Lord Atterbury suffered a disappointing end to a glorious month when he was withdrawn at yesterday’s final declaration stage for the Betfred Gold Cup at Sandown on Saturday.
Lord Atterbury had been 7-1 favourite at the beginning of this week, but owner David Johnson explained that the gelding ran a tough race at Aintree three weeks ago, when he held on for a valiant third place in the Grand National, and that trainer Martin Pipe had been awaiting test results on Thursday.
The trainer said on his website: “Even though he is well in and will go up 5lbs in future, the horse’s well being comes first, and he is not quite ready for Saturday’s Betfred Gold Cup.”
The horse was just one of eight from Martin Pipe’s stable due to run in the 3m5f contest, and all seven others have been declared. These include Stormez, who was second here last year. He carries much more weight this year but winning partnership Tony McCoy and Martin Pipe could further confirm their champion status if he came home victorious.
Pipe-trained Iznogoud found the competition just a little too good last year, although he looks to be enjoying improved form this time. Bounce Back won this race in 2002, and although his form appears to have waned over recent months, his past performances at Sandown have demonstrated that this is one of his favourite tracks.
New market leader Shardam comes to this race relatively fresh. He unseated his rider at the third fence in the Grand National, although his second place in the National Hunt Handicap Chase at Cheltenham in March is considered a better indication of his form and ability. The withdrawal of Lord Atterbury saw the Nigel Twiston-Davies-trained seven-year-old’s price cut to 4-1.
Top weight in the race is carried by Whats Up Boys. The Phillip Hobbs-trained gelding was considered a good prospect in this year’s Grand National until he was brought down at Becher’s, but he does not seem to have rediscovered his form since his return from injury in February.
If this year’s top chases are anything to go by, the winner of Saturday’s Gold Cup will have course experience (Best Mate won at Cheltenham, Amberleigh House at Aintree, and Grey Abbey at Ayr). King’s Mistral fits this bill, and indeed he is undefeated in four out of his five starts at Sandown during the last 18 months.
The champion trainer title may be beyond Paul Nicholls this season, but he provides some very decent competition in Saturday’s race. Royal Auclair has won at this course and recent outings have seen him defeat some of the leading contenders in this field, while his older stablemate Fasgo is on arguably the best form of his life, and has come first and second in his two trips over these fences.