There were more runners from Ireland than the north at Cheltenham’s November meeting but the Yorkshire stable of Sue and Harvey Smith claimed the first big handicap scalp of the season when it won the Paddy Power Gold Cup with Midnight Shadow on Saturday.
The eight-year-old, who already had some smart form at the course having won there twice previously, and Ryan Mania had just challenged for the lead but were left about eight lengths clear when long time leader and last year’s winner Coole Cody fell at the second last. However the journey home from there was far from comfortable watching for Sue Smith.
Midnight Shadow stumbled on landing over the last and then decided to idle up the run-in, making him a sitting target for the closing pack led by the 11/2 favourite Protektorat. All out, he hung on by three-quarters of a length and he will now attempt to follow in the footsteps of Bachelor’s Hall who, in 1977, won this off 10st 6lb and went on to win the King George VI Chase at Kempton.
“It’s out of this world, we only had one horse to bring down here and he’s always been a good horse – so he’s paid us back today,” said Sue Smith. “It was terrifying to watch! There aren’t many horses that could have done what he’s done at the last and I just thought ‘that’s it’ – but he picked himself up and kept going.
“It is special for everyone because we’re only a small yard and the northern yards don’t get to do this very often.
“I’ve got 45-50 at the yard but they’re not all Midnight Shadows! These are once in a lifetime horses, the same as Auroras Encore was, and that old boy is stood in a field looking very well now. Harvey bought Midnight Shadow at Doncaster Sales and he’s by Midnight Legend and he was bred by Mr Smith-Maxwell, who has the horse ambulance here.”
“I’m sure it is emotional for most jockeys but it is especially emotional for me to have retired and come back and do all this for my family,” he said. “There are no plans to retire again, I’ve got a good 10 years in me yet.”
You can read the full report from Cheltenham’s November meeting in this week’s Horse & Hound, out Thursday 18 November.
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