

Joncol had probably been committed too early off a fierce pace last time but Alan Cawley, his young jockey, compensated here to earn the biggest success of his career. Paul Nolan, Joncol's trainer, had seen no point in taking on Kauto Star and Denman. "He's in the Ryanair Chase but this was his Gold Cup," he said.

Willie Mullins is taking a different view with Cooldine, promising further progress in the Gold Cup, for which Coral left him unchanged at 12-1. "I've got to be happy with that," Mullins said. "That was much more like the old Cooldine. It was a feature of last season that he improved from race to race and I'd hope he'll do the same again."

His most encouraging template is the way Cooldine ran away with the RSA Chase at the Festival after looking flat out to win the Dr P J Moriarty Chase at this meeting. Mullins won the same prize this time with a similarly progressive model in Citizen Vic, who jumped really well in front and held on gamely after Zaarito, closing strongly, had taken a harrowing fall at the last.

Citizen Vic was ostensibly Mullins' second string, but Cousin Vinny is proving too careful over fences and is likely to be returned to timber. The winning jockey, Paul Townend, will presumably ride Cooldine in the Gold Cup, Walsh having now formally committed himself to Kauto Star. Demonstrably, Cooldine's owners were happy enough for Walsh to ride him in his final rehearsal for Cheltenham, even so, but those of Denman were anxious for his Gold Cup jockey to be in the saddle at Newbury next Saturday.