MUD-SPLATTERED Sam Twiston-Davies’s relief was plain to see when the gallant grey Politologue cleared the last fence and won the 88Bet Haldon Gold Cup at a rain-softened Exeter.
This, after all, is the horse that left the jump jockey disconsolate after stumbling at Aintree on Grand National day with a Grade One novice chase apparently at their mercy.
Now there is every possibility of Politologue living up to his promise in the top two-mile chases, starting with next month’s Tingle Creek at Sandown and then the Queen Mother Champion Chase at Cheltenham next March.
That latter race would mean the world to owner John Hales as he prepares for the 20th anniversary of the subsequently ill-fated One Man’s emotional win in the ultimate test for steeplechasing speedsters.
“We thought we’d won it at Aintree,” said Hales. “I’ve never had a horse trip before. He landed perfectly then he tripped, but (yesterday) was perfection.
“That was how to jump at speed. He settled well. The ground helped him to settle.
“I was delighted with his performance and I thought it was excellent.
“I’m sure the Tingle Creek is where we will go. It will be some race. I won’t say he will beat Altior, but I think he will give him a good race.”
It was not totally straight-forward for the Paul Nicholls-trained Politologue late on; stablemate San Benedeto, the beneficiary of the grey’s Aintree misfortune, closed in the final stages as Twiston-Davies’s mount got very tired in the arduous conditions.
The disappointments of the illustrious race were top weight Ar Mad and Malton trainer Brian Ellison’s Forest Bihan. Neither looked like getting involved at any stage and were both pulled up.
Yet it was certainly a day to remember for Twiston-Davies who completed a fabulous four-timer courtesy of wins aboard Dynamite Dollars, Ballyoptic and Norse Light.
Twiston-Davies said: “You always dream of having days like this, but it doesn’t often happen.”
Succeeding the mercurial Ruby Walsh as first jockey to the aforementioned Nicholls was never going to be easy, but he continues to grow into the role with maturity and an easy-going personality that remains endearing.
Now 25, he is only a year older than retired Flat jockey Joseph O’Brien, the rising star of the training ranks in Ireland, and whose St Leger fourth Rekindling won the Emirates Melbourne Cup – the race that stops Australia.
Confidently ridden by Corey Brown, Rekindling outpointed Johannes Vermeer – trained by O’Brien’s record-breaking father Aidan – and Max Dynamite from the yard of National Hunt trainer Willie Mullins to complete a clean sweep for Ireland. Ebor winner Nakeeta, trained in Scotland by Iain Jardine, was fifth.
“I can’t quite believe it yet,” said O’Brien junior. “It hasn’t really sunk in yet to be honest. He had a very light weight and Corey gave him a great ride. It’s not often in a big race like that the whole run goes so well. I’m over the moon.”
Co-owner Lloyd Williams, who was winning the race for the sixth time, said of the victorious trainer: “I’m so proud of this young man – he’s a star. I’ve been telling people the father needs to watch out.”
Cheltenham Gold Cup hero Sizing John will star among 11 entries for the Betfair Chase at Haydock on November 25.
Jessica Harrington’s charge, owned by Barnsley-born Alan Potts, won the Irish Gold Cup at Leopardstown and the Punchestown Gold Cup either side of his blue riband triumph at Prestbury Park in March to confirm himself the undisputed top dog in the staying chase division last season.
Harrington has confirmed he will make his reappearance on Merseyside with a view to having a crack at the Jockey Club Triple Crown. A £1m bonus is on offer for any horse who can win the Betfair Chase, the King George at Kempton and the Gold Cup at Cheltenham.
The Colin Tizzard-trained Cue Card is declared in spite of a heavy fall in Saturday’s Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby.
“He had warmed into the Wetherby race really well and was going as good as anything on Saturday,” said Tizzard’s son and assistant Joe. “He would have won or finished very close. If he had done so, you would be seriously bullish about Cue Card winning the Betfair Chase for a fourth time at Haydock Park where the track suits him particularly well.”