11/16/2013 11:44AM

Cheltenham: Johns Spirit opens season with victory in Paddy Power Gold Cup

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CHELTENHAM, England - Johns Spirit closed from last in a field of 20 to win the richest race of his career in Saturday’s $256,000 Paddy Power Gold Cup at Cheltenham Racecourse, the first major race of the 2013-14 jump season.

The 7-1 second choice, Johns Spirit was toward the rear of the field until the final six furlongs of the race over 2 9/16 miles. Jockey Richie McLernon guided Johns Spirit closer to the leader with a half-mile to go, and they were within a few lengths of the lead turning into the uphill finish.

Johns Spirit took the lead two fences from the finish after leader Easter Meteor fell. Johns Spirit held off a late threat from Colour Squadron (12-1) to win by three-quarters of a length. Hidden Cyclone (20-1) was third, beaten 2 1/4 lengths.

Easter Meteor was not injured in the fall. Champion Court, the 6-1 favorite, finished seventh.

Johns Spirit is a 6-year-old Irish-bred gelding by Gold Well who has won 6 of 19 starts. His career began in May 2011. Owned by Christopher Johnston and trained by Jonjo O’Neill, Johns Spirit has won both his starts this year, beginning with a handicap chase here on Oct. 19.

O’Neill said that Johns Spirit will be pointed for a handicap chase here on Dec. 14.