In his first appearance for trainer Alan King it was Annacotty that took the Paddy Power Gold Cup at Cheltenham.
Ridden by regular partner Ian Popham, the seven-year-old held off the late flurry of Buywise to win the Grade 3 chase. Settled in mid-division, he looked out-paced coming down the hill but responded bravely to Popham’s urgings and stayed on powerfully up the famous hill.
For a jockey that has suffered from so many injuries over the years, the result was particularly thrilling. “I've had a lot of injuries and I thought I'd struggle this season so I want to say a huge thank you to the owners and Mr King for giving me the ride,” said Popham. “I was hoping it would rain as I knew he had the stamina, he jumped brilliantly, travelled where I wanted him and dug very deep.”
It was the horse’s first run for Alan King since leaving Marin Keighley’s yard. “We've been happy with him at home and I think the change of scenery has helped as he certainly thinks about things,” King said. “His mother was actually the first winner I ever trained, so I have always had an eye on him and I feel sorry for Martin. The horse was going to move and if I hadn't taken him someone else would.”
Annacotty had provided owner Liz Prowting and trainer Martin Keighley with their first Grade I success on Boxing Day of 2013, with an emphatic victory in the Feltham Novices Chase at Kempton Park. But although the horse had won at Cheltenham back in January, the owner felt the time was right to switch stables. It’s pretty clear that the move has had the desired effect.
Speaking of the horse and the change of yards Prowting said: “We thought Annacotty might need a move to sweeten him up. Ian understands him and comes down specially to school him. He’s tough and I knew he would keep going.”
For the runner-up it was yet another case of so near and yet so far. Things so nearly fell into place for Buywise, but once again the finishing line arrived too soon, denying him a famous victory. His jockey Paul Moloney had been hard at work from some way out, but like the winner, the horse responded well for pressure and again flew up the hill.
He did win the Silver Trophy Chase at the track in April 2014, and is clearly handicapped to go close again. Traffic issues will always play a part in these big handicaps, but it would come as no surprise to see him back for another crack in next month’s Caspian Caviar Gold Cup.
Paul Nicholls will have been thrilled with the performance of top-weight Sound Investment. Still only a seven-year-old, he continues to improve at a rate of knots, and a rating of 159 is unlikely to prevent him from taking another valuable handicap chase in the near future. He’s the type that could develop into a Ryanair Chase contender at the Festival in March. Taranis took that event in 2007 for Team Ditcheat and had a very similar profile.
Once again the Paddy Power Gold Cup provided a thrilling finish and plenty of pointers for an exciting season that lies ahead.