Pandorama hits top gear on road to the Gold Cup

Those of us who were depicting Pandorama as some sort of inexorable new force on the steeplechasing scene, before his first visit to Britain last month, were soon made to look rather silly.

Off just 10st in the Hennessy Gold Cup, he nearly fell at the second, was nearly brought down at the fourth, and was tailed off when pulled up with a circuit to go. Any who kept the faith, however, were rewarded at Leopardstown yesterday when he won the Lexus Chase in the style of – well, an inexorable new force on the steeplechasing scene.

Judging from the betting, there were plenty who did give Pandorama another chance. Available at 8-1 in the morning, he was sent off 7-2 favourite and everything went like clockwork for Paul Carberry. Having jumped and galloped with conviction throughout, Pandorama was produced going strongly on the home turn and took over from a swarm of challengers at the last, before powering six lengths clear of Money Trix. The Listener faded into fifth, having gone with familiar zest in the lead, but Cooldine dropped away quickly after an uncharacteristic blunder on the far side, pulled up before the last.

Pandorama has only been beaten once when completing under Rules, when outpaced over hurdles by the outstanding Mikael d'Haguenet. Conceivably, he could yet redress the Festival misadventures notoriously endured by Noel Meade, over the years, by winning the Totesport Cheltenham Gold Cup itself. "We are back on track, and still dreaming of the Gold Cup," Pandorama's trainer said. "He worked very well at Dundalk last Thursday, with some good horses strung out behind him. That was only his fifth run over fences, so he's still improving."

Meade indicated that Pandorama is likely to return to Leopardstown for their own Hennessy Gold Cup, in February, but emphasised that he would never risk this heavy-shouldered creature on a fast surface. The going was very soft yesterday, following the abrupt disappearance of 10 inches of snow, and conditions are liable to be very different at Cheltenham – for which he is now quoted 14-1, from 33-1, by Totesport.

For a dyed-in-the-wool staying chaser, Pandorama remains auspiciously unexposed over three miles. In fact, he had only tried the trip for the first time when beating the subsequent RSA Chase winner in a Grade One novice at this meeting last year, only to miss the Festival with a setback.

The equivalent prize this time round, the Fort Leney Chase, proved a fairly undignified slog, but Bostons Angel at least showed due tenacity in holding on from Quito De La Roque, having first had to stem the rally of Thegreatjohnbrowne. Mourad made class tell, however, when ridden with his customary poise by Paul Townend in the Woodies Christmas Hurdle, pouncing late to beat Powerstation. Mossey Joe suffered his first defeat here, ultimately beating only one home, but he was just about going best on the turn and remains an intriguing prospect.

Mourad's trainer, Willie Mullins, reckons he will prove better again on decent ground and will train him for the Ladbrokes World Hurdle at the Festival, for which the sponsors go 14-1 from 20-1. Mullins had earlier saddled an impressive winner of the maiden hurdle in So Young, who had previously won three bumpers in his native France.

Today the champion trainer of Ireland saddles another French import, Zaidpour, in the Paddy Power Future Champions' Novice Hurdle. Zaidpour has been dazzling in both starts over timber, albeit he still seemed to have a bit to learn about jumping at Fairyhouse last time, and will deservedly be short odds to dispose of just four rivals – even if one of them, Hidden Cyclone, himself remains unbeaten.

Mullins had two other very stylish winners on the same Fairyhouse card, and turns them both out again, as well: Hurricane Fly renews rivalry with Solwhit, while Golden Silver measures his progress against Big Zeb, winner of the Queen Mother Champion Chase.

The thaw in Britain has meanwhile produced corresponding dividends for Newbury, where an excellent card features the return of Punchestowns and, on the face of it, a lap of honour for Tony McCoy on Big Buck's in the rescheduled Long Walk Hurdle. McCoy will need to pass the doctor, however, having taken a fall from Kempes in the Lexus and left for the airport with a wrist strapped in ice.

Turf account

Chris Mcgrath's Nap

Promising Anshan (2.45 Newbury) Not many miles on the clock and, built for fences, made a promising start to his chasing career here a couple of weeks ago, jumping well before challenging on the bridle and just tiring late on.

Next Best

Distinctive Image (3.40 Wolverhampton) Lightly raced for this stable, he returned from a lay-off to see off all bar one at Lingfield earlier in the month. With a good profile on the all-weather, his top-class American pedigree gives him scope to progress again.

One to watch

Love You Louis (J R Jenkins) confirmed himself in top form at Kempton the other day, stifling strong competition for the lead and last off the bridle before just flattening out into fourth.

Where the money's going

Oscar Wells, impressive for Jessica Harrington at Navan before Christmas, is 20-1 from 25-1 with Paddy Power for the Neptune Novices' Hurdle at Cheltenham in March.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Latest in Sport
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executive / Sales - OTE £40,000

£18000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing Insurance Bro...

Recruitment Genius: Junior IT Support Technician

£20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Junior IT Support Technician ...

Recruitment Genius: Junior / Graduate Front End Developer

£20000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides actionabl...

Guru Careers: Customer Support Advisor

Negotiable depending on experience, plus benefits: Guru Careers: We are seekin...

Day In a Page

Solved after 200 years: the mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army

Solved after 200 years

The mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army
Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise

Robert Fisk on the Turkey conflict

Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise
Investigation into wreck of unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden

Sunken sub

Investigation underway into wreck of an unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden
Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes

Age of the selfie

Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes
Not so square: How BBC's Bloomsbury saga is sexing up the period drama

Not so square

How Virginia Woolf saga is sexing up the BBC period drama
Rio Olympics 2016: The seven teenagers still carrying a torch for our Games hopes

Still carrying the torch

The seven teenagers given our Olympic hopes
The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis, but history suggests otherwise

The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis...

...but history suggests otherwise
The bald truth: How one author's thinning hair made him a Wayne Rooney sympathiser

The bald truth

How thinning hair made me a Wayne Rooney sympathiser
Froome wins second Tour de France after triumphant ride into Paris with Team Sky

Tour de France 2015

Froome rides into Paris to win historic second Tour
Fifteen years ago, Concorde crashed, and a dream died. Today, the desire to travel faster than the speed of sound is growing once again

A new beginning for supersonic flight?

Concorde's successors are in the works 15 years on from the Paris crash
I would never quit Labour, says Liz Kendall

I would never quit party, says Liz Kendall

Latest on the Labour leadership contest
Froome seals second Tour de France victory

Never mind Pinot, it’s bubbly for Froome

Second Tour de France victory all but sealed
Oh really? How the 'lowest form of wit' makes people brighter and more creative

The uses of sarcasm

'Lowest form of wit' actually makes people brighter and more creative
A magazine editor with no vanity, and lots of flair

No vanity, but lots of flair

A tribute to the magazine editor Ingrid Sischy
Foraging: How the British rediscovered their taste for chasing after wild food

In praise of foraging

How the British rediscovered their taste for wild food