Swan lords it

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Life Of A Lord and Charlie Swan claimed a stirring 40th Whitbread Gold Cup for Ireland in the sunshine here yesterday. The combination, who had finished sixth in the Grand National last month, made amends in the jump season's final flourish, coming home a length and a quarter clear of Proud Sun, with Amtrak Express three lengths third and Jodami a gallant fourth.

It was a welcome change of luck for the Irish champion, who had experienced a torrid time at his local Punchestown festival earlier in the week. He said: "I rode five seconds, picked up a 10-day ban, and chose the wrong one in the big four-year-old hurdle. But this goes a way to making up for it."

After a leisurely first circuit, Swan made his move down the back straight as General Rusty led Topsham Bay and Amtrak Express, with Jodami beginning to get in the race, and on the fast ground he loves skipped into a clear lead four out, the last of the railway fences. The only challenge up the famous hill after the last came from Proud Sun, but Life Of A Lord, winner of the Galway Plate back in August, had the class to concede 24lb to the West Country raider.

The big dark bay 10-year-old, owned by the hotelier Mike Clancy, was Swan's second Whitbread victory, after Usher's Island two years ago, though he was first past the post on disqualified Cahervillahow in 1991. He was only the third Irish-trained winner, after the peerless Arkle in 1965 and Drumlargan in 1983.

Domestic commitments kept Life Of A Lord's trainer Aiden O'Brien away from Sandown - his wife Anne-Marie is due to cap a wonderful weekend by producing their third child today - but Swan paid tribute to his skill. He said: "He's done a fantastic job keeping the horse on the go all season. The National took nothing out of him; when I saw him in the yard three days afterwards he was bouncing and kicking, and I told Aiden then he must go for the Whitbread."

Swan added: "He gave me a great feel going to the start. I decided to go on down the back because he jumps much better if he sees a bit of daylight, and once I was in front I felt I had it won."

It was a day of contrasts for the massive crowd, for half an hour after the seasoned old chasers brought the curtain down on the mainstream jumping season, the glossy three-year-old Flat runners showed their paces in the Thresher Classic Trial.

The neck winner Santillana, who gave John Gosden his fourth, and Sheikh Mohammed his sixth success in the 10-furlong contest, is not in the Derby. The runner-up Glory Of Dancer is - he was supplemented three weeks ago - and his staying-on effort earned him a 25-1 quote.

Singspiel, who gave the Sheikh a double with an easy three-length victory from his Michael Stoute stablemate Pilsudski in the Gordon Richards Stakes, is also on course for Epsom. The unlucky four-year-old, narrowly beaten in the Eclipse Stakes and Grand Prix de Paris last year, will attempt to break his Group 1 duck in the Coronation Cup.