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11th December 2021 Cheltenham

By Graham Clark

Owner Wayne Clifford may have suffered an unfortunate slip when getting caught up in the excitement of watching Coole Cody race at Cheltenham, but all was soon forgotten after his pride and joy secured what he described as the “ultimate” success in the Racing Post Gold Cup Handicap Chase.

The passionate owner missed the Evan Williams-trained 10 year old jump the final fence in front of his 12 rivals in the Grade Three contest after falling over while cheering the apple of his eye on late in the extended two and a half mile prize.

However, a grimace was soon replaced by a broad smile as the 12-1 chance crossed the line to become only the ninth horse, and the first since Exotic Dancer in 2006, to complete the Paddy Power Gold Cup and Racing Post Gold Cup double. It was Coole Cody’s third success at Cheltenham,

Out in front from the word go the Dubai Destination gelding had most of his rivals in trouble as the field turned for home for the final time, with only Midnight Shadow, winner of last month’s Paddy Power Gold Cup, and Fusil Raffles looking dangerous.

After falling at the penultimate fence when holding every chance of defending his Paddy Power Gold Cup crown 28 days ago there was to be no repeat of that late drama on this occasion as Coole Cody bounded clear over the last two fences before prevailing by two lengths, much to the delight of his enthusiastic owner.

Clifford, who owned Bathwick Tyres until three years ago, said: “To be fair we thought he would have won the Paddy Power but he is a tough horse. 

“He loves Cheltenham and nowhere else. You couldn’t take him to a flat course as he just loves this hill. Adam (Wedge) gave him a fantastic ride. 

“I started running up the hill myself and I slipped over so I missed the last jump. I couldn’t believe I slipped over on the floor.

“It was just through so much excitement. It was unbelievable. It is incredible - the atmosphere, everything. This is the ultimate.

“Winning at Cheltenham in this race, there is nothing else like it in the world. You could take me anywhere else in the world but this would be the place I would come back first. He is as hard as nails.

“To be fair to Evan he has got him where he should be. He is my number one. I’ve got a lot of home-breds as they are the future but at the moment he is number one.”

Lancarfan trainer Williams described the victory as “sweet” and admitted it meant an “awful lot” to see Coole Cody added to the roll of honour in the Grade Three.

Williams said: “He is very genuine and he faces the music every time he comes to a big gig. The track suits him but I think he is better on the other track.

“I went through the form of the race and unless I was missing something I couldn’t see why our horse was 12-1 and the Paddy Power winner was the price he is.

“It is probably hard to put into words how tough he is. Wedgey is a huge part of what we do and the team. He can deliver if the horse is good enough.

“He has won a Paddy Power and a Racing Post Gold Cup. If he never wins another race in his life it doesn’t matter.

“He has done nothing but try and help us every time he has gone to a racecourse. You are normally nervous when a horse falls and you are always very defensive but this horse is almost the opposite - he has fallen on the floor and he thinks it’s a bit of fun and he bounces off it. He would go to war with you every day if he could. 

“This is a professional moment. That win (for daughter at Haydock on Dans Le Vant) was me being a soppy old fool. This is a professional one.

“These big ones are sweet. I was brought up watching these races. I remember all the brilliant horses winning these races and to be in the same context as them means an awful lot.”

Meanwhile winning rider Wedge heaped plenty of praise on Grade One winning handler Williams for getting Coole Cody back to his best following his last time out tumble.

Wedge said: “I was enjoying myself and once I got to the front he starts enjoying it. I was confident everywhere and I knew he wouldn’t lie down. It was fantastic.

“It was a shame what happened the last day but it is brilliant he has gone and done it today.

“It is down to Evan getting his confidence back and getting him here in A1 condition.”

There was a first Irish-trained success at The International in 2021 when Blazing Khal came home the comfortable winner of the 3m Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle. This was a second consecutive Grade Two success at Cheltenham for the five year old following his success in the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle at The November Meeting.

Despite not being foot perfect with his jumping, the Evens favourite made smooth headway to challenge at the final flight and stayed on strongly to come four and a quarter lengths to the good over Gelino Bello.

Connections were of the opinion that the son of Kalanisi improved for the step up to three miles and the Grade One Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle at The Festival now looks his likely target.

Winning jockey Donal McInerney said: “He was a lot better today and he jumped slicker. He missed the second last but in fairness to him he picked up again. Maybe it helped as it meant I didn’t get to the front too soon!

“He is definitely better over three miles as it gives him more of a chance with his jumping. Last time over 2m 5f he was very green and looking at everything and on and off the bridle. Today he travelled well throughout although he did miss the second last.

“I was champion conditional twice in Ireland then when I lost my claim thing got a bit quiet. Horses like this get you up in the morning.”

Trainer Charles Byrnes added: “He was going quite easy but made a bad enough mistake at the second last but got back on an even keel and really stayed on.

“His jumping was much better than the last day but still not totally there. I’d say he won’t run over Christmas. We’ll probably look at the Dublin Racing Festival and please God we’ll be back here in March for the Albert Barlett.”

Paddy Power and Betfair both reacted by cutting Blazing Khal to 5-1 (from 8-1) for the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle at The Festival.


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