Could Last be First in the Cheltenham Gold Cup?

The Hennessy Gold Cup at Leopardstown on Sunday was billed as an opportunity for First Lieutenant to earn a place in the Gold Cup field. Instead it was Last Instalment, racing in the second colours of Gigginstown House Stud, who stole the show.

Jockey Brian O’Connell found himself in front after the second after a mighty leap took him past Roi Du Mee so he elected to let his mount bowl along at the head of affairs. First Lieutenant was held up in midfield with Tidal Bay towards the rear.

Last Instalment jumped from fence to fence and had his rivals in trouble before the home straight. He had been beaten by Texas Jack over two and a half miles at Thurles on his comeback and that horse tried to close.

However, stamina was always going to be an issue for Texas Jack and it was First Lieutenant and Tidal Bay who gave chase. The race was won before the last and another fine leap from the nine-year-old sealed the victory.

Coral reacted by slashing the winner to 6-1 from 33-1 for the Gold Cup behind Bobs Worth and Silviniaco Conti. He was briefly available at 14-1 elsewhere but that quickly disappeared and the form book suggests that Coral’s quote is nearer the mark.

He beat Tidal Bay (rated 168) by 8 ½ lengths with First Lieutenant (167) a further half a length away in third. Even a conservative assessment of his performance must rate him around 175, just two short of Silviniaco Conti’s King George figure.

Gold Cup winner Bobs Worth is currently rated 180 but he only beat First Lieutenant by a length and a half in the Lexus Chase in December. Lyreen Legend and Lord Windermere ran in both trials and finished closer to Bobs Worth than to Last Instalment.

Philip Fenton’s chestnut was always a high class chaser, winning two Grade 1 races as a novice. Injury problems with his front legs kept him off the track for the best part of 700 days prior to his Thurles run. If he stays sound, he is surely going to be a major player at Cheltenham.