10 February 2002

Brough Scott watches Bacchanal overcome errors to win the Gold Cup trial at Newbury but is more encouraged by his stablemate back in third place

THIS YEAR’s This year’s Cheltenham Gold Cup is already the most discussed in decades, and now the Nicky Henderson-trained Bacchanal has thrown his headcollar into the ring yesterday with a 12-length Aon Chase win. Yet we left Newbury wondering if we shouldn’t be backing his stable companion Marlborough, who finished third on his first run since last April.

With this performance Bacchanal, who has now won nine races for Madelaine Lloyd Webber, pulled off an unusual double. He managed to lessen his Gold Cup chance at the same time as showing himself better and more powerful than ever. For while you had to be awed by the attitude and stamina which left his pursuers floundering, you had also to decry the lengths he lost at fence after fence with his over-careful jumping.

On the second circuit he did begin to give Mick Fitzgerald some bolder, albeit often right-handed leaps. But no horse in memory has ever won a Gold Cup with a jumping style which is both over cautious and right-handed. Ironically, it was his stable companion Marlborough who used to be the jumping delinquent. But after three winning rounds last season, the penny seems finally to have dropped and yesterday Ruby Walsh was always getting a measure at the fences.

Admittedly, he pursued a careful waiting strategy to save his partner after what must have been racing’s most famous operation on an epiglotis. But this was a horse at ease with himself, quite different from the headstrong performer who once failed to complete four times in a row.

Turning into the straight he was still cruising and it was only when he went to join his stablemate that condition finally began to tell. “He was terrific,” said Ruby Walsh afterwards, “the jumping was grand and the way he travels could make him a danger to the best.” Not dangerous enough to frighten Ladbrokes, who have him no shorter than 10-1, while Bacchanal is as low as 7s.

One horse who may be bypassing Cheltenham is yesterday’s Tote Gold Trophy winner Copeland who had his mind made up by an impressively attacking ride from Tony McCoy. “I wanted to push on early in the straight,” said the champion afterwards, “because I didn’t want him to get into an argument.” Copeland has never looked that easy a ride, although his attitude has clearly been improved by being gelded in the summer, an operation which the late Jack Colling insisted should be performed on “most horses, lots of trainers, and all jockeys.”

The afternoon began with some fine jumping but a weak finish from the French star Japhet. Even if unfit, it was disappointing to see him trounced by a horse like Frosty Canyon and his high knee action suggests heavy ground would be essential at Cheltenham.

Finally we cannot close the day without mourning the man whose support as producer of World of Sport changed the face of ITV’s racing coverage, John Bromley who died last week. The `ITV Seven’ at the centre of World of Sport didn’t just give racing a two-meeting exposure every Saturday, it treated the audience as if it was there for them.

Or it did if you played the way Brommers intended. One afternoon at Catterick I introduced the runners for a selling hurdle with the remark “here are 24 contenders for the title of Worst Horse in Britain.” Brommers came on the phone. “Look here Commander (favourite phrase),” he said, “in the unlikely event that Fred and Freda from Dorking have tuned in to watch us, they don’t want some pipsqueak like you telling them they have made a mistake.”

He was the best man it has ever been my luck to work for.

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