Yorkshire-trained Midnight Shadow bags huge prize for the North with Paddy Power Gold Cup success at Cheltenham

NOTHING puts a smile on Northern faces like getting one over on the Southerners in their own backyard.

And if the noise inside Cheltenham was anything to go by, half of West Yorkshire had rocked up to cheer home Sue Smith's Midnight Shadow in the Paddy Power Gold Cup.

Victory in the November Meeting’s feature race has been a long-time coming for jump racing’s northern scene.

Ferdy Murphy saddled L’Antartique to win the prestigious handicap 14 long years ago, and the North has seen plenty of lean times since then.

But there have been signs of a revival in recent seasons, and Midnight Shadow has more than played his part in that.

This was his third victory at Cheltenham and he has run plenty of good races in defeat here, too.

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He was always travelling strongly in the hands of Grand National winner Ryan Mania, who came out of retirement two years ago, and he was one of the few runners who could keep up with tearaway leader Coole Cody.

The 9-1 shot had just moved into a share of the lead at the second last when Coole Cody crashed out – apparently leaving the race at Midnight Shadow's mercy.

But he lost momentum with a stumble after the final fence and was clinging on at the line from the fast-finishing Protektorat (11-2f) with Lalor (7-1) back in third.

The roar from the crowd as the runners galloped up the hill was deafening – as loud as the place has sounded since March 2020.

It sent shivers up the spine of Smith, who is based just outside Leeds and has seen it all during her long and successful training career.

Smith said: "The cheer he got as he came home after the last was incredible. We missed atmospheres like this last year.

“He’s been an amazing horse to have in the yard, he has won lots of nice races and won some big races at Cheltenham.

“He keeps coming back year after year and does us proud every time."

Smith is nothing if not bold, and she nominated an ambitious tilt at the King George as Midnight Shadow's next target.

She continued: "We have yet to run him over three miles but I think it would suit him around a track like Kempton.

"He has proven he can handle a strong, end-to-end gallop. If you don't have a go, you'll never know."

Earlier on the card, Third Time Lucki gave Dan and Harry Skelton reason to smile after My Drogo’s dramatic defeat on Friday.

Champion jockey Harry was positive aboard the six-year-old, whose jumping was electric on his second start over fences.

He kicked on with a little under a mile to race, essentially putting the race to bed in a matter of strides.

The horse was trimmed into 8-1 from 12-1 for the Arkle in March by Coral, and his trainer suggested he may have just one more run before then.

Skelton said: “That was a good performance today, he is a horse we have always believed in.

"Harry said he felt fantastic – he is a horse with a serious amount of speed and you have to have that change of gear at the top level.

“The plan all along had been to give him four runs before Cheltenham, but I’m starting to think I want him as fresh as possible in March.

“We will sit down and make a plan, but there are races at Sandown and Kempton next month and then Doncaster in January so he has plenty of options.”

On the all-weather at Lingfield, Pyledriver returned from his spell on the sidelines with a stylish success in the Churchill Stakes.

William Muir's stable star has been off since suffering a 'freak' injury to his groin after his gutsy victory in the Coronation Cup at Epsom.

He cruised through the race under Martin Dwyer and was pushed out under hands and heels to win cosily – teeing him up for a trip to Hong Kong.

Muir said: "We are absolutely thrilled with that – he will definitely improve for the run having been off for so long.

"This was a mile-and-a-quarter and ideally he needs a bit further, but he showed his class today.

"All being well that will have put him spot on for the Hong Kong Vase on December 12."

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