Published: Sat, March 18, 2017
Sport | By Stephen Hansen

Cheltenham Gold Cup - Shaggy's Hot Tip

Cheltenham Gold Cup - Shaggy's Hot Tip

It is Timico Gold Cup day at the Cheltenham Festival on Friday, the day into which the Festival funnels, the race into which the season funnels.

The winning jockey, who won the 2007 Grand National aboard Silver Birch, said: "Jessica Harrington is a genius and I always said that when Sizing John stepped up in trip it would be the making of him".

Standing in the winner's enclosure afterwards, after saddling her tenth Festival victor, Harrington was virtually speechless. This is the jewel in the crown. Champagne Classic was described rather gracelessly by Michael O'Leary as "the worst horse I own", but he will have a special place in the heart of young jockey JJ Slevin, a cousin of Joseph O'Brien, who secured his first Festival victor. I am sitting here, I am about to wake up and it hasn't happened.

Harrington, who took out her training licence in 1987, was the beneficiary when Sizing John was removed from Henry de Bromhead's yard past year. The Gold Cup is a race for young horses. A penny for his thoughts now. As a journalist, the presenter of ITV Racing, and a fan I would love Cue Card to win it.

The Cheltenham Gold Cup is the race that every trainer, jockey and owner in the land wants to win. "I don't know when I'll come down to earth". Henry had done all the work and he bought them.

When with Harry Fry he ran at Newbury and finished second to Top Notch who didn't do the form any harm on Thursday and even if you go to his last run, Mick Jazz beat Cilaos Emery who ran well in the Supreme Novices' on Tuesday.

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"This is right up there, it hasn't sunk it yet".

"When he won at Thurles he didn't win until stamina kicked in and that convinced me he'd stay".

"It's beginner's luck", laughed Harrington, pointing out this was her first runner in the race.

Looking at the roll of honour of female trainers to have won National Hunt racing's greatest prize, they certainly are not your run-of-the-mill women.

"The nicest words I ever heard were "Gold Cup-winning jockey" announced on the podium".

Harrington is the third female trainer to win the Gold Cup after Jenny Pitman (Burrough Hill Lad 1984, Garrison Savannah 1991) and Henrietta Knight (Best Mate 2002-2004). An iron lady, if you will. "He looks like a three-mile chaser and if Douvan hadn't been around he'd have been an incredible two-miler". Three years ago Jezki landed an emotional Champion Hurdle just prior to the death of Harrington's much respected husband, Johnny. Harrington was rushed to hospital in 2005 when she suffered a riding accident in Kenya that left her hospitalised for 12 days. "The fact Douvan is there forced us to step up", she said. "It is fantastic to have won".

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