Fifteen years on from steering the great Denman to a memorable victory in the Coral Gold Cup, Sam Thomas bids to double up as a trainer with Our Power in Saturday’s Newbury showpiece.
The Paul Nicholls-trained Denman was making his first start outside novice company in the prestigious handicap in 2007 and shouldered top-weight of 11st 12lb to a hugely impressive 11-length success.
Denman went on to prove himself as one of the greatest staying chasers of the modern era by beating stablemate Kauto Star in the following year’s Cheltenham Gold Cup before returning to Newbury to win a second Coral Gold Cup – the then Hennessy – under Ruby Walsh in 2009.
“It was an incredible period in my career really, to be looking forward to the week and riding those incredible horses,” said Thomas.
“At that stage we didn’t quite know how good Denman was, so to be part of history really where he was doing what he did best – demolishing those big fields – was very special. I have very fond memories.”
Nicholls also won the race as a rider, landing back-to-back renewals aboard Broadheath and Playschool in the 1980s, and Thomas is out to emulate his former boss this weekend.
Thomas added: “We’re just treating it as another race, but obviously it does come with a little bit more pressure as it’s a race of huge significance.
“It’s a race with a long history and some incredible horses have won it over the years. It’s just great to be in the race with a horse with an each-way chance.
“There’s no pressure as such. I can only do what I can do. All the horse’s preparation is done and it’s just a question of keeping in one piece and keeping him happy.
“I don’t think I can go into the race with too much pressure on my shoulders, just maybe a bit nervous and anxious for it all to go well more than anything."
While Our Power has a long way to go to match Denman’s achievements, he marked himself down as a likely contender for this £250,000 contest with a comeback victory in Ascot’s London Gold Cup last month.
“I think he’s shown us that he’s able to handle a decent-sized field and a competitive race. Ascot was a great test with a big field, big fences and lots of runners,” said Thomas.
“He’s a horse that’s pretty unflappable. He knows what he’s doing and he’s not a horse that’s going to be too keen. He looks after himself and almost travels within himself. If we can survive the first back straight and get into a nice position, I’ll be really happy.
“I have no questions about him staying – I have no doubt he would stay further than three and a quarter miles to be honest. It’s no cakewalk by any stretch of the imagination and you’d go as far as saying if you were placed you’d be delighted. It’s a very competitive race, as it should be for one of the toughest handicaps of the season.”
Our Power was one of 16 horses declared on Thursday morning, with Venetia Williams declaring the Grade One placed Fanion D’Estruval to carry top-weight of 12 stone.
Favouritism is disputed by Lucinda Russell’s Ultima winner Corach Rambler and the David Pipe-trained Remastered – one of three runners for Pond House handler along with Gericault Roque and Red Happy.
Remastered was travelling strongly in the race 12 months ago before crashing out four from home and displayed his well being with a comfortable victory over hurdles at Aintree three weeks ago.
Gericault Roque – runner-up to Corach Rambler at Cheltenham in March – is partnered by Tom Scudamore, who is the most successful current rider in the Coral Gold Cup with previous wins aboard Pipe’s Madison Du Berlais (2008), Colin Tizzard’s Sizing Tennessee (2018) and Jonjo O’Neill’s Cloth Cap (2020).
Another trainer with a strong hand is Joe Tizzard. Father Colin won the race with Native River (2016) and as well as Sizing Tennessee and the new licence holder at Venn Farm is represented by last year’s runner-up Fiddlerontheroof, Grade One winner Lostintranslation and Oscar Elite.
Impressive Bangor scorer Le Milos will attempt to give Dan and Harry Skelton further Saturday big-race success, while Kerry National hero Busselton is a major contender from Ireland for Joseph O’Brien.
Paul Nicholls has won the race as both a trainer and jockey, but has not hit the target since Denman’s memorable second victory in 2009. The Ditcheat handler will have high hopes of getting his name on the winner’s board once more with Threeunderthrufive, who tuned up with a run over hurdles at Wetherby.
Potterman (Alan King), Annsam (Evan Williams), Lord Accord (Neil Mulholland) and Diablo De Rouhet (Nicky Henderson) complete the line-up.
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