CHELTENHAM REVIEW Days 3 & 4
CHELTENHAM REVIEW Days 3 & 4
The Marsh Novices’ Chase saw one of the closest finishes of the week with three quality horses in Melon, Samcro and Faugheen all jumping the last all with a chance but it was the first two mentioned that crossed the line together in a head-bobbing finish. It was Samcro for Gordon Elliott who got the verdict in a photo-finish to win his second festival race having won the Ballymore Hurdle back in 2018 and you’ve got to feel for the runner-up Melon, who has filled the same spot at the last four festivals now, a very consistent horse who deserves a big win. It was also a gallant effort from the twelve-year old Faugheen to be beaten just a length, it’s very unusual to see a horse of that age run at this meeting let alone in a novice chase but he showed no signs that he’s finished just yet and connections must feel so proud of the horse.
Sire Du Berlais made it back-to-back wins in the Pertemps Network Hurdle off a 7lb higher mark than last year and this time round he had to carry top-weight which was a good performance. The winning distance was slightly bigger than the neck last year but it was still only half-a-length from The Storyteller but the winner was always finding that little bit more in the closing stages.
Similar to stablemate Melon, Min had finished second twice at the festival before, both behind Altior (Supreme and Champion Chase) but unlike the aforementioned he went one better when getting the better of Saint Calvados and A Plus Tard in an exciting Ryanair Chase. Frodon attempted to make all as he’d done a year prior but once headed was always struggling to recover and the two market leaders turned for home on level terms before two good jumps at the final two fences secured the victory for Min despite 16/1-shot Saint Calvados rallying late-on to secure second place ahead of the favourite A Plus Tard.
A big-shock was caused in the highlight on the third day, the Stayers Hurdle, where we had a very short-priced favourite and last year’s winner Paisley Park in the field. He often finds a flat spot during his races but usually picks up and gallops his rivals into submission but it wasn’t to be this year unfortunately and to take advantage of that was Lisnagar Oscar (50/1) who is trained by Rebecaa Curtis. He’d been chasing in the first couple of runs this season before reverting back to hurdles where his best run had been when third behind Paisley Park in the Cleeve Hurdle here in January but he stepped up markedly on those outings by winning by two-lengths to Ronald Pump with Bacardys a closing third.
The form-line from a previous handicap over track and trip gave favourite-backers a winner in the Brown Advisory Plate with Simply The Betts. That horse had beaten National Trust winner Imperial Aura in identical conditions back on Trial’s Day and looked a good bet for this off a 9lb higher mark after that horse had won on Tuesday. He beat the likeable mare Happy Diva (has only ever finished below fourth when completing over hurdles/fences just the once in 28 completed starts) who again ran a blinding race in second with a former festival winner Mister Whitaker and Oldgrangewood filling the other places.
Last year Concertista was beaten in the Mares’ Novice Hurdle by a short-head but there was no heartache this time round for her owners Simon Munir & Isaac Suede as Willie Mullins’ mare romped home by an impressive twelve-lengths to maintain her trainers unbeaten run in this race since it was first staged back in 2016. He also saddled the second, fourth and fifth in this years renewal with Phillip Kirby’s Rayna’s World splitting them to give the northern-based trainer a first place at the festival.
The final race on day three was the Kim Muir Handicap Chase and it went the way of Milan Native for Gordon Elliott, who had previously won the race with Cause Of Causes in 2016. His rider Mr R James claimed his first win under rules having won over a hundred times in the point-to-point field which was great to see, his mount got the better of last year’s second Kilfilum Cross who again was the bridesmaid in this contest.
A fantastic story was written in the blue-riband event, the Magners Gold Cup, as we saw a horse achieve back-to-back wins in the race for the first time since Best Mate in 2003, who also won the following year to make it a third. Al Boum Photo became the seventh horse to win the race in consecutive years, joining Best Mate, L’Escargot, Arkle, Cottage Rake, Golden Miller and Easter Hero. It was a tremendous achievement and great training performance by Willie Mullins to get the horse ready for another win in the race, he was waited with in midfield by Paul Townend and though slightly headed in between the last two, the eight-year old really knuckled down up the run-in and thankfully the line came in time as Santini was pressing him hard towards the line and with another 100 yards the result may well have been different. Lostintranslation produced a fine round of jumping after being pulled-up in the King George VI and he jumped the last together with the winner but just didn’t quite stay the trip and finished back in third. The disappointment in the race for me was Clan Des Obeaux who never really got into the race but all credit must go to the Willie Mullins team, the horse itself and jockey Paul Townend for providing racing fans with a remarkable story.
We began the day with a very unfortunate loser in the form of the highly-talented Goshen who left his rivals for dust on the turn for home, the speed he showed to kick clear was unbelievable but sadly the horse unseated his rider over the last flight with victory in the bag, he however looks a horse to be very excited for next season with a strong possibility of a tilt at the Champion Hurdle for Gary Moore. His fall left Allmankind in front but he was already tiring and Burning Victory took advantage of that to assert towards the line with Aspire Tower rallying for second.
A brilliant week for owner JP McManus was topped off with a seventh winner as Barry Geraghty streered home the 11/2 favourite Saint Roi in the County Hurdle having moved very smoothly throughout the race, he was another who kicked clear up the hill in good style with a blanket finish for the places in behind between Aramon, Embittered and Buildmeupbuttercup in that order.
There was another thrilling finish, this time in the Albert Bartlett and it was another winner for the eventual leading trainer & jockey combo of Willie Mullins and Paul Townend. With four at the last together in the air, Monkfish had been headed on either side by Latest Exhibition and Fury Road and it looked as though it’d be between the pair but the Rich Ricci-owned six-year old stuck his head down again and just managed to poke his head out on the line to win by a neck with a further nose back to the third whilst Thyme Hill wasn’t far away on the far side in fourth.
We saw a 66/1 winner in the Foxhunters as It Came To Pass won by ten-lengths for Eugene O’Sullivan and his daughter Maxime who was on board the ten-year old gelding, this could of been backed to win with www.wetttippsheute.net Gordon Elliott had the 1-2 in the Johnny Henderson Handicap Chase with the well-backed Chosen Mate beating Eclair De Beaufeu in the hands of Davy Russell and we ended the festival with a pulsating finish in the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle with Rex Dingle somehow getting the 25/1 mare Indefatigable home in front to deny the Phillip Hobbs-trained Pileon in a photo-finish, though I do think the Column Of Fire would have won the race but for coming down at the last having stretched for the hurdle.
So the end of another great week at Prestbury Park, and despite the attendances down on previous years for each day, the action was still top-quality and
like always we were very well treated. My performances of the week in no particular order were those of Al Boum Photo in the Gold Cup (for obvious
reasons), Concertista (Mares’ Novice Hurdle), Envoi Allen (Ballymore), Easyland (Cross-Country), Epatante (Champion Hurdle) and Honeysuckle (Mares’)
with the race of the week for me coming on the final day in the Albert Bartlett which was won by Monkfish.