Caid Du Berlais won the Paddy Power Gold Cup by a head in a thrilling finish at Cheltenham. Victory was all the sweeter after the triumphant jockey, Sam Twiston-Davies, had tried to persuade his boss, Paul Nicholls not to run the horse.
Johns Spirit, bidding for a second successive victory, led at the final fence but was overtaken by the 10-1 shot just before the winning post.
Twiston-Davies took his stance having partnered the appropriately named Sam Winner to victory in the preceding chase. The 22-year-old rider had grave reservations about the soft ground, but fortunately for him and backers of the youngest horse in the line-up, Nicholls decided to take a chance, and it all worked out perfectly.
Afterwards a sheepish Twiston-Davies, accepting the plaudits of a record 35,000 crowd, was forced to admit: “I’ve got a lot of apologising to do as I told Paul not to run him. But he travelled and jumped.”
Nicholls said: “I told Sam he could always pull up if he wasn’t happy on the ground, but the plan was to track Johns Spirit all the way and then grab him on the run-in, and it panned out exactly as I hoped.”
This was a red-letter day for the Ditcheat team. Nicholls raised eyebrows when making Twiston-Davies a stable jockey last April, many wondering how the relatively young and inexperienced rider would cope with such a high-profile role.
“Sam’s given these two horses great rides on one of the big days when it really matters,” added the trainer. “He’s improving all the time and this will be good for his confidence, too. I feel he has turned a corner.” The quirky Sam Winner presented a different challenge, but the top weight was expertly cajoled to victory and will now be aimed at the Grand National.
Last year’s Aintree hero Pineau De Re was back in action yesterday, but the only impression he made this time was on the stewards, who noted the explanation that his poor showing was due to him running too keenly in the early stages and then tiring.
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