Sparkling display by Danoli
CHEERS and tears, that was the outcome of a highly emotional Hennessy Cognac Gold Cup at Leopardstown yesterday as Danoli proved that he was not just a good novice but a major player over fences, taking the scalps of two Cheltenham Gold Cup winners in the process.
In the two all the way, Danoli had to win his race twice, as first Imperial Call threw down his challenge from four fences out and then, when he weakened on the final turn, a new challenger emerged in the shape of the race specialist, Jodami.
Halfway up the straight it looked anyone's race, but Danoli is a hard horse to head and he hung on grimly to win by one and a half lengths. Imperial Call, who got very tired in the straight, was another 20 lengths away third, and, putting the true stamp of quality on the field, as good a horse as Merry Gale was another 25 lengths further back in fourth place.
There was ecstatic scenes as Danoli returned to the winner's enclosure, and one punter spoke for so many as he shouted in my ear "when my heart did not stop there, it never will. That is what racing is all about".
The grief, though, centred around the fate of the runner-up. It transpired that he went lame on the off-fore in the last 100 yards, and Peter Beaumont was fighting hard to keep the tears back as he spoke of the supreme courage shown by this 12-year-old who had enjoyed Hennessy Cognac Gold Cup glory with a 1993/95 hat-trick. Jodami may never run again.
Tommy Treacy paid tribute to Danoli's trainer Tom Foley and owner Dan O'Neill who had kept faith with him even though the partnership had twice fallen in its three previous chases.
"He is such a tough horse," said Treacy, "that I elected to make the most use of him I could, and once I discovered that he was enjoying himself jumping from fence to fence with The Grey Monk, I knew he would be hard to beat."
imperial Call returned with what Fergie Sutherland said was a superficial cut and the trainer admitted that the horse was not as race-fit as he thought he was. "That will bring him on three stone, and a run in the Red Mills Trial Chase at Gowran Park should have him cherry ripe for Cheltenham."
The bookmakers reaction to what they saw was highly confusing, as a review of the best Tote Gold Cup prices obtainable from Ladbrokes, William Hill, Corals and Sean Graham shows. Imperial Call remains favourite (6-1, Ladbrokes), with Dorans Pride (7-1, Corals) , Danoli (8-1, Ladbrokes), Coome Hill (8-1, with every one) and Dublin Flyer (10-1, Sean Graham).
An unhappy afternoon for Fergie Sutherland was rounded off when Tempo, having got home by half a length from Cailin Supreme in the York Racecourse Flat Race, lost the race in the stewards' room for interference in the final furlong.
The Gold Cup may have overshadowed everything else on a spectacular afternoon of jumping fare watched by an 18,000 crowd, who betted £1,036,000 with the bookmakers (1996 - £838,000), but a genuine eye-catching performance was that of Dorans Pride in the Scalp Novice Chase.
See More Business, who had run him to a length at Fairyhouse, took him on again, but Dorans Pride was always dictating the race and a mouth-watering clearance at the third-last fence guaranteed victory. This was the 16th win for Dorans Pride and, in 24 starts, he has only finished out of the first two twice. Not even the 25-race, 16-win Danoli can match his overall consistency, and he is the Ladbroke and William Hill favourite for the Tote Gold Cup, both quoting him at 4 to 1.
Commanche Court, who won the Austrian Derby last year, made a winning Irish debut in the Spring Juvenile Hurdle in the colours of financier Dermot Desmond.
Desmond's sparring partner J P McManus had a one-two in the Deloitte and Touche Novice Hurdle, with the 4 to 11 favourite Istabraq holding off stablemate Finnegans Hollow by a head. Neither Charlie Swan nor Conor O'Dwyer went for their whips, and Swan showed the finesse that has made him the perennial champion by getting Istabraq up.
thinking of the winner in terms of the Champion Hurdle, but the near miss by Finnegans Hollow reflected well on Kevin Prendergast's I'm Supposin, who had beaten him by nine lengths at Naas a week earlier.