Taranis returns untarnished to boost Nicholls' Gold claim

Any lingering hopes that a challenge, never mind a credible one, to the Cheltenham Gold Cup hegemony of the Paul Nicholls stable might emerge yesterday evaporated when one of the members of the Manor Farm chorus, Taranis, stepped from the wings to produce an extraordinary performance at the last dress rehearsal on the Festival stage.

It was the first time the nine-year-old had been seen in public since suffer- ing a catastrophic foreleg injury in the 2007 King George VI Chase. His very appearance was testament to the skills that took Nicholls to the top of his profession; his six-length demolition of his rivals an indication of the strength in depth of equine talent that has kept the trainer there for five seasons.

Nicholls now has four of the first six in the Gold Cup betting, with the heavyweights Kauto Star and Denman short-priced at the top of the lists and What A Friend and Taranis judged around the 25-1 mark. The two interlopers are Imperial Commander, whose next outing will be the big one, and Cooldine, due to present his credentials today week at Leopardstown.

Taranis – named after the Celtic thunder god – looked ready to rumble, despite his 766-day absence. He was, though, at 16-1, only the Nicholls second string for yesterday's Argento-sponsored Grade Two contest according to punters, with the Ruby Walsh-ridden Inchidaly Rock at 11-4. That novice, though, found open company too hot and came down at the ninth, leaving Nick Scholfield to pick up the yard's colours.

And how well he carried them through. In his previous incarnation Taranis had been a classy performer, with a defeat of Our Vic in the Ryanair Chase and a Grade One victory at Down Royal to his credit. As Carruthers and last year's winner, Joe Lively, shook off Madison Du Berlais as they diced down the hill and round the home turn, it was clear that Scholfield had yet to go through the gears.

He allowed Taranis to cruise towards the lead after the penultimate obstacle, and although gallant Carruthers remained level at the last and did his best to keep the Gold Cup fairytale for his owner-breeder John Oaksey alive, the French-bred chestnut pulled smoothly away on the climb to the line. "The last thing Ruby said to me," said Scholfield, "was not to hit the front before I had to if I was in with a chance, as he's always tended to idle. He was travelling so well I was there way too soon, but there was always plenty in the tank."

Taranis is likely to take his chance in the Gold Cup, but Nicholls knows that the most telling moment on that path will be when he inspects that precious off-foreleg this morning. "He had a really bad breakdown," Nicholls said, "so we will all just pray he's OK. He is a top-level winner in his own right, but you never know if they will retain that ability after so long off. I really didn't expect a performance like this one, but if he can improve again for that he's got to be in the Gold Cup mix. We've nursed him this far; now we'll see if we can get him back here in March."

There was another reminder of the class-is-permanent adage when Tidal Bay, reverting from fences to the smaller obstacles for the first time in three years, left Time For Rupert and Katchit trailing five lengths in his wake in the Cleeve Hurdle. The Howard Johnson-trained nine-year-old has a fine record at the Festival – in three visits he has run second in a Ballymore Properties Novices' Hurdle, won an Arkle Trophy and finished fourth in a Ryanair Chase – and he may return this time in the World Hurdle, the mara-thon won three times by his legendary former stablemate Inglis Drever in the same Graham Wylie colours.

Yesterday did not belong entirely to the biggest guns. Hey Big Spender threw his hat in the Festival ring by taking the novices' handicap chase in sprightly fashion under top-weight. "He's progressive," said his trainer, Colin Tizzard. "He'll probably get top-weight again in the Jewson, but he's a big strong boy and can carry it. It takes me up the gallops, after all."

Restless Harry, whose eponymous nature is calmed by being turned out with 14 others in a park of fallow deer near Robin Dickin's yard in Warwickshire, is likely to go for the three-mile Albert Bartlett Hurdle after running his rivals ragged in yesterday's Grade Two novices' race. And Bob Buckler's The Sawyer, bred in one of Europe's bloodstock backwaters, must now, after winning his second valuable prize in eight days, join Eddy Merckx, Kim Clijsters, Justine Henin and Jean-Marc Bosman on the list of famous sporting Belgians.

News
peoplePaper attempts to defend itself
Voices
voicesWe desperately need men to be feminists too
Life and Style
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
film
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
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
and  

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Account Executive/Sales Consultant – Permanent – Hertfordshire - £16-£20k

£16500 - £20000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: We are currently r...

KS2 PPA Teacher needed (Mat Cover)- Worthing!

£100 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Crawley: KS2 PPA Teacher currently nee...

IT Systems Manager

£40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

IT Application Support Engineer - Immediate Start

£28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Software Application Support Analyst - Imm...

Day In a Page

Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits