Gwanako realises Sole ambition
Lance Bombardier Jody Sole needed a little help from champion trainer Paul Nicholls to finally get his hands on Sandown's Royal Artillery Gold Cup.
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Dating back to 1863, the prize is one of the oldest events in the calendar and raises the curtain for a small series of races at the Esher course restricted to amateur riders from the Armed Services.
Nicholls was happy to engage active point-to-point jockey Sole for Gwanako as he had won the Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother Memorial Hunters' Chase aboard the gelding last season.
Gwanako has found things tough in regulation handicap chases, but Nicholls has collected the race four times previously with similar individuals and the 7-4 favourite was produced late on the scene to draw eight lengths clear of Fine Parchment.
"I've been second in it a few times, including last year and the year before," said Sole.
"I've won the Grand Military Gold Cup and the Queen Mother Memorial, but being an ex-King's Troop, Royal Artillery man, it means a lot to finally win it.
"Lots of the riders don't ride in races very often, so I wanted to hold on and not hit the front too soon. It's a different feeling riding a 130-rated chaser, but I'll be back to maiden points on Sunday."
Nicholls said: "I like supporting the lads in this race. This horse will probably go hunter chasing as he's not as good as he was, but he got dropped in the weights and was qualified for it."
Nicholls' Bold Edition (2-1) was later a facile winner of the CGA Hunters' Chase.
The Royal Artillery Gold Cup provided a brief interlude from all things Cheltenham-related and there were a few Festival clues on offer on an interesting afternoon.
Former Northumberland Plate winner Tominator (9-4) has made a stuttering start to life with Jonjo O'Neill, who kept plans close to his chest after Tony McCoy galvanised the grey past Leviathan in the Reclaims UK Helping Soldiers Novices' Hurdle.
"We've got the novice route and we might put him in some (Cheltenham) handicaps to have a look, but I'm worried he hasn't had enough experience," the trainer said.
Pistol is making steady progress, even if he only just scrambled home ahead of Sash Of Honour in a rematch from a recent Newbury meeting in the London Southend Airport Juvenile Hurdle.
Trainer Philip Hobbs said of his 11-10 favourite: "The obvious race would be the Fred Winter at Cheltenham - he hasn't won by far so you wouldn't think the handicapper will do much to him after that."
Richard's Sundance (14-1) has been a valuable servant to the Victor Dartnall yard and a positive ride from Andrew Glassonbury saw the 11-year-old finish five lengths clear of Relax in the Alanbrooke Handicap Chase.