Waiting game for Midnight Shadow ahead of Kempton feature

SUE Smith says Midnight Shadow lost nothing in defeat after finishing a close third in the Racing Post Gold Cup – Cheltenham’s feature pre-Christmas handicap.

Coole Cody (left) and Midnight Shadow (right) jump the last in the Racing Post Gold Cup at Cheltenham.
Coole Cody (left) and Midnight Shadow (right) jump the last in the Racing Post Gold Cup at Cheltenham.

The race was won by Coole Cody, who had fallen in last month’s prestigious Paddy Power Gold Cup at the track when Smith’s stable star prevailed under Ryan Mania.

However, Coole Cody’s jumping held up over the final two fences under Adam Wedge while the Yorkshire challenger brushed through the top of the second last before being slightly hampered at the final obstacle.

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But Smith, who trains on Baildon Moor, believes this did not alter the outcome after Midnight Shadow was touched off by Zanza in a photo in the race for second.

Coole Cody (left) and Midnight Shadow (right) jump the last in the Racing Post Gold Cup at Cheltenham.

“He’s gone up seven pounds for his last win. We were carrying 11 pounds more than the winner and nine pounds more than the second horse,” she told The Yorkshire Post. “He’s run a great race and we can’t complain about him – he’s been absolutely brilliant.”

She reported the horse, owned by Cyril and Aafke Clarke, to have taken the race well. “He’s grand. He’s out in the field as we speak. I was very pleased. You could not be more delighted with him and that performance.”

Midnight Shadow does still hold an entry in the feature King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day if connections decide the race – and step up in trip to three miles – is appropriate.

However, Smith says no immediate decision will be taken – this was Midnight Shadow’s third eye-catching run on the bounce since putting down a marker for the 2021-22 campaign by finishing third to Allmankind in Aintree’s Old Road Chase on October 24. “We will wait and see how he is for a week,” she added.

Coole Cody (left) and Midnight Shadow (right) jump the last in the Racing Post Gold Cup at Cheltenham.

As for the winner, Coole Cody’s jockey Wedge was simply relieved to make amends for last month’s mishap when his horse and Midnight Shadow were vying for the lead. History was repeating itself as the two protagonists turned for home.

Wedge said: “Once I got the front, he just starts taking me and enjoying it. He gallops and I knew he wouldn’t lie down. It’s a shame what happened the last day, but it was brilliant he’s gone and done that today. The team have done a fantastic job getting the horse’s confidence back.”

Winning trainer Evan Williams, whose Cappa Bleu chased home the Smith-trained Auroras Encore in the 2013 Grand National, added: “With a lot of horses you’re always nervous after a fall, but when this horse falls on the floor he thinks it’s a bit of fun!

“If he never wins another race in his life, he’s a 10-year-old who has done nothing but try and help us every time he goes to a racecourse.”

Knight Salute maintained his 100 per cent record over jumps when completing a four-timer in the bet365 Summit Juvenile Hurdle at Doncaster.

The Milton Harris-trained three-year-old put up a gutsy display under Paddy Brennan and put down a marker for next year’s JCB Triumph Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival.

“It was harder today, the ground was deeper, I was committed down to the last I needed to wing it, I did, but he’s good,” said Brennan.

“It’s a £60,000 race thanks to the sponsors, a great bit of placement by Milton and a lovely race to win on a Saturday.”

As for what is next Brennan said: “It’s hard to say, we’ll let him do the talking on the track, It’s only going to get harder, but he’s earned enough money today to help towards Santa Claus. Milton’s doing well, he really believed in him.

“He rang me three times to tell me he was going to win.”

Threeunderthrufive made it three out of four over fences as the improving youngster obliged in the bet365 December Novices’ Chase for champion trainer Paul Nicholls and jockey Adrian Heskin.

Although not blown away by the performance, Heskin was keen to point out the son of Shantou is getting better with every run.

He said: “The fences take a bit of jumping round here and his mind gets idle very quickly. He just drifts off and puts in the odd average jump.”