Ryan Mania caps incredible comeback on Midnight Shadow in Paddy Power Gold Cup
Ryan Mania capped an incredible comeback riding Midnight Shadow to win a dramatic renewal of the 2021 Paddy Power Gold Cup at Cheltenham.
The Sue Smith-trained chaser was upsides Coole Cody when last year's winner clipped the top of the second last fence and came down.
The incident at the obstacle, the site of much drama on Friday's card, left Midnight Shadow in a clear lead as the pack struggled to get on terms.
But after going a strong gallop, Mania's mount took a good look at the final fence and made a mistake, which cost the pair momentum.
Seven of their rivals grouped up as they headed on up the hill and Protektorat, a horse part-owned by Sir Alex Ferguson, stayed on the strongest to close the winner down all the way to the line.
The success was all the sweeter for Mania, after he reversed his decision to retire in October 2019.
Mania told ITV Racing: "He's a proper horse this and in big fields like this you always worry that you've got enough horse to jump and travel and he goes out there and just does everything so easy.
"He has been so consistent for the yard. It's so good to get a big win on the table for him.
Asked if he knew he was going to hold on, the jockey added: "I didn't! We know what he's like, he does idle in front. He's like that at home. It's a long run-in when you're in front on your own like that.
"It's just great. I travelled six hours to be here today and it's well worth the journey!"
In 2014, the year after his 66-1 Grand National success on Auroras Encore for the same stable, taking his first ride in the iconic race, Mania hung up his boots at the age of 24.
Just 24 hours on from his Aintree heroics, Mania was airlifted to hospital with a neck injury following a fall at Hexham.
Mania, who also took a previous break from the saddle in 2011, said an ongoing battle with his weight was behind his decision.
But since making his return two years ago, he has enjoyed a number of big winners.
Among them was the Ultima Handicap Chase performance of Vintage Clouds at the Cheltenham Festival in March.
Midnight Shadow held on from Protektorat by three-quarters of a length, while Lalor was third and Dostal Phil finished fourth.
The winner was the third Yorkshire-trained horse to triumph, after Neville Crump’s Cancello (1976) and the Ferdy Murphy-trained L’Antartique in 2007.
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Smith said: “I probably get more emotional these days because I’m that much older! It’s special, it’s special for everyone because we’re only a small yard and northern trainers don’t get to do this very often, so it’s lovely.
“I’ve probably got about 45-50 in training, but they are not all Midnight Shadows! I probably had a few more in when we won the National, but these are once-in-a-lifetime horses, the same as Auroras Encore was – and he’s still in the field looking very well now.
“He was bought at Doncaster by Harvey (Smith) and he was bred by Mr Smith-Maxwell who actually runs the horse ambulance service here.”
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