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Enrilo loses Sandown feature in stewards’ room

Harry Skelton and Paul Nicholls – who were crowned champion jockey and trainer on the afternoon – were denied a dream end to the season when Enrilo lost the bet365 Gold Cup in the stewards’ room, with Potterman the beneficiary.

It looked likely to be the perfect finale for both at Sandown as 7-2 favourite Enrilo made a bold bid for home with three to jump.

Enrilo made a bit of a hash of the second-last, giving his pursuers another chance. They included El Presente, Potterman and Kitty’s Light, as Rachael Blackmore’s mount Plan Of Attack began to weaken having travelled well for a long way.

When Skelton – who picked up the trophy for being leading rider for the first time before racing – got a big leap out of Enrilo at the last he looked to have sealed the deal.

However, despite the champion jockey having his whip in his left hand, Enrilo veered badly away from the rail with serious consequences for Kitty’s Light.

Christian Williams’ five-year-old had worked up a real head of steam after the final fence and was making ground rapidly on Enrilo, only to be stopped in his tracks.

To Enrilo’s credit, once straightened he did pick up again to cross the line first, with Alan King’s 12-1 chance Potterman, on the far side, beaten three-quarters of a length and another short head back to Kitty’s Light in third.

As the disqualified horse has to be placed behind the one it interferes with, Potterman was awarded the race with Kitty’s Light second and Enrilo only third.

King said: “The plan was to give him a prep, but we ran out of time. I haven’t seen the head on, but my view was that if it was in France we would definitely get it.

“I know it’s not the same here, but I’m certainly not going to complain.”

He added: “I’ve not seen James (Potter, joint-owner) since the race and a few weeks ago he did mention possibly putting him in over in America for the American Grand National, which would be an option.

“That was only mentioned a month ago in passing and I’ve not thought any more about it. He is very much a top of the ground horse. I’ve had a runner in America before, Penny Bridge ran in the Virginia Gold Cup in my first year of training. We will just enjoy today, though.”

Nicholls will consider his options, having felt sure Enrilo would keep the race.

He said: “Mine is a big, green horse and when they came to him away he went.

Paul Nicholls was surprised by the outcome of the stewards' inquiry into the bet365 Gold Cup
Paul Nicholls was surprised by the outcome of the stewards’ inquiry into the bet365 Gold Cup (John Walton/PA)

“He made a huge mistake two out, but then ran a bit green. I thought Harry rode a brilliant race and I’d told him not to get there too soon. He certainly wasn’t tired at the end, it was just through his greenness (that he wandered).

“It’s a bit of a strange result really, but it’s just frustrating because the best horse in the race by miles didn’t win the race. He was unlucky that he made a huge mistake at the second-last and still got back up and just like at Newbury he just ran a bit green and a bit open.

“He did cause him some interference, but would that horse he interfered with have definitely won the race?

“I don’t know. I thought straight away after watching on my phone that he’d keep it – even though he’s caused interference – and that’s what I said to the owners.

“I’ve just said to the owners we’ll look at it and see if it’s worth an appeal. We’ll look at the Ladbrokes Trophy next season.”

Williams, meanwhile, said: “I’m proud of my horse. He was the best horse in the race and got a right bang from Enrilo.

“He should have won. I think my horse will strengthen up over the summer and I might aim him at the Ladbrokes Trophy.

“It is tough to take, but I’m very proud of the horse and Jack (Tudor, jockey). We will try to put the disappointment behind us. Cap Du Nord ran an absolute blinder and Nick (Scholfield) gave him a great ride so the future is looking good.

“It was great to be in a finish with Paul Nicholls and Alan King, who are my two biggest supporters. It looks like he could be a Ladbrokes Trophy horse. He seems like he is good over extreme distances. I do think his jumping is getting sharper. We will see what he does over the summer, but it doesn’t look like we have got to the bottom of him.

“He could be a Grand National horse the way the fences are now.”

Mister Fisher out to do Potters proud at Cheltenham

A Cheltenham Festival winner remains the prized target for Mister Fisher’s owners as they reap the rewards from their intertwining business, racing and breeding operations.

Ryanair contender Mister Fisher is owned by James and Jean Potter Ltd and heads to Prestbury Park on Thursday, having triumphed in the relocated Peterborough Chase – which was switched from waterlogged Huntingdon to Cheltenham in December.

James and Jean Potter Ltd own a band of a broodmares, including the newly-purchased full-sister to Champion Bumper favourite Kilcruit, and have been developing their breeding interests since the purchase of Potter’s Gale, a half-sister to Denman, almost 30 years ago.

James Potter is also involved in a team of National Hunt horses owned alongside Walters Plant Hire which run to promote the business activities of the Potter Group – a Welshpool-based business he heads with his daughter Debbie.

