Ninetieth Minute Powers Home in Coral Cup
1st (7) Ninetieth Minute 14/1
Trainer Tom Taaffe added to his list of Cheltenham Festival winners when Ninetieth Minute took the Coral Cup under Paddy Flood.
Ninetieth Minute had not run for 80 days since winning a three-runner race at Thurles, but the absence was part of Taaffe’s plan to prevent the horse from going off the boil. He said: “I believe you need a fresh horse at the Festival, so I just pulled up with him. It was the same with Kicking King [former totesport Gold Cup winner] and Fingeronthepulse last year.”
His horse’s victory belied the theory that some Irish horses are handicapped too highly when they run in Britain. Taaffe said: “You can call me biased, but this horse was put up 12lb for his first win this season and 8lb for his next, so he’s been hit by the handicapper, but once they get to 140 they are supposed to be on a level playing field in both countries, and that’s a view Phil Smith [Britain’s handicapper] took.
“A few more pounds probably wouldn’t have stopped him, but it’s all about winning and he’s now won five from ten.”
Ninetieth Minute is owned by Dermot Cox, who is well-known in Ireland as head of a cash-and-carry business. His son, David, discovered the horse as a two-year-old in a neighbour’s field, purchased him from his breeder, and later bought Ninetieth Minute’s dam, Myown. She has since produced two full sisters to today’s winner.
Taaffe added: “I’d like to run him back here over fences one day. He’ll go novice chasing next year and being by Old Vic out of a staying family that’s a logical route. He might run at Punchestown, because his owner is a driving force at that track, but if not he’ll go out in a field for a holiday.”
Flood, having his first winner at The Festival, said: "I can't describe the feeling! It's just wow! People say that it's the best feeling ever but you don't understand until it happens.
"He didn't travel great early on. He's a big horse with a big stride on him and it just took me half the race to get into a rhythm. I didn't get a nice position until at the top of the hill but to fair to the horse, he's toughed it out.
"I've been on for both his victories this season and I have got on with him and he's galloped on today. Tom has been super this season and I can't thank him enough.”
MIRAGE PLAN NEARLY COMES OFF
A plan hatched in October almost came to fruition when Mirage Dore lost out by a length and a half when finishing second in the Coral Cup under amateur Rose Dobbin.
“We made a plan after his last time to come here and it was a great run. On the one hand I’m delighted he ran so well but it’s a bit of an anticlimax to be second,” said the runner-up’s trainer Lucinda Russell.
“He was further back than we had planned so did well to get there. He’ll go to Aintree next.”
Trainer Emma Lavelle hopes third-placed Pause And Clause has a bright future. “It was only his fourth run over hurdles and he’s very exciting. He put his heart and soul into it today and will be a lovely horse for the future. Having seen him after the race I’m not sure he’ll run again this season, we’ll have to see. But he’s an exciting horse to have.”
CORAL CUP FACTS & FIGURES
1. Other than the races added to the four-day Festival in 2005, the Coral Cup is the newest contest at The Festival, having been introduced in 1993, the year after the first running of the Weatherbys Champion Bumper.
2. The first winner, Olympian, picked up an additional £50,000 bonus having won the Imperial Cup at Sandown Park the previous weekend. The bonus, increased to £75,000 in 2006, is offered again by Sunderlands, bookmaking sponsor of the Imperial Cup, to any horse that wins the Sandown race and then goes on to success in any contest at The Festival.
3. The fastest time in the 14 runnings was set in 2000 by What’s Up Boys, who scored in 4m 53.8s, beating the previous best of 4m 57.0s set by Big Strand in 1997.
4. Ireland have won the race on five occasions, most recently with Sky’s The Limit in 2006, trained by Edward O’Grady, who also sent out Time For A Run to score in 1994.
5. Martin Pipe is the leading trainer in the contest, having scored three times with Olympian (1993), Big Strand (1997) and Ilnamar (2002). Among current trainers, Edward O’Grady and Philip Hobbs (What’s Up Boys 2000 & Monkerhostin 2004) lead the way.
6. No jockey has won the Coral Cup more than once.
7. Both What’s Up Boys (2000) and Idole First (2005) scored at 33/1 and are they are the longest priced winners, while Olympian (1993) and Xenophon (2003) were successful at 4/1, the shortest priced scorers, and they are also the only two favourites to have obliged.
CORAL CUP (HANDICAP HURDLE) PREVIOUS RESULTS
Owner-Dr Richard & Laura Newland;
Trainer-Dr Richard Newland; Jockey-Sam Jones; SP-10/1
SKY’S THE LIMIT 5-11-12 Owner-Raymond Rooney; Trainer-Edward
O’Grady IRE; Jockey-Barry Geraghty; SP-11/1
FIRST 6-10-10 Owner-Direct Sales
UK Ltd; Trainer-Venetia Williams; Jockey-Alan O’Keeffe; SP-33/1
2004-WINNER-MONKERHOSTIN 7-10-08 Owner-Martin St Quinton; Trainer-Philip
Hobbs; Jockey-Richard Johnson; SP-13/2
2003-WINNER-XENOPHON 7-11-00 Owner-Lane Syndicate; Trainer-Tony Martin
IRE; Jockey-Mick FitzGerald; SP-4/1 Fav
2002-WINNER-ILNAMAR 6-10-05 Owner-Joe Moran; Trainer-Martin Pipe; Jockey-Rodi
1999-WINNER KHAYRAWANI 7-11-03 Owner-J P McManus; Trainer-Christy Roche
IRE; Jockey-Fran Berry; SP-16/1
1998-WINNER-TOP CEES 8-10-00 Owner-Charlton Bloodstock Ltd; Trainer-Lynda
Ramsden; Jockey-Barry Fenton; SP-11/1
1997-WINNER-BIG STRAND 8-10-00 Owner-E C Jones; Trainer-Martin Pipe;
Jockey-Jamie Evans; SP-16/1
1996-WINNER-TRAINGLOT 9-10-03 Owner-Marquesa de Moratalla; Trainer-Jimmy
FitzGerald; Jockey-Mark Dwyer; SP-11/2
1995-WINNER-CHANCE COFFEY 10-10-00 Owner-Paddy O'Donnell; Trainer-Pat
O'Donnell IRE; Jockey-Gerry O'Neill; SP-11/1
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