Protektorat, a class 1-winning novice at Aintree in April, is the class actor in the field for the Paddy Power Gold Cup in Cheltenham on Saturday, a competition that is as competitive – and confusing – as ever.
Dan Skelton’s chaser also has winning form over Saturday’s track and distance, but it’s still a high task to give weight to 18 opponents, including the first, second and third from 12 months ago. Several promising chasers in the second season are also lurking towards the bottom of the weights.
Of the latter group, Farinet and Dostal Phil are interesting at decent double-digit odds, but both have been absent since the spring, so Midnight shadow (2.15) could be a stronger option around 10-1.
Sue Smith’s easy-going eight-year-old ran well in the Grade One company in his rookie season two years ago and came back promisingly back in action at Old Roan at Aintree last month.
Cheltenham 1.40 A couple Third Time Lucki’s Market rivals were at their best when he made a successful hunting debut at the meeting in October here, but he still presented an impressive display with the promise that it would get even better.
Cheltenham 2.50Dragon bones made a solid return from six months off to finish a length behind the useful Bardenstown Ladat October meeting. An opening mark of 132 could prove to be very reasonable in that form.
Lingfield Park 3.05Good effort, who struggled to translate his high-class all-weather form into grass over the summer is undefeated in three starts at Lingfield. Early intervention cost him his chance in a U.S. degree two last time, but he should be another suggestion back on his favorite track.
Cheltenham 3.25Unexpected party made short work of his handicap debut last month, setting eight lengths free without being asked for a serious effort. He is up 11 lb in weights but looks more than capable of taking it in his stride.
Lingfield Park 3.40 Pyledriver has not ridden after a huge success in the Group One Coronation Cup and it would be no surprise if he needs this excursion. He also faces a tough opponent Felix, which turned out to be one of the best mid-distance horses in all kinds of weather last winter.
Blackmore stays in the saddle to claim a dramatic victory
Rachael Blackmore’s heroism at the festival meeting this March turned out to be an empty house, but there was a large crowd in the stands last Friday to gasp and then cheer over her home as she starred in an extraordinary moment of drama at Cheltenham’s second-last fence.
The novice hunt between My Drogo, the odds-on favorite, and Blackmore’s mountain Gin On Lime, had been written off by a bookmaker as unsuitable for ITV coverage.
However, it turned out to be anything but when Blackmore somehow managed to stay aboard the Gin On Lime after a terrible mistake two out, a split second after My Drogo, who jumped it a length to the good and apparently went free, had suffered a slippery fall, which launched Harry Skelton from his saddle. Gin On Lime also slipped on landing with her legs in all directions.
However, Blackmore did not even sway and maintain perfect balance in the saddle as her partner sank against the grass. Gin On Lime stalled, then rose back to a huge cheer from the audience before jumping the last one and galloping home for a memorable victory. ONE current video clips quickly aroused interest on social media.
My Drogo and Skelton, meanwhile, came out of their fall unscathed, and the six-year-old looks set to become a major player at next year’s festival. After the race, Blackmore was typically underrated in terms of his gravity-defying feat.
“It’s very unfortunate for Skeltons what happened, but the ball bounced right for me, I suppose,” she said. “She just curled up under me, it was kind of a slow motion and they’s okay. But she’s just an extremely honest jumper to go down and then jump the last one and gallop to the line.”
Henry de Bromhead, Gin On Lime’s coach, was just as amazed as everyone else he welcomed his mare back to the winner’s enclosure. “That was wrong, wasn’t it?” he said.
“We looked knocked out, I do not think the favorite deserved it [the fall], he had jumped brilliantly all the way through. You would not think so would you? ” Gin And Lime will now likely get a break before returning to Cheltenham in March for Mares’ Chase.