FIVE days after Barnsley-born miner and multi-millionaire engineer Alan Potts passed away, his colours were carried to an emotional Cheltenham victory by Finian’s Oscar.
The typically cussed Yorkshireman, whose Sizing John is the reigning Gold Cup victor, would have been proud – the victor had to show tremendous guts on the run-in to land the Steel Plate & Sections Novices’ Chase.
A race previously won by subsequent Gold Cup heroes Denman and Imperial Commander, the jumping of Finian’s Oscar was far from fluent before the former Grade One-winning hurdler produced a swift turn of foot on the run-in to deny Movewiththetimes.
Potts, 80, died on Sunday just weeks after his wife Ann passed away. “He’s a class horse. To win this for Alan was great. There’s a fair bit of Alan in this horse to be fair as, when push comes to shove, he keeps finding more and never gives in,” said trainer Colin Tizzard.
“This is as nice a horse as we’ve had for a while because he races behind the bridle. By that I mean that you need to ask for a bit but, when you ask, he finds.
“You forget that he’s only five-years-old and to give eight pounds to some decent horses, it’s a good performance. It was only this time last year that he won his point to point.
“We also saw something today that we haven’t seen before in that he could be a two miler. A strongly-run two miles could be right up his street come March. We’ll learn more as the season goes on but he’s been very professional today.”
The victory was a first for jockey Bryan Cooper since he partnered Finian’s Oscar to a winning chase debut at Chepstow on October 14. It’s a barren, and humbling, run for a rider who won the 2016 Gold Cup on Don Cossack before losing his job as retained rider to Gigginstown House Stud.
Though he is trying to ride in both Britain and Ireland, opportunities are limited and time spent travelling limits Cooper’s availability to ride out for specific trainers. He probably needs to make a permanent switch to this side of the Irish Sea if his faltering career is to be re-ignited.
Paying tributes to Potts, the jockey said: “He is going to be a big loss to our game because he was a big spender and he loved these good horses. I am very grateful to be riding horses of this quality. Unfortunately, things have dried up a little bit for me in Ireland and it is very good to be able to get on these good horses – they are not easy to come by. I am used to riding them and hope that I can continue riding them.”
Meanwhile, Kingswell Theatre made all to win to the Glenfarclass Cross Country Chase for jockey Tom Scudamore who was previously sceptical about the merit of this unique race.
Riding for his brother Michael, Kingswell Theatre held on tenaciously after the last. “It’s not such a stupid race now is it?” said the jockey. “It’s just like going hunting again. It takes you back to when you were a kid – you just go from fence to fence and try and remember where you’re going. It’s less about positioning and more about keeping your horse happy and moving forward.
“It’s great for all the team –Michael said he was as fit as he could be. I’m very greedy – any winner is good – but of course it’s special to ride one for Michael. I swore to myself that I would never ride in these races – I have never really liked them – but I enjoyed that!
“He filled up with confidence all the way through and was in good order. That was tremendous, absolutely marvellous.”
As for the winning trainer, Scudamore has a possible Grand National contender to replace the now retired Monbeg Dude. “Kate, my fiancée, looks after the horse and does all the hard work with him every day,” he said.
“I think I owe Tom a drink after that ride. The one thing that Tom does do – through Dad, I suppose, and the Pipe years – is that he a brilliant judge of pace. He got that about spot-on today.”
Harry Fry is a hoping a long-term plan comes to fruition when Kylemore Lough makes his first appearance for the Dorset trainer in the BetVictor Gold Cup at Cheltenham today.
Fry has had this valuable prize in mind ever since he was sent the Grade One-winning eight-year-old from Kerry Lee’s stable in late spring.
“We’ve been grafting away at home and we are happy with his progress and what he has shown us,” he said.