NANTWICH'S top race horse Iris's Gift has a golden New Year's resolution.
The champion horse is up and running again after a bad injury scare. Now owner Rob Lester, landlord of the Red Cow pub, is backing his eight-year-old to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup in March.
That has been Rob's dream since he first realised he had bought a gem after seeing him in a field at Tattenhall and paying just £5,000 for him.
He named the horse after his mother Iris, who sadly died at about the same time.
Iris's Gift shot to stardom, winning 11 out of 15 hurdle events including the Stay-ers Hurdle at the last Cheltenham Festival, followed two weeks later by the Martell Cognac Liverpool Hurdle at Aintree, racking up £300,000 in prize money along the way.
But Rob's dream of 'the ultimate' - the Cheltenham Gold Cup - looked to be dashed in August when an injury sustained in the gallops at Jonjo O'Neill's stables turned out to be a hind leg fracture.
But the big-hearted champion has fought back to fitness and Rob says he is performing as well as ever in training and will be back in action early in the New Year.
Rob said: 'I want him to go for the Gold Cup and become the first novice to win it since Captain Christy in 1974.
'If he doesn't win it this year he should have a few more chances, because he will keep on improving until he is 12 or 13. But I really believe he is good enough to finish in front of Best Mate, who has won it three times on the trot.'
Despite Rob's confidence, he won't be putting any money on Iris's Gift.
He said: 'Although I will be urging my friends at the Red Cow to have a flutter, I won't be backing him myself. I only put any money on him once and he finished fifth, so I have decided I am a jinx.
'But nothing in the world would make me as proud as leading him into the winner's circle in March.'
Richard Thomas, chief executive of Chester and Bangor-on-Dee Races, said: 'It is almost unbelievable for a horse injured over the summer to be aimed at the Cheltenham Gold Cup.
'It would be a remarkable feat for the seven-year-old to become the first horse in 31 years to win the Gold Cup as a novice. It must be remembered that Iris's Gift has yet to jump a fence in public.'