Ultragold makes it back-to-back wins with flawless display
Ultragold provided a timely reminder of the importance of experience over the National fences as he won back-to-back runnings of the Topham, bringing his record over the unique obstacles to two wins and a second.
Ridden by Harry Cobden, he led home a one-two for trainer Colin Tizzard, with 2015 Galway Plate winner Shanahan's Turn, making just his third start for the yard, filling the second berth under Robbie Power.
"It's lovely when that happens isn't it?" said Tizzard. "Three times he's been here he's had two wins and a second now. It is that National factor isn't it? It's those Grand National fences. It's a big factor – he loves it.
"It was a lovely run from Shananhan's Turn and Robbie quite fancied his chances going to the Elbow."
Although the Grand National represents a very different challenge to the Topham, being run over the best part of two miles further, given Ultragold's zest for the fences speculation inevitably turned to a tilt at the big race.
"He might go [the National trip of] four miles two next year," mused Tizzard. "We talked about it this year but we said 'he doesn't really stay', so we came here again."
Cobden added: "He could be [a National horse]. I want to ride him in a few novice hurdles next year because he's still a novice – I'd prefer to do that at the moment as he'd win three on the bounce!"
Ultragold raced in second during the early stages of the race before being left in front a long way from home. Shanahan's Turn, Indian Temple and especially Theatre Territory, ridden by National fences expert Sam Waley-Cohen, came with threatening runs and a loose horse repeatedly threatened to seriously impede the leader, but Ultragold had more than enough to see the race out by three and three-quarter lengths.
Cobden added: "He was A-1 and over the last four of five fences he really gave them some proper air and was always filling himself up, he's always saving himself."
There were jubilant celebrations from the ten-year-old's owners in the winner's enclosure. Part-owner Terry Warner said: "This is fantastic. We said Ultragold would win again a month ago because he loves the fences. Few horses really enjoy the fences and he jumps them for fun."
Waley-Cohen finished third on Theatre Territory and said: "It's just a real pleasure to ride round here when you're on a good horse."
He rides Walk In The Mill in Saturday's National, the third reserve who scraped into the race after three intended runners were withdrawn on Friday afternoon.