Barry Geraghty had retreated indoors cradling a hot cuppa and reflecting on his Gold Cup success on board Bob’s Worth when another reminder of National Hunt’s innate danger played itself out a few feet to his left.
The post-Gold Cup press conference was still very much in its stride when the endgame to the Foxhunters’ Chase played out on a silent screen atop the room.
Geraghty had turned his head to take it in once or twice when Nicky Henderson held the floor, but then Oscar Delta and Jane Mangan veered inexplicably into the railing on the home stretch. The room gasped.
Even indoors it seemed there was no escaping the dark clouds that had gathered, both literally and figuratively, over Prestbury Park since JT McNamara suffered his horrific fall on the Thursday evening.
“It’s a much quieter place than normal,” said the Meathman who had just claimed his second Gold Cup, having won on Kicking King in 2005. “That’s all I can think about because John Thomas is a great friend of ours. He is 37 and I am 33. I have been looking at him since I started and he has always been the same, lovely fella.
“We are just hoping and praying he’s going to be okay. Out there in the cut and thrust, you are completely distracted but, as soon as you finish, depending on how close you are to the man, it’s straight to you again. It was bittersweet coming up. Very upsetting.”
It is a sport that few would persist with were it not for the very fact that it is a repository for the type of awe-inspiring drama that made the Gold Cup such a fascinating contest.
There was no Kauto Star yesterday. No Denman. No Imperial Commander and, sadly, no Synchronised who was put down after the Grand National last year.
It fell to Long Run, 2011 champion, to keep the flag flying for that old brigade. For a time, it seemed as if the eight-year-old would take the honours. Sir Des Champs, too, looked well-placed. As did Siviniaco Conti until a fall. Bobs Worth? You wouldn't have had much of a punt there as he came down the hill.
At one point, he reached 9/1 in-running on Betfair.
“Yeah,” said Geraghty, “I was in trouble. They had probably got six or seven lengths clear but they weren’t getting any further and I could feel my fella was filling up and the longer I nursed him … I was in fourth gear until the second last, really.”
Bobs Worth started as favourite but one affixed with an asterisk. Geraghty had questioned his fitness after he claimed the Hennessy by three lengths from Tidal Bay last November until his last public appearance at a post-meet gallop at Kempton three weeks ago.
“He worked really well in Kempton a few weeks ago and we were really happy,” said the jockey who became Henderson‘s retained jockey four years ago after the retirements of Moscow Flyer and Kicking King.
“It’s like seeing a child. If you only see them every few weeks you’ll see changes and see them grow. In the last three or four weeks I couldn’t believe how this fella had turned inside out. He grew a neck back end. Nicky’s done a brilliant job.”
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