With the Irish Gold Cup at Leopardstown on the horizon, Joseph Smyth (@j_smythracing) takes a look back at some famous winners of the race...
Seven Grade 1s. €1.5 million in prize money. The inaugural running of the Dublin Racing Festival is just a couple of weeks away and the excitement is starting to mount. Along with the Irish Champion Hurdle, the feature of the two day meeting will be the Unibet Irish Gold Cup.
Previously known as the Hennessy Gold Cup, this historic race has thrown up some spectacular finishes in recent years. Class always seems to rise to the top in this three-mile Grade 1 and below I have taken a look at some of the most memorable races in the last 15 years of this staying chase.
Sizing John – 2017
When Sizing John stayed on in the closing stages to beat Sub Lieutenant in the Kilnoch Brae Chase at Thurles last January, his unrewarding days of chasing Douvan around over two miles were over.
Second behind the Willie Mullins principal on five occasions, Sizing John would have been grateful to new trainer Jessica Harrington when he got to the two-and a-half mile start at Thurles, to spot that Douvan was nowhere to be seen.
Such was the authority of his victory in the Grade 3 at the County Tipperary track, the son of Midnight Legend was sent off the 10/3 second favourite for the Irish Gold Cup, despite having never attempted the three-mile trip before. Partnered by Robbie Power who had ruptured a disc in his back just over a fortnight previously, he made light of the testing conditions and always travelled smoothly under Power.
Turning for the home the six runners were covered by just three-lengths, but it was the famous Potts silks that could be easily highlighted as travelling best. A confident jump at the last meant Sizing John landed in front and he responded well to the more animated urges of Power to hold off the strong finishing Empire Of Dirt by three-parts of a length, with Don Poli back in third.
Sizing John became just one of three horses to win the Irish Gold Cup and the Cheltenham Gold Cup in the same year.
Carlingford Lough - 2015
Carlingford Lough has put together some champion displays in the Hennessy Gold Cup. Beaten just five-lengths by Sizing John in last year’s renewal, John Kiely’s charge is one of few multiple winners of the race.
A 12-length victory in 2016, from a position entering the home straight that all looked lost, it was his win in 2015 that produced a memorable finish.
Carlingford Lough was coming into the Hennessy having finished fifth behind Tidal Bay in the Lexus Chase at Christmas and was to be partnered by Tony McCoy, who 24 hours earlier had stunned the racing world in announcing he would retire at the end of the season. McCoy was looking for his first win in the Grade 1. The script was written.
Fancied at odds of 4/1, John Kiely’s charge raced smoothly in mid-division. Having made a few jumping errors, the JP McManus-owned horse had to be galvanised by the 19-time jockey champion after making another mistake at the second-last fence.
Ridden entering the straight and still with plenty of work to do, both he and the Ted Walsh-trained Foxrock pulled clear after the final fence. With McCoy having a willing partner in Carlingford Lough, the pair edged clear in the closing stages to win by three-parts of a length.
Sir Des Champs - 2013
Only four lined-up for the 2013 renewal of the Hennessy Gold Cup. Willie Mullins accounted for half of the field with Sir Des Champs and Quel Esprit, while Peter Casey ran the fancied Flemenstar and Paul Nolan sent 2010 winner Joncol.
Sir Des Champs began the season having finished a five-length second to Flemenstar in the Grade 1 John Durkan at Punchestown over two-and half miles. Having finished fourth in the Lexus at Christmas, a short-head behind Flemenstar, he was sent off the 11/8 second favourite behind that rival.
Under Davy Russell, Sir Des Champs tracked stable mate Quel Esprit until making headway to lead from three-out. Ridden entering the straight, Russell steadied him going into the last and allowed him to take his time to negotiate it safely. Over with a couple of lengths in hand, Flemenstar who had been held onto for as long as possible by Andrew Lynch began to throw down his challenge.
Having got to within a length, it was Sir Des Champs under a strong Russell drive who saw it out the better and came home just under two-lengths to the good.
Sir Des Champs who was the last horse to win the race for Mullins, went on to finish second in the Cheltenham equivalent on his next outing, beaten seven-lengths by the Nicky Henderson-trained Bobs Worth.