Coole Cody made most of the running under a masterful Tom O’Brien ride to bravely win the G3 Paddy Power Gold Cup.
The nine-year-old had already struck at The November Meeting when scoring over hurdles in 2017 and was making his first handicap appearance over fences on the back of three promising novice chase runs for his new trainer Evan Williams.
With habitual front-runner Siruh du Lac departing at the first fence, Coole Cody soon took charge although O’Brien had to survive a major mistake at the fourth fence as his mount buckled on landing.
The 10/1 chance continued to bowl along in front and established a 10-length advantage heading out on to the second circuit. Spiritofthegames and Sky Pirate emerged from the chasing pack to challenge for the lead jumping the second last, with the latter losing momentum when landing awkwardly.
Coole Cody continued to repel all challengers, staying on gallantly to prevail by three and a quarter-lengths from Spiritofthegames, with Al Dancer rallying to take third ahead of the flashing home Kauto Riko.
Evan Williams said: “It’s great — we’ve been second, third and fourth in this race, so it’s always nice to get your head in front in a big way.
“He had winning form here for Mr Blake (Coole Cody’s former trainer Michael Blake), and Mr Blake had done a smashing job with the horse. Is often the case a change of scenery and a change of direction can just give a little bit of impetus in a different direction, so we are very lucky to have got him.
“The reality, if we could ever recapture some of his past form, there was room for a few lbs to creep up the handicap. His run here last time told me more than enough and Adam Wedge, who rode him that day, said ‘listen, if we go back over that trip we want to be very aggressive with him’. Tom rode him today and has been aggressive here in a Triumph hurdle before and that ended in disaster! But it worked out today and that is the main thing.
“I wouldn’t have thought to have gone about things in this way, that’s why a good stable jockey is so important and Adam put the plan into action. Without his input, we wouldn’t have had the result today, so I am very grateful to him.
“Mr and Mrs (Wayne) Clifford (owners) put an awful lot into the game. They breed a lot of horses, they have a lot of horses on the Flat with a lot of trainers and over jumps with a lot of trainers. They spent a lot of money under the Bathwick Tyres banner, put a lot of money into the game, so it is great we can repay them with a good win.
“It is huge [for the team to win a big race]. Every year goes by and you are looking for a nice horse but the little wins, the bread and butter, are all sweet and we are very much of the opinion that we will tickle away with anything we have got. They big ones are nice, but the bread and butter you have got to keep doing that as well.”
On whether the horse might come back here next month, Williams added: “We will see how things go.
“At the end of the day it is job done as far as I’m concerned with him. If we dropped him back to novice company, he could be dangerous in some of those small field novice chases. There’s some great twos [mile races] around Ascot that spring to mind, 2m5f, 2m3f round there could be right up his street, and he doesn’t have to go into big handicaps and get slaughtered, he could tickle away in novice chases because he could be dangerous in some of them.
“As far as his mark is concerned, that is going to get blown out of the water now and he might win a G2. Whether he’s a G1 horse is debatable, but he could win a G2 over fences.”
Tom O’Brien said: “Brilliant! I am delighted. We got into a good rhythm and enjoyed every second of it. It means a huge amount to win this – it is just amazing. He is a genuine, game horse; my first time riding him. I am just thrilled. Lost for words!
"It is at the right time; I have gone a little bit quiet on numbers, and it definitely puts you back in the limelight, and I can try to kick on from here.
"It is trying to hold your advantage and not give it away by way of mistakes and try and fill your horse up at the right time. That is all you can concentrate on, really, rather than worrying about what is going on behind you.
“I was aiming to take a lead off David Pipe and Tom Scudamore’s horse (Siruh du Lac) and he obviously went at the first and left me out in front. I got into a good rhythm, bar slipping early on, and managed to get him filled up at the right times and he hung on.
“It has gone better this time around; since he joined Evan Williams he has took off. Evan really fancied him, he phoned me this morning and said ‘if we get this right, he’ll run a race’ and he did.
“Adam Wedge [Coole Cody’s usual jockey] suffered a broken collarbone at Emma Lavelle’s the other morning, but he shouldn’t be too much longer and he has plenty to look forward to.”
Dan Skelton, trainer of runner-up Spiritofthegames, said: “I desperately want Spiritofthegames to win one. He has been second in so many big races here, he has been a bridesmaid at all of them, just one please can he win one.
“He had a chance. He has only won one chase in his life. It’s not because he is ungenuine - the handicapper has his say and there is often one better than him.”
Sam Twiston-Davies, rider of third Al Dancer (5/1 Fav), said: “Al Dancer ran well. He was always going well and was just beaten by a couple better than him on the day.”
2.15pm Paddy Power Gold Cup Handicap Chase (Grade 3) 2m 4f 44y
1 Coole Cody – Evan Williams 9-10-05 Tom O’Brien 10/1
2 Spiritofthegames – Dan Skelton 8-11-02 Harry Skelton 14/1
3 Al Dancer – Nigel Twiston-Davies 7-11-08 Sam Twiston-Davies 5/1F
4 Kauto Riko – Tom Gretton 9-10-10 Conor O’Farrell 50/1
Distances: 3¼, 1, 1¼
Tote Win: £12.30 Places: £2.60 £3.60 £2.10 Exacta: £201.40 Trifecta: £1,618.80
NB: Going changed to Soft (from Good to Soft) ahead of the Paddy Power Gold Cup