From those horses, three hold Cheltenham Festival entries this week – with six-time winner Mister Fisher the Potters’ most obvious prospect of a winner in the Ryanair.

“He’s going for the Ryanair – he’d be about an 8-1 shot for that,” James said.

Mister Fisher and Nico de Boinville will be back at Cheltenham this week
Mister Fisher and Nico de Boinville will be back at Cheltenham this week (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

“Then we’ve got Our Power and Two Taffs entered too – it’s just a shame we won’t be there.”

A good run in the Ryanair could put Mister Fisher on track for next season’s King George VI Chase at Kempton, a race to which trainer Nicky Henderson considers the seven-year-old should be suited.

“We’ll see how he runs, but if he runs well then you’d have to think about it,” said James.

“He’s the sort of horse that race would suit – but he would have to run well at Cheltenham.

“Whether he’s a Gold Cup horse, I don’t know, but Nicky always mentions Kempton.”

At this year’s Festival, Two Taffs’ involvement in Thursday’s Paddy Power Plate is dependent on whether he makes the cut for the final field of 24, with Our Power subject to a similar assessment as his owners hope to line up for the Coral Cup on Wednesday.

Two Taffs and Davy Russell on their way to victory at Ayr in 2017
Two Taffs and Davy Russell on their way to victory at Ayr in 2017 (Jeff Holmes/PA)

Should the latter be denied a run at Cheltenham, he could be rerouted to the consolation Silver Plate Handicap Hurdle at Kempton.

“It’s (the Coral Cup) where we’d like to go, but it’s whether or not he gets in,” said Debbie.

“If not there’s the consolation race at Kempton – and he’ll jump a fence eventually,” James added.

Another promising runner for the group is the Henderson-trained Patroclus, who won two hurdle starts before pulling up in Saturday’s highly-competitive Grade Three EBF Novices’ Hurdle final at Sandown.

“Nicky has always said from the beginning that Patroclus was one he really liked, but time will tell,” Debbie said.

“Nico saved him for another day (at Sandown) – for which we are grateful, because he’s a really nice long-term project and has his whole career ahead.

Patroclus and Nico de Boinville were winners at Doncaster last month
Patroclus and Nico de Boinville were winners at Doncaster last month (Tim Goode/PA)

“He’s been taken out of the race at Cheltenham, but he could go to the Scottish Grand National meeting instead.”

Pencilled in for the same meeting is the homebred eight-year-old Potterman, who is owned under the James and Jean Potter Ltd banner and was last seen unshipping Tom Cannon in the Grade Three Ladbrokes Trophy Chase at Newbury – before which he was beaten just a short head in the Listed Badger Beers Chase at Wincanton.

“I think the Scottish Grand National is quite high on the list,” said Debbie.

“It would be nice to know what would have happened if he had stood up in the Hennessy (Ladbrokes Trophy), and then there was the Badger Ale – beaten a short head – there was quite a lot of shouting going on!”

Scottish Grand National success would complement the 2013 Welsh National victory of Mountainous – a triumph the Potters particularly cherish alongside the success of the homebred Kayf Grace, who won the Grade Two Aintree bumper and is now one of their broodmares.

A Festival winner nonetheless remains high on the agenda for the family, with the Gold Cup the ultimate prize and Cheltenham one of their favourite tracks.

Potterman and James Bowen in action at Bangor
Potterman and James Bowen in action at Bangor (David Davies/PA)

“It’s got to be the Gold Cup, but I’ll settle for any Festival win,” said James.

“There’s nowhere quite like Cheltenham, but we do like Aintree and we’ve had a lot of fun there – and at Bangor, where I’m a director.”

The Potters will not only be closely following their own runners at the Festival, but also the performance of Easysland as he bids to defend his Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase.

Easysland is the highest-profile progeny of Gentlewave, one of six stallions standing at Yorton Farm Stud, a breeding operation based on the Potters’ Leighton Farm Estate and run by David Futter.

The David Cottin-trained seven-year-old also holds an entry in the Grand National, for which he has been allotted top-weight of 11st 10lb.

In 2019 Yorton Stud teamed up with Goffs to host their inaugural bloodstock sale, with the subsequent November Sale in 2020 becoming the scene of the record-breaking purchase of Jonbon, a full-brother to the great Douvan who was sold to JP McManus for £570,000.

Easysland and jockey Jonathan Plouganou winning the Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase at the 2020 Cheltenham Festival
Easysland and jockey Jonathan Plouganou winning the Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase at the 2020 Cheltenham Festival (PA)

The profile of the sale and the breeding operations continue to rise, and the Canter Carpet gallop surface the Potter Group supply to many of their trainers is another example of their innovation in business.

Foresight and long-term relationships underpin the group’s operations, as James Potter himself concluded: “We trust the trainers and we usually agree with them anyway, and we’ve got patience as well – which in this sport you’ve got to have.”