Splash of Ginge
rolled back the years to produce a fantastic performance when winning the BetVictor Gold Cup at Cheltenham this afternoon.
The nine-year-old won the Betfair Hurdle
at Newbury at 33/1 on heavy ground in 2014 and, under similar testing conditions this afternoon, the 25/1 shot prevailed by a neck from the fast-finishing runner-up Le Prezien
Local trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies, who was winning his fourth running of this race (Tipping Tim in 1992, Imperial Commander
in 2008 and Little Josh
in 2010), believed that the soft ground was the key to rejuvenating the son of Oscar, who had benefitted from a pipe-opener over hurdles at Wetherby last time out. Twiston-Davies is now the second winning-most trainer in this race behind Martin Pipe, who has won the race eight times.
"He has a big following does ol' Ginge!" said Twiston-Davies.
"He has been a remarkable horse and just lost his confidence a bit over fences last season, so we put him back over hurdles and he has come back this season like a bull.
"He ran really well at Wetherby and as soon as this rain kept on and on we were hopeful as the soft ground is the key to him. It is probably heavy ground now.
"He just doesn't notice it when it's this soft - it was the same when he won the Betfair Hurdle. It's just come right today. I was talking to John Neild (the owner), who has a lot of opinions as you know, about whether we were going to run him or not and I was thinking about taking him out before we declared.
"In the end, I thought we better run him though. I think I'll be out with the owners tonight though - they'll insist on it! The whole of Liverpool has turned up!
"It's an unbelievable - really special, especially when it's a horse like that. He'd lost his way a little bit but it's great to give Tom Bellamy (jockey) a chance as he's not having a great time at the moment. John likes to give the young jockeys a chance so that's great.
"I was thinking Foxtail (Hill, Twiston-Davies' shorter-priced runner at 9/1, who finished eighth) was going to do the job but he didn't handle the ground.
"The horse has just got his confidence back and the soft ground really is the key to him. This trip on good ground is too sharp for him but, under similar conditions, he'll be back in December (for the £120,000 Caspian Caviar Gold Cup).
"The idea was, because of John's connections with Liverpool, to ready him for the National (at Aintree) at one point and we may revisit that idea. We're always thinking and John has had a bet to win a million if he does win the National so he's obviously keen!"
Trainer David Pipe called the race "a fiercely competitive handicap", and on rain-softening ground it took fit, in-form and talented horses to get involved in the finish.
Pipe's Starchitect finished second, two and a half lengths in front of Le Prezien. Ballyalton was three and three-quarters of a length further behind in fourth.
Pipe, who trains Starchitect for Paul and Clare Rooney, said: "He's probably run the race of his life. He handled the conditions, and just got in a bit close to the last two, which may have cost the win.
"It's a fiercely competitive handicap and they've gone a good gallop in the conditions. He's run a cracker and he will hopefully come back here in December [for the £120,000 Caspian Caviar Gold Cup
Le Prezien, who is owned by J P McManus, was trained by Paul Nicholls. The trainer said: "He ran a fine race, and the trip and ground were perfect for him. He has loads of stamina and stays for ever - he's won over shorter trips when we've asked him, but you saw today that he stayed all the way to the line. I'm very pleased with him."