The rain gods smiled on Cheltenham
The rain gods smile on Cheltenham
And we’re off! The abundant rain. The mud flying. The thundering sound of a fence being clattered. Welcome back National Hunt racing.
Cheltenham’s Showcase meeting ai the main curtain raiser of the season which this year was treated by unusual class as well as large competitive fields. Thank you, the rain gods!
Friday’s card began with an open looking two-mile five-furlong novices’ hurdle where Fergal O’Brien continued his new stable party with a treble for a fantastic Friday. Champagne Well showed good determination to justify favouritism.
Considering the head wind on the day, it makes the efforts of all winners look that bit more impressive. Braid Blue battled hard but couldn’t get on terms in time. A bunch finish with winners for the future likely.
The other legs of the local trainer dominance at jumping Headquarters came in the last two events on the afternoon. The amateur riders contest went to Petite Power for jockey Liam Harrison. The leaders folded up front which allowed the 10-year-old to make excellent headway over the last two fences and up the famous hill.
Plantagenet gave a great effort but the tank just emptied close to the finish. Finally, it was conditional Connor Brace who steered Benny Bridge to gold in the fading light where he avoided drama at the last hurdle and then powered up the hill is amazing style to win by eight lengths.
The novice chasers were a fascinating bunch in both races. First, a two-mile event for which quality dominated. Caius Marcius’s jumping disappointed considering he’s already a four-time winner over the bigger obstacles.
Getaway Trump, who took a huge pot on finals day at Sandown, had his debut but couldn’t go on yet, as with many from Ditcheat, and the trainer saying in the media, many are needing the first run to blow away any cobwebs.
Not That Fuisse finished well which is why he got silver, but no one was close to Al Dancer. The Betfair Hurdle winner of 2019 made the odd slight error but overall a good performance to note.
The stayer’s novice chase went to Warren Greatrex’s Mulcahys Hill. A brave duel with the talented Wholestone in the closing stages resulted in a neck between them on the line.
Heaven Help Us was a shock in the 2m maiden hurdle on hurdles debut to deny the favourite and an interesting Henderson newcomer – Fred.
The green light
Saturday morning greeted us to the true sight of jump racing – rain. A lot of rain. A sudden realisation that an inspection might not go in the favour of the sport but thankfully at 1.15 we got the green light.
Tom Cannon gained a win and maybe a possible minor injury as The Conditional took the staying handicap chase. Back down the walkway the saddled slipped and made the seven-year-old a bit frustrated, and Cannon was left on the sand but still walked back. Fifteen started, seven finished.
Paul Nicholls then showed the importance of having a run before starting the season with Quel Destin, waving goodbye to his opening effort at Bath, to take an interesting four-year-old hurdle. Soviet Pimpernel should also be a name to take out of the race with Torpillio, albeit disappointing in his likeable conditions.
Jamie Moore went the pace he had to on Knocknanuss, similar to that on a quiet M25. However, the change of tactics and the patience of Gavin Sheehan allowed Harry Whittington to celebrate his first Prestbury Park success with Saint Calvados who denied Vaniteux who showed some of his old sparkle for Sara Leech now at the age of 10.
The three-mile Pertemps qualifier gave us no “pulled up” efforts in the from book for next time, which was a slight surprise, but the pace was leisurely around two circuits of the old course. Tobefair showed his winning sequences again by now finishing first or second in the last four races. Second at the festival, a clear win in April and the hard-fought battle with Sunset Showdown.
Ramses De Teillee did his job by taking the three-mile novices’ hurdle and likely targets surely would be different Nationals after last season. Slate House managed his first chase win at Jumping Headquarters – a six-runner novices chase.
The traditional jumping meeting closer , the Bumper, saw Time Flies By weave around up the hill to show good headway and go through the field to take success for Barry Geraghty. The local boy again, Fergal O’Brien, snatched silver with Butte Montana. Both on debuts and exciting to see their next steps.
Jumping is now the name of the game where the rain, mud, cold all results in the most exciting event of the year. The Cheltenham Festival. Onwards and upwards to the Charlie Hall at Wetherby next week.