Paddy Power Gold Cup Preview
For many, it will always be the Mackeson, although the argument that sponsors’ names are ruining race titles is rather redundant in this case. First run in 1960, at a time when race sponsorship was in its infancy, the contest rivalled the Festival’s Champion Chase in terms of prestige, and dwarfed it in prize-money terms, with the handicap worth a whopping £4,585, compared to only £1,885 for the latter contest.
It’s no wonder that the first running attracted horses of the quality of Saffron Tartan and Fortria, and that pair dominated both the weights (carrying twelve stone) and the market, with second favourite Fortria defying his impost with some ease. The cachet of the race was therefore established from day one, and lustre was added to that when the joint top-weights went on to land the Champion Chase and Gold Cup respectively in the spring.
There have been a number of dual winners of the race, with Half Free and Bradbury Star winning back-to-back renewals in the 1980s and 1990s respectively. As well as that pair, there have been three horses who have won the race in non-consecutive years, namely the aforementioned Fortria (1960, 1962), Gay Trip (1969, 1971) and Cyfor Malta, who had to wait four years between wins in 1998 and 2002.
This year we have 2013 winner Johns Spirit seeking to join that elite band, and he’s certainly a player on form, having finished an arguably unlucky second to Caid du Berlais a year ago. He was pulled up on his return at Aintree, but that run can be written off as he was almost forced through the rails mid-race, and was looked after by Richie McLernon when it was clear his chance had gone.
Aside from his run in this event, he also caught the eye in last season’s King George at Kempton, where he travelled notably well until his stamina ebbed away in the straight. His form has a habit of tailing off slightly in the spring, but he does tremendously well in the autumn, and he appears to be fairly handicapped still, so merits close attention.
Another to consider very seriously is Boondooma from the yard of Dr Richard Newland. This son of Westerner is less exposed than most having missed the latter half of his novice campaign with a minor leg injury, but he looked a horse of huge potential when slamming the useful Ifandbutwhynot at Haydock in December, and he picked up where he left off with a devastating win in a two mile handicap chase at the Showcase Meeting here in October.
Both those chase wins have come at significantly shorter than today’s trip, but the manner of last month’s success when coming clear again after the last despite being on the sharp end of an overly-strong pace suggests that he will actually improve for the step up in trip, and that is backed up by his pedigree.
By the Ascot Gold cup winner Westerner, and a half-brother to BetBright Chase winner Rocky Creek and the ill-fated but brilliant Tell Massini, he should be best at three miles if his pedigree is a guide, and it would be a brave, or foolish fan who dismisses him in terms of stamina.
It wouldn’t surprise me one bit if he developed into a leading contender for the Ryanair next spring, and I’ll be happy to back him in any company given the regard in which I hold him. His trainer has shown himself to be as good as any in the country when it comes to targeting a big race, and this prize has been on the agenda for some time.
Danger: Johns Spirit