No Yorkshire horse has won this top middle-distance handicap chase since Ferdy Murphy’s L’Antartqiue prevailed in 2007 and victory would compensate Jefferson for the injury setback that has ruled out top novice Cyrus Darius for the remainder of the season.
Even though Oscar Rock has gone up in the handicap following a victory at Market Rasen which oozed class and confidence, Jefferson appears confident. “It is always a highly competitive race and he’s gone up another 8lb, but he has to go there with a real chance,” said the Malton trainer.
“We brought him back after his summer break for a good race at Market Rasen and he won as he liked – he travelled so strongly Brian Hughes had a job to hold on to him. He has trained beautifully since then and it is all systems go for the Paddy Power Gold Cup.
“He didn’t quite go on over hurdles, but we sent him chasing last season and he hasn’t looked back. We put some headgear on him because he can idle when he hits the front, not because he’s ungenuine, and that made a hell of a difference. He travels like a real quality horse and the ground won’t make a difference to him.”
However, it remains to be seen whether Oscar Rock’s opponents will include Next Sensation, who won the concluding two-mile chase at the Cheltenham Festival in March for trainer Michael Scudamore, who wants to step the horse up in trip, but is fearful that the ground will be too testing for his front-runner.
“We won’t go there if it’s too soft,” said the trainer.
Reigning champion Irving is one of 20 entries for the StanJames.com Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle on November 28.
Paul Nicholls’s seven-year-old returned to action at Wincanton last week and despite top weight he brushed aside some smart rivals in the Elite Hurdle.
Dan Downie. representing Irving’s owners, the Axom Syndicate, said: “He was very good and we were very happy with him. He’d come back well from his summer break and the soft ground helped him.
“He’d had a wind op and he looked a good deal better than at any stage last season. Paul said he’d left a bit to work on with the aim of the Fighting Fifth, so it’s all positive. There’s some nice second-season hurdlers he’ll be taking on, but we’ve got the experience up our sleeve.”
Among the youngsters are the Nicky Henderson-trained trio of Peace And Co, Top Notch and Hargam, the first three home in the Triumph Hurdle.
Danny Cook is riding with confidence at present and he was victorious at Bangor aboard Sikandar in the Albert Bartlett Juvenile Maiden Hurdle for Malton trainer Brian Ellison.
Cook has struck up a good relationship with Ellison as well as the Grand National-winning combination of Sue and Harvey Smith.
Epsom Derby and Arc hero Golden Horn was confirmed as horse of the year at the 25th Cartier Racing Awards with Injured Jockeys Fund vice president Jack Berry receiving the lifetime achievement accolade.