It’s been a week of high emotion, sadness, joy and for some it’s been highly lucrative too and on Gold Cup day we have a bit of everything.
Despite three amazing days of action for some it is all about 3.30pm on the final day as another Gold Cup winner is crowned but not too many saw this one coming, perhaps not even the trainer!
Undoubtedly the cruel, cruel loss of Sir Eric. Having been an unusually high class recruit from the flat where he ran for Aidan O’Brien, Sir Eric was bought by top owner JP McManus and was sent to national hunt star of the future Joseph O’Brien who had prepped him to perfection.
Before lining up down at the start for the Triumph Hurdle, Sir Eric lost a shoe and needed the attention of the farrier but was incredibly calm being re-shod to the awe of all those looking on.
The brilliantly composed sort was also sent off as the strong 11/10 favourite with millions of pounds on the line but broke down midway through the race with a very visible and shocking leg injury. Although everyone was clutching at straws that the son of Camelot would recover, the news came through pretty quickly that he needed to be destroyed and unfortunately he wasn’t the only one on the day.
The eventual winner of the race was Pentland Hills, owned by a number of people within a syndicate, but even the winning jockey Nico de Boinville was at pains after crossing the line to point out that it’s never the same to win a race in such circumstances. RIP Sir Eric.
After seeing the emotional interviews given by Bryony Frost alongside her father and brothers yesterday following her won aboard Frodon in the Ryanair Chase, Friday’s family affair was hosted by the Skeltons in the County Hurdle, a race they are quickly making their own.
Trainer Dan Skelton had already won this race twice in three years and managed the feat again with the well-backed Ch’tibello under his son Harry, who was congratulated by last year’s winning jockey for the stable Bridget Andrews – Harry’s fiancé!
Despite the levels of professionalism involved, racing is so often family orientated and this truly is a great example of that.
Although a trainer and jockey combo of Henry De Bromhead and Rachael Blackmore could never be safely ignored, the bookmakers were jumping for joy when their 50/1 shot Minella Indo scorched up the hill to land the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle as hardly a punter had backed it.
With 4/1 favourite Commander Of Fleet chasing him down going over the last the layers were on tenterhooks, but ultimately Blackmore had more under her than Jack Kennedy as the partnership scored by two lengths.
It takes a lot of ability to win a Gold Cup, any Gold Cup, and with this one looking like a classy renewal the performance of Al Boum Photo has to be the best of the day.
Before this year’s festival record-breaking trainer Willie Mullins had never won the Blue Riband event and seemed to take somewhat of a scattergun approach to things this time around, entering Irish Gold Cup winner Bellshill alongside Kemboy and the eventual winner.
Ruby Walsh had chosen Bellshill while Kemboy went off the shortest price of the three, but both of those horses came a cropper early in the race as Mullins must have been thinking his time would never come.
Despite that bad luck however and the strong runs of last year’s winner Native River, King George winner Clan Des Obeaux, Anibale Fly and Bristol De Mai, it was his apparent third choice Al Boum Photo who took the lead and forged ahead in the final furlong to take the £351,000 first prize under Paul Townend. A great staying performance.