Taquin takes Gold for O’Neill
Taquin Du Seuil got the better of a thrilling battle with Village Vic as the older brigade fought out the BetVictor Gold Cup.
Taquin Du Seuil (left) lands flying over the final fence just as Aso stumbles on landing and loses momentum.
Not since Cyfor Malta claimed the second of his two wins in the race in 2002, had a horse as old as nine claimed this contest, the most valuable event so far in the jumps season.
But two nine-year-olds ended up fighting it out as Village Vic, who had taken the field along throughout under Richard Johnson, only ended up being caught in the very final strides by his classy rival.
Taquin Du Seuil, not unbacked at 8/1 despite his trainer also saddling favourite More Of That, had struggled to go the gallop at times early in the race and Aidan Coleman kept having to niggle at him to get him moving and jumping.
But on the run to two out, he'd moved up sit on the heels of Village Vic and the pursuing Asco, as the trio broke away from their rivals.
A messy jump cooked Aso's goose at the last, but Village Vic (20/1) was carried out on his sword before going down by a neck. Buywise (12/1), another who was in rear division for much of the way, whizzed through late on for third spot, with Aso (14/1) a commendable fourth.
Those who placed their bets with bookmakers such as Sky Bet offering extra places will also get paid out on fifth-home Bouvreuil, who travelled notably nicely for much of the way, and some on sixth-placed Thomas Crapper.
"Aidan said he was flat out all the way and that's probably what's won him the race as they obviously went a good gallop," said O'Neill. "He looks like he wants three miles but I'm not sure he really does – we'll probably give it another try around the New Year.
"The rain suited him last night, but when he made a mistake at the water jump I thought he was going to be well out of it.
"I was delighted with his run at Chepstow and the ground was a bit quick for him, but he came home well.
"It's nice to win a nice race."
Asked about the performance of the favourite, O'Neill went on: "I believe he is a very good horse and it's unfortunate the way he's run.
"He's obviously got his problems. I haven't spoken to Barry (Geraghty) yet, but it's disappointing."
For Coleman, the relief at getting back into the winner's enclosure after a big race was very tangible.
He said: "I've had a terrible few weeks. I broke my cheekbone and I haven't had a winner since Third Intention in the Old Roan (at Aintree on October 23).
"It's been a nightmare with injuries and everything, but this is great and I could not be happier for Jonjo and his team at Jackdaws Castle.
"They are such a hard-working team and it's just not been coming together for whatever reason.
"He's won at the Festival in the past and had a lovely run at Chepstow earlier in the season."
Richard Johnson, rider of second-placed Villaage Vic, said: "He's run the race of his life off that weight.
"I don't think I've ever had as good a ride in a handicap here. He was brilliant and we've been mugged.
"The winner is a very good horse on his day."
"I'd say the plan at the moment would be to come back here over the same trip here next month, but we'll see how he comes out of the race."
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