Coole Cody ran the opposition ragged as he made all the running to win the ultra-competitive Paddy Power Gold Cup at Cheltenham.
The Evan Williams-trained nine-year-old kept pulling out more to ward off all-comers and land the prestigious handicap chase in determined fashion.
There was early drama when Siruh Du Lac, who was sharing the lead with Coole Cody and Simply The Betts, unseated Tom Scudamore at the first fence.
That gave Coole Cody the opportunity to open up a 10-length lead as the field set out for the final circuit under Tom O’Brien, who was replacing the injured Adam Wedge.
Despite making the odd mistake, Coole Cody (10-1) maintained his momentum as rivals such as Happy Diva and Saint Sonnet came down.
Spiritofthegames (14-1) tried to put in a late bid but Coole Cody would not be denied and went on to score by three and a quarter lengths. Al Dancer (5-1 favourite) was another length away third, with Kauto Riko (50-1) a staying-on fourth.
Williams said: “They are very hard races to win and we are usually second, third and fourth in all these big races – we have been second, third and fourth in them all! But if you keep trying, you’ll get there in the end.
“Wedgy is out injured and it’s a disappointment for him, but Tom has ridden me loads of winners over the years. We have had some bad luck stories here with Tom in the past, so it’s great he’s got a good one on the board.”
The Vale of Glamorgan trainer went on: “We got lucky with a few loose horses at the right time and he just kept him going. It was a bit rough and ready out there, but it’s not a beauty contest. You saw him nearly fall in front of the stands. He was down, but that probably just woke him up.
“I didn’t think he had gone too quick, the horse was pricking his ears down the back straight.
“He can be a funny old horse at times, but when he gets the bit between his teeth and gets rolling, he is a tough horse. I don’t mean he is funny in that he doesn’t want to do it, I mean he is a funny character.
“If he could do things the hard way all the time, he would do it the hard way. If he wanted to do it an easier way he could, but if there were two directions, he would always choose the hard way.
“If he could go to the pub and have a fight he would prefer to do that rather than sit in front of a fire with his slippers. It doesn’t matter what we do now, as he has won a Paddy Power. I don’t care what he does from now on.”
On whether the horse might come back to Cheltenham next month, Williams added: “We will see how things go.
“At the end of the day it is job done as far as I’m concerned with him. If we dropped him back to novice company, he could be dangerous in some of those small-field novice chases.
“There’s some great twos (mile) races around Ascot that spring to mind – two-mile-five, two-mile-three round there could be right up his street, and he doesn’t have to go into big handicaps and get slaughtered, he could tickle away in novice chases because he could be dangerous in some of them.
“As far as his mark is concerned, that is going to get blown out of the water now and he might win a Grade Two. Whether he’s a Grade One horse is debatable, but he could win a Grade Two over fences.”
O’Brien said: “I am absolutely delighted, thank you very much to the Evan Williams team. I’m sorry for Wedgy, who I am stepping in for, but I am delighted to take the opportunity.
“I am a second jockey, my good opportunities are few and far between and I would like to think I take them when I get them.”
Dan Skelton was again proud of Spiritofthegames – and sincerely hope a big race goes the way of the eight-year-old soon.
He said: “He has been second so many times and I thought we were going to win one. To be fair to the winner he pulled out more when we got to him.
“I desperately want him to win one as he has been second and third in all the top handicaps here. He has been a bridesmaid in all off them, just please one day one of them I’d like one to go his way.
“He had a chance, but what more can you say he has only won one chase in his life – he has been a bridesmaid so many times. It is not because he is ungeniune. He puts his heart on the line, the handicapper has his say and there is often a more progressive horse than him.
“I think I will miss the December race as he has had a hard race there and go for the New Year’s Day race. He is entered in the Sefton (at Aintree), but I probably don’t need to subject him to that really.”