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Norton trainer has high hopes for Cape Tribulation in Cheltenham biggie
IN more than 30 years as a racehorse trainer, Malcolm Jefferson has been represented only once in the Cheltenham Gold Cup. Come Friday, that tally will be doubled.
Cape Tribulation will carry the hopes and dreams of everyone at Norton’s Newstead Stables as he bids for the most prestigious of National Hunt races, not to mention the lion’s share of the £550,000 prize money on offer.
If Jefferson is unfamiliar with Gold Cup runners, Cape Tribulation is no stranger to Cheltenham. Twelve months ago at this all-important Festival gathering, he won the Pertemps Hurdle Final and since then he has returned to Prestbury Park to clinch the Grade 2 Argento Chase, beating Imperial Commander, a former Gold Cup hero, in gutsy and thrilling style by a whisker.
Denis O’Regan, his jockey on both those occasions, will be back in the saddle on Friday as Cape Tribulation attempts to become Ryedale’s first Gold Cup winner since the handsome and talented Jodami prevailed in 1993 for Brandsby trainer Peter Beaumont and Malton jockey Mark Dwyer.
It was in 2000 that Jefferson saddled his only previous Gold Cup contender. Tullymurry Toff was an 11-times winner in his career, but he was a rank outsider in steeplechasing’s blue riband. Sent off at 100-1, he unseated Graham Lee in a race in which glory went to Looks Like Trouble, trained by Noel Chance.
Cape Tribulation will not start at anything like 100-1 on Friday. He is currently a best-priced 16-1 shot in what looks an open Gold Cup renewal. The soft ground will be in his favour and Jefferson has been perfectly happy with his big-race preparation.
“He’s an easy horse to train and is very well,” reports the Ryedale handler, who ended a 17-year Festival drought in dramatic style at last year’s meeting. Not only did he score with Cape Tribulation, but he followed up with Attaglance in the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle. Furthermore, and few will need reminding, both horses won again the following month at the Aintree Festival.
“Those are the days you work for, the reason you get up every morning,” says Jefferson, who is keenly looking forward to seeing Cape Tribulation take on the likes of Hennessy Gold Cup winner Bobs Worth, Irish challenger Sir Des Champs, the unbeaten Silviniaco Conti and previous Gold Cup winner Long Run.
“If I didn’t think he was going there with a chance, he wouldn’t be running.”
Ryedale’s Cheltenham Gold Cup roll of honour in the last 40 years includes just four names: Alverton in 1979, his Peter Easterby-trained stable-mate Little Owl in 1981, Jimmy Fitzgerald’s Forgive ‘n Forget in 1985 and the aforementioned Jodami 20 years ago.
Soon after 3.20pm on Friday, Cape Tribulation will have his shot at adding a fifth name to that exclusive list.
• Lightning, they say, never strikes in the same place twice. John Quinn is hoping to prove otherwise at Cheltenham this week as he aims to repeat his Triumph Hurdle victory of 12 months ago.
Last year it was Countrywide Flame who memorably clinched the honours for Quinn. This time he has doubled his chances of an encore with two runners in this most challenging of races for first-season hurdlers.
Kashmir Peak and Hidden Justice will both carry the Highfield banner into action in the opening race on Friday with Dougie Costello, regular rider of both horses, having the choice of mounts and top Irish jockey Paul Carberry standing by to partner the other.
Kashmir Peak has the strongest credentials of the pair on form, having already won a Grade 2 contest at Doncaster, which came after his debut success at Market Rasen. This former Irish Flat racer has since suffered a blip at Musselburgh, however, when a stumble on landing almost put him on the deck and gave Costello no chance of remaining on board.
As for Hidden Justice, he is a straight two-from-two over hurdles. A Wetherby winner on his debut, he followed up in tremendous style under a penalty at Catterick.
While Kashmir Peak is thought to be most effective on good ground, Hidden Justice is tried and tested in the mud. “Of the two, the ground at Cheltenham may suit Hidden Justice more, but, saying that, Kashmir Peak did win his Grade 2 on mid-winter good-to-soft,” said Quinn.
