The Whitbread’s top chasing stars of the past
Whistlejacket on a golden era for the Whitbread Gold Cup
Back in the day the Whitbread Gold Cup was a serious race contested by top chasers. Horses which had contested or even won the Cheltenham Gold Cup or Grand National would rock up at Sandown to contest an eagerly awaited season finale.
The race is run over three miles and five furlongs and 22 fences so it needed a horse with stamina to win and one able to get into a good rhythm particularly over the seven obstacles on the far side of the course.
In 1988 Desert Orchid was 6/1 to win the race, as there were doubts expressed over his stamina. Remember that he had won the Tingle Creek at Sandown over two miles and was renowned at that time as a dual winner of the King George over three miles.
He jumped superbly and though pestered for the lead by Run and Skip and even headed by that horse at least twice, was given a breather before the Pond Turn by Simon Sherwood and galloped on to a gutsy victory from Kildimo and Strands of Gold.
In 1990 the Grand National winner no less turned up, ridden by Mr Marcus Armytage. Somehow, I don’t see that happening today.
As at Aintree just a few weeks earlier Mr Frisk gave a bold front running performance on good ground and won by many lengths from Durham Edition.Another National winner Seagram was also in the field and he went on to beat Garrison Savannah the next year at Aintree.
In 1996 there was a cracking renewal with a cast list including Barton Bank, Young Hustler, Jodami (fourth), Amtrak Express (third), Feathered Gale (fifth) and Topsham Bay. But it was Life of a Lord at 12/1 with Charlie Swan riding for AP O’Brien who won as easily as Mr Frisk had done six years earlier. I wondered what happened to that Irish jumps trainer who trained the winner!
Finally, in 2000 Beau showed that a front running, even-paced ride is often the way to go at Sandown. Trained by Nigel Twiston-Davies and ridden by Carl Llewellyn, he had finished second to Marlborough in the William Hill chase at the Festival in March but just galloped all his rivals into the ground on a beautiful sunny day at Sandown, pulling a distance clear of 100/1 shot Folly Road in second.
And there were some good opponents in this race: Bouchasson (fourth), Young Kenny (pulled-up), Paddys Return (third) and Escartefigue (pulled-up) amongst them.
Maybe the race isn’t what it was as Punchestown has eclipsed Sandown as a target for the top trainers at the end of the season. But it’s still a shame to miss it this year and a treat to watch the true stars on video that won the race in the past.
The featured photo by horseracingphoto.co.uk is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 UK: England & Wales License.
The Secret Racegoer’s guide to Sandown Park http://wp.me/p8e3Dl-2g7