NANTWICH wonder horse Iris's Gift has been pulled out of the Cheltenham Gold Cup on the advice of the spirit world, writes Alan Jervis.
Owner Rob Lester, landlord at the Red Cow pub, who plans the horse's career through consulting mediums, told the Chronicle: 'We have decided not to risk him in the Gold Cup.'
Iris's Gift had its first run on Saturday for more than nine months, after suffering a broken leg and being affected by the illness which has hit Jonjo O'Neill's Jackdaw Castle stable.
But after starting well in the totes-port Chase at Lingfield it faded and trailed in last of five finishers.
Rob said: 'The horse was named after my mother Iris, who sadly died at about the same time as I bought him for just £5,000.
'I plan its races through two mediums I consult, Billy McLean and Janet Parker, who are both inter-nationally known.
'I don't know if I am doing right, but I regularly consult them. The Gold Cup is my ultimate dream for him. Although I think he will win it one day, he has run out of time this year.'
Rob is now giving Iris's Gift three additional weeks in training to prepare him for the Aintree Festival where he was a winner last year, and then another outing three weeks after that in Punchestown, in County Kildare, where he had a second place last time out.
The eight-year-old was in scintillating form this time last year, winning the Stayers Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival and the Martell Cognac three weeks later at Aintree, making it 11 victories in 15 races, and netting Rob well over £250,000 in prize money.
Until his injury last August when he suffered two hairline fractures to a cannon-bone, Iris's Gift was fancied by many racing pundits to end the reign of three-time Gold Cup winner Best Mate.
Rob, who has turned down an offer of £1m for his champion grey, travels to his mother's grave at Gorton, Manchester, to deliver fresh flowers before every race.
He said: 'Iris's Gift belongs to me and my mother, and we plan his future together. So even if he won the Gold Cup I would still not sell him. We would just try and win it again.'
For those who share Rob's belief in the power of mediums, Billy McLean will be at the Red Cow, Pillory Street, Nantwich, on Sunday evening.
Rob added: 'I certainly believe in his powers.'