War takes limelight before exit

Thu, Apr 22, 2010, 01:00

RARELY CAN a horse have won a Grade One prize the way Plant Of Sound won last evening’s Guinness Gold Cup and then have been so comprehensively ignored in the aftermath in favour of the runner-up.

War Of Attrition might have come up three and a half lengths short of Plant Of Sound but the 2006 Cheltenham Gold Cup hero belied both his 20 to 1 odds, and his veteran status, to almost claim a perfect sentimental farewell to racing.

Despite holding an entry in today’s big hurdle, War Of Attrition’s owner Michael O’Leary caught the mood of the adoring Punchestown crowd perfectly in insisting that all that lies in front of War Of Attrition now is a rare first-class Ryanair ticket to a luxury retirement.

“Apart from the birth of my children, this horse has given me the best days of my life,” Ryanair boss O’Leary said. “I’m thrilled with him and it was a terrific training performance by Mouse (Morris) to have him ready to run such a race. We’ll hunt him for a couple of winters just to keep him active but don’t forget, he beat all the other Irish horses there, and beat another Gold Cup winner in Denman.”

In fact if War Of Attrition was the primary focus of attention after the €225,000 festival feature, then it was Denman who consumed much of the rest of the post-race analysis.

Tony McCoy endured a nightmare ride on the Paul Nicholls-trained star whose previously suspected aversion to racing right-handed was confirmed with a display of hanging that had his jockey occasionally resembling a raw apprentice being run away with.

Ultimately McCoy looked to perform a minor miracle in having Denman in contention up the straight but the 2008 Gold Cup winner ended up losing out on third to Cooldine.

“Obviously he has got to go the other way and that’s what we’ll do in next season’s Hennessy. We’ll keep him left-handed,” Nicholls shrugged afterwards. “The thing is until you go and do it, you never know. He certainly never does anything like that at home. He ran some race given the ground he gave way.”

Even Cooldine’s trainer Willie Mullins was left wondering if an interrupted season, which had seen the former RSA winner run just three times previously this season, had caught out his hope.

“We’ve been playing catch up all the time,” he said. “But we’ll look forward to next season when he might be back here for the John Durkan.”

The Plant Of Sound team of Philip Hobbs and Richard Johnson might have been forgiven for getting the hump after getting their 14 to 1 shot to return to form with such aplomb but that is rarely the English team’s style. Instead there was a united view that next season’s King George at Kempton could be ideal for their charge.

“He has been a forgotten horse and I couldn’t believe his price,” Hobbs said. “It was his first time at three miles but he stayed fine and now we can dream all summer. He could start off in something like the Betfair Chase at Haydock and then the King George would be the aim. We can dream on after that.”

And in terms of attention, the eight-year-old Plant Of Sound has plenty of time to carve out a career that will guarantee him an emotional send-off too.