Arch rivals Martin Pipe and Paul Nicholls dominated the finish of the Vodafone Gold Cup at Newbury in what could well be a portent of what is to come at Cheltenham as Horus dead-heated with Cornish Sett.
For jockey Ruby Walsh the result was an almost perfect return from an injury which had threatened his participation at the Festival.
But after watching the Irishman get the best out of 5-1 favourite Cornish Sett to share the spoils in the £100,000 handicap chase with the Jamie Moore-Ridden Horus (22-1), Nicholls can be assured Walsh is as fit as ever.
His mount had looked sure to prevail when wresting the lead from Horus on the run-in, but the latter came back at him with such gusto that he was able to share the spoils in the final stride.
Windsor Boy was six lengths back in third followed by Albuhera, Claymore and Marcel, meaning that between them Pipe and Nicholls saddled five of the first six home.
Pipe had seen Horus finish a gallant second in this race 12 months ago and said: “Jamie thought he had won but I wasn’t sure. All that matters is that this horse deserved to win a decent race.”
Nicholls said of Cornish Sett: “He has three engagements at Cheltenham and if the ground is good it would suit him in either the Jewson or the Racing Post Plate. Albuhera and Hors La Loi III have the same engagements but I will make a decision about them nearer the time.”
The trainer was delighted for his jockey, for whom this was the perfect boost ahead of the Festival.
“Ruby gave him a great ride. He jumped well and I really wasn’t sure when they went past the post together,” he added.
Horus was cut for two engagements at Cheltenham. He is 16-1 from 33-1 for the William Hill Trophy with totesport, 16-1 from 33-1 with the sponsors and 22-1 from 33-1 with Stan James.
For the Racing Post Plate, totesport go 16s from 33s and Hills 16s from 25s.
Cornish Sett looks most likely to run in the Jewson Novices’ Handicap Chase, for which he was cut to 8-1 (from 12s) by totesport while Stan James are 16-1.