There was drama in the jump season’s concluding big race at Sandown on Saturday when Paul Nicholls Enrilo, the 7/2 favourite, was demoted to third after winning the bet365 Gold Cup nearly a length. After a good jump at the last and in front on the run-in the gelding began wandering on the run to the line. The jolly ridden by the new champion jockey Harry Skelton then veered badly left.
Unfortunately it was just as the eventual short-head third, the Christian Williams’ trained and Jack Tudor ridden Kitty’s Light was coming with an arguably winning run which was halted and the horse carried left thereafter. The interference almost certainly cost the William’s charge runner-up spot at the very least. Alan King’s 12/1 chance Potterman kept straight under Tom Cannon and in doing so snatched second from Kitty’s Light in the shadow of the post.
That last stride proved pivotal as 25 minutes or so later the stewards decided that there was enough interference from the winner to demote him. As the horse that caused the interference has to be placed behind the one that suffered from it, they demoted Enrilo to third, declared Potterman the winner and Kitty’s Light second. Harry Skelton was also handed a four-day ban, not the presentation he really wanted on the day he was crowned champion jockey. Nobody watching was going to argue that the best horse on the day ‘won’ the race but as the rules stand. As stewards decided the winner’s misdemeanour was one that warranted losing the race they had no option of any other outcome than the one they gave.
The trainer of the promoted winner Alan King was realistic and said:
‘It’s not exactly the way you want to win but I’m delighted with his performance. It’s a strange feeling, but there we are. I was happy with the horse but I haven’t seen the replay. I wasn’t sure what was going to happen. I thought if we were in France then we’d definitely get it, but I wasn’t so sure. It’s a very good job we got up to finish second.’
Shortly after the demotion, Pauls Nicholls said
‘Mine is a big, green horse and when they came to him away he went. He made a huge mistake two out, but then ran a bit green. I thought Harry rode a brilliant race and I’d told him not to get there too soon. He certainly wasn’t tired at the end. It was just through his greenness’. He added ‘It’s a bit of a strange result really, but it’s just frustrating because the best horse in the race by miles didn’t win the race. He did cause him some interference but would that horse he interfered with have definitely won the race. I don’t know. I thought straight away after watching on my phone that he’d keep it even though he’s caused interference and that’s what I said to the owners. I’ve just said to them we’ll look at it and see if it’s worth an appeal.’
Christian Williams said:
‘I just feel so sorry for the horse, Jack and the owners. He was the best horse in the race. He is so unlucky. He got impeded in the Badger Beer [ At Wincanton ] and we thought he would have won that. Now he has been impeded in the bet365.’
There was a lot of hot air on social media post-race, mainly disgruntled punters, none of whom, apart from those who backed Potterman, were happy with the result, though calls for rule changes will probably go unheeded. Not that it would have helped the punters there was a possibility that the Nicholls team might appeal the result.
Once the dust had settled on Sunday morning Paul Nicholls posted on Twitter on that connections had decided not to appeal the result tweeting ‘Just had a long discussion with the owners of Enrilo and we are as it were, going to take in on the chin , move on and not appeal the amended result in the bet365 Gold Cup at Sandown Park yesterday and look forward to next season with him.’