The bottom line is that both horses are going into the Triumph with rock-solid chances, each bringing something slightly different to the table.
Quinn has been impressed with the favourite Our Connor, who is unbeaten in three starts for Dessie Hughes in Ireland, and also respects others in the field. But the impression is that the man who won last year’s Triumph wouldn’t be in a hurry to swap his two representatives as he goes for an encore.
Quinn may also be represented by Calculated Risk in Wednesday’s Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle. The four-year-old underlined his well-being with a decisive success at Sandown last Saturday which earned him a 5lb penalty, which will aid his cause in getting into the Cheltenham field. It may be a calculated risk running him again so quickly, but he would not be without a chance.
• Brian Ellison has been forced to endure some near-misses and some miserable luck at the Cheltenham Festival down the years. But the Norton trainer is hoping to finally saddle his first winner at the meeting this week when his team of runners is spearheaded by Viva Colonia in the Grand Annual Chase.
Two from two over fences since joining Ellison’s Spring Cottage yard earlier this year, Viva Colonia goes for the final race of the Festival; the Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Chase on Friday.
“He’s in great form,” reports the trainer, who has had this race in mind ever since he won his first outing over fences at Musselburgh in mid-winter.
Ellison has other solid chances at the meeting. Yesyoucan, a revelation this season since being bought cheaply by the trainer, runs in today’s (Wednesday’s) Coral Cup Handicap Hurdle, while Totalize, winner of two of his three starts this term, goes for the Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle 40 minutes later.
Danny Cook, Ellison’s stable-jockey, will be aboard all three runners and can hardly wait. The rider, who was forced to sit out last year’s meeting after a fall at Wetherby at Christmas left him with a shattered knee and sidelined him for six months, is no stranger to Festival glory.
In 2010, Cook won the Byrne Group Plate on Great Endeavour for his then boss David Pipe. Hopes are high in the days ahead that he can double his Cheltenham score and Ellison can post his first Festival victory.
• Ifandbutwhynot may cause the course commentator at Cheltenham a few tongue-twisting troubles, but David O’Meara is hoping to hear the horse with the unusual name called home in front at Cheltenham this week.
The talented gelding is set to line up for the Vincent O’Brien County Hurdle on Friday and is a popular choice among punters as a 14-1 shot with a lively each-way chance.
Ifandbutwhynot goes into battle with a recent win under his belt – at Musselburgh last month when he confirmed his growing prowess as a hurdler with a creditable success. Soft ground may not exactly be ideal for him this week, but he is plainly not a horse to underestimate.
Former jump jockey O’Meara is aiming to have two other runners at the meeting: Rose Of The Moon in the John Oaksey National Hunt Chase today and Loose Preformer in tomorrow’s (Thursday’s) Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup Chase.
• No matter what the outcome for Ryedale horses at Cheltenham this week, the best news of all has already emerged – planning permission has been granted by Ryedale District Council for Jack Berry House to be built in Old Malton to serve the racing fraternity and the wider community.
It’s been a long haul, with more obstacles and problems along the way than can be expected in a dozen Grand Nationals, but the green light has now shone and it’s all systems go for this £3.5 million rehabilitation centre for injured jockeys to become a reality.
The facility, which will also include respite accommodation, a fitness centre, amenity areas and a three-bedroom site manager’s dwelling, is to be built on land purchased from the Fitzwilliam Trust, near the existing rugby union club. The plan is for work to start on the site in October with the objective of Jack Berry House opening in the autumn of 2014, the year of the Injured Jockeys’ Fund 50th anniversary.
It will be a giant step for racing in Ryedale to have a facility like Jack Berry House – similar to Lambourn’s Oaksey House, which was built by the IJF in 2009. Apart from the practical advantages for jockeys all over the north of England, the facility will further cement Malton’s good name and reputation on the racing map, where it has proudly stood for hundreds of years.