No Cheltenham but owner John Hales believes Caldwell Potter is 'exceptional' and can win a Gold Cup

Caldwell Potter in the sales ring last Monday
Caldwell Potter in the sales ring last Monday

Jump racing's biggest festival will take place without its most expensive horse after Paul Nicholls revealed his €740,000 new recruit will not be acclimatised in time to run at Cheltenham next month.

A week that started with Grade 1-winning novice hurdler Caldwell Potter becoming the most expensive National Hunt horse ever purchased at public auction ended with the 14-time champion trainer ruling him out of both the Sky Bet Supreme and Baring Bingham Novices' Hurdle.

John Hales, who now owns Caldwell Potter along with Sir Alex Ferguson, Ged Mason and Peter Done, added they were willing to play the long game and give a horse they hope can one day win a Gold Cup all the time he needs.

"He's not going to Cheltenham," said Nicholls, even though Caldwell Potter is as low as 10-1 with a number of firms for the Supreme and as short as 7-1 in a place for the Baring Bingham.

"He's a horse for the future and was bought to go chasing, so we're going to be patient with him. He won't be ready for Cheltenham. It's impossible to get a horse acclimatised that quickly, so we won't do that to him."

Caldwell Potter was two from three over hurdles for Gordon Elliott, including a powerful six-and-a-half-length success in the Grade 1 Future Champions Novice Hurdle – a race won by Istabraq, Hurricane Fly, Jezki and Sizing John – at Leopardstown over Christmas, when owned under the Caldwell Construction banner.

Caldwell Potter
Caldwell Potter: Grade 1 winner at LeopardstownCredit: Patrick McCann

Andy and Gemma Brown's decision to exit the sport and offer 29 horses for sale was a hammer blow to Elliott, who did his best to keep the brother to Mighty Potter and half-brother to French Dynamite, Indiana Jones and Sunday's impressive Navan winner and Ryanair Mares' Novices' Hurdle second favourite Brighterdaysahead in his yard, but was ultimately outbid by Anthony Bromley of Highflyer.

Three of Caldwell Potter's four new owners – Ferguson, Hales and Mason – sadly lost Hermes Allen after a fall at the second-last in the Grade 1 Scilly Isles Novices' Chase at Sandown this month.

Hales raised hopes Caldwell Potter might be seen again over hurdles this season, with Aintree under consideration, but stressed the six-year-old's future lies over fences and had been bought to fill the void left by Hermes Allen as a Gold Cup aspirant.

"He might go to Aintree, we might keep that option open, but it's only another three weeks after Cheltenham and he can also be wrapped up and go back to my daughter's for the summer," he said.

Hales added: "We bought him to be a chaser and we don't want to push him for a hurdle race now. I keep telling Alex Ferguson, the Gold Cup is the only race I haven't won. I've won them all now, but not the Gold Cup.

"I've won the Queen Mother, King George, Grand National, all with greys, so I'm probably a little biased. I loved him when I saw him and the fact he was a grey probably influenced me more than it should do."

Politologue's owner John Hales is overcome with emotion as he embraces winning jockey Harry Skelton after the Champion Chase
John Hales embraces Harry Skelton after Politilogue won the Champion Chase in 2020Credit: John Grossick (

Asked if Caldwell Potter can win a Gold Cup, he said: "Oh yes, we think he's exceptional. I hope so, fingers crossed."

Hales also expressed sympathy for Caldwell Potter's former trainer, saying: "I feel sorry for Gordon Elliott because we've taken one of his best horses off him, but the owner wanted to sell him and he was on the open market, so that's the name of the game. He was desperate to keep the horse during the bidding, so I do feel sorry for him.

"But we were desperate to get our hands on him. Anthony Bromley tried to buy him as a yearling and as soon as the sale was announced he was on to us straight away.

"We were very upset to lose Hermes Allen. He was jumping so well and that's the downside of our sport unfortunately. We've made sure the lad who looked after Hermes has now got 'The Potter'."

Hermes Allen was a Grade 1-winning novice hurdler in the Challow at Newbury before finishing sixth to Impaire Et Passe in what is now the Baring Bingham and third to Irish Point in the Mersey Novices' Hurdle at Aintree.

He started his chasing campaign this season at Newbury in December, winning the Grade 2 John Francome Novices' Chase by six and a half lengths from Scilly Isles winner Nickle Back, before chasing home French wonderhorse Il Est Francais in the Grade 1 Kauto Star Novices' Chase.

Nicholls still has a strong team of novice chasers to take to this year's festival, with Ginny's Destiny a 100-30 shot for the Turners and last year's Albert Bartlett winner Stay Away Fay 7-2 for the Brown Advisory.

Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle (1.30 Cheltenham, March 12)
Sky Bet
: Evs Ballyburn, 4 Mystical Power, 8 Jeriko Du Reponet, 12 Firefox, No Flies On Him, 16 Slade Steel, Billericay Dickie, 20 bar

Baring Bingham Novices' Hurdle (1.30 Cheltenham, March 13)
Betfair Sportsbook:
5-2 Ballyburn, 9-2 Slade Steel, 7 Mystical Power, Readin Tommy Wrong, 8 Ile Atlantique, 9 Gidleigh Park, 12 Billericay Dickie, 14 Handstands, 20 bar

Read this next:

Caldwell Potter heading to Paul Nicholls after smashing National Hunt auction record at €740,000 

Caldwell Construction runners to miss the Dublin Racing Festival after owners' shock exit from the sport 

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Stuart RileyDeputy news editor

Published on 11 February 2024inBritain

Last updated 19:44, 11 February 2024