28 January 2001

Mick Fitzgerald engineers a comfortable victory but there is still room for the gelding to improve

RELIEF, HOPE, delight and despair: See More Business, Cyfor Malta, Lady Rebecca and Barton fitted these qualities at Cheltenham, and then the French horse Jair du Cochet hacked home to close the book. His word was Triumph.

It was not just See More Business’s jumping but his attitude that was called into question last time at Kempton. Yesterday, Mick Fitzgerald set off absolutely intent that `See More’ would indeed see more business – off in front and the devil take the hindmost. With just three rivals, one of whom – Lord Noelie – lost his rider at the seventh, he was, as the Americans love to say “loose on lead”.

In all but two respects, the 1999 Cheltenham Gold Cup winner repaid Fitzgerald in spades, but those two lapses were both him reverting to his old habit of suddenly changing his mind on take-off. A horse less resilient and a rider less prehensile would have either come down or got separated each time.

At the sixth, the open ditch up the hill, he put his hind legs back down into the fence. At the 19th, four from home, he never took off, and just took the fence on his chest.

That withstanding, See More Business still showed what a brutal performer he can be when conditions are tough. At the line, he was a distance clear of Beau, with the two-year-absent Cyfor Malta a further distance behind. On the face of it, neither of them could have a prayer of changing the places in the Gold Cup six weeks on Thursday, but it had taken almost seven minutes to run the 3 ¼ miles, almost 45 seconds outside the record. The ground at the Festival is usually fast. And “loose on the lead” never applies in a Gold Cup.

The Pipe team are convinced that Cyfor Malta can be back to the brilliance which he showed when leaving See More Business behind in this race two years ago, his last public appearance. This stable’s horses do not usually lack fitness. But this is a special case, on special going. This was a slightly laboured performance, but there were flashes, such as when he suddenly moved impressively back on to the bridle at the top of the hill, and you could understand why rider Tony McCoy said afterwards that hope lived on.

For Lady Rebecca, the hope has never burned so bright. The tiny mare was running for the first time in nine months because of failing her matrimonial arrangements, yet here she was, cruising up to the hard-driven Mister Banjo to give us the ultimate in price comparisons. The excellent Mister Banjo was sold for £240,000 last year. Lady Rebecca was originally bought for just 400gns.

But while Lady Rebecca’s team celebrate and believe that this time the little wonder can take the Stayers’ Hurdle at the Festival, those involved with hot favourite and big-time contender Barton had to shake their heads in despair. The powerful chesnut was well enough placed throughout but stopped almost to a walk in the final stages. On this showing, there is something wrong with him and to make the Festival in shape would be a major achievement.

For French trainer Guillaume Macaire, the position is almost reversed. His Jair du Cochet ran his rivals so completely ragged in the juvenile hurdle that you have to believe something will need to go badly wrong to give the locals a chance in the Triumph Hurdle. Macaire says the ground would be no worry, but was more concerned with the effect of a big field on his hard-pulling horse. From the way Jair du Cochet won yesterday, you have to wonder if the main effect would be a simple one. To make him pulverise them more quickly. Six weeks seems too long a wait.

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