Jumping is back!
Yes the return of what some and indeed I call “proper” racing returned today at Prestbury Park for the two day Showcase meeting,this is the equivalent of the Craven meeting on the flat at Newmarket and for many people it’s the chance to see some good quality jumps racing at the place where it matters the most.
Today had a seven race card with a mixture of four novice events coupled in with some typical tricky and competitive Cheltenham handicaps.
The place also had a new day of term feel about it,before racing meeting up with friends old and new chatting about how the summer had been but now all in gear for the upcoming months ahead as attention now turned to all things jumps wise.
Racing was on the old course but the chute was not in use due to the ground being firm so it meant that 2m5f hurdles jumped eleven flight not ten and in the 2m4f chases they jumped fourteen fences and not sixteen.
2.10 The Neptune Investment Management Novices Hurdle,Class 2,2m5f,11 flights (4yo+)
Just six went to post but all of the field have something to offer as the season progresses,the early pace was solid but steady being set by Clondaw Draft until getting headed after jumping the second last and they were all in a heap turning for home until Saint Roque took the lead over the final flight and powered on up the run in to hold off A.P. on Rum and Butter while the early pace setter Clondaw Daft finished an honourable third with debutant Pure Science who will have learnt plenty in that race was fourth.
Definitely a race to keep an eye on here,Saint Roque made this four on the bounce and is still improving while Pure Science will be worth keeping an eye on as he now knows a bit more about the jumping game.
2.40 The Cheltenham Annual Members Novices Chase,Class 2,2m4f,14 fences (4yo+)
Only two went to post chasing the first prize of £9500 which was a tad disappointing given the amount of moaning you hear in racing about prize money.
Anyway this was much deserved win for Third Intention who made all and held off odds on favourite Rebel Fitz by 1.25 lengths, Rebel Fitz didn’t jump fluently while the winner who always found one too good in the big graded chases last season so was effectively a second season chaser masquerading in novice company, he will be aimed at the main 2m4f chases I expect and this win will do his confidence a world of good.
3.15 The Pertemps Network Handicap Hurdle Series Qualifier,Class 2,3m,12 flights (4yo+)
Twenty went to post here in the new look to this series as only the first eight home will be allowed to enter the series final at the festival in March which will only help make the qualifying races much more competitive and better to watch.
The field was a mixture of chasers and improving staying hurdlers and it was Trackmate who mugged Benbane Head on the line under a fine ride by Liam Treadwell with So Fine 3rd,On The Bridge 4th and Up For An Oscar 5th.
This was another win in a big field for Trackmate having won at Aintree back in May and a hike in the weights should occur,no doubt connections will be eyeing up the final but their will be more races during the season and anything can happen,Benbane Head is a likeable type and always runs a solid race.
3.50 The Ryman Stationery Cheltenham Business Club Novices Chase,Class 2,3m110 yds 19 fences (5yo+)
A fair novices event but not a high quality one,Pantxoa set out to make the running and was going ok when joined by Twirling Magnet with three to go and stayed on well up he hill to hold off Pantxoa by 4.5 lengths under the A.P. drive while According to Trev ran a gallant race staying on and will be suited over further on time.
Twirling Magnet probably won’t be the best chaser in the O’Neill yard as they have much better horses quality wise but he will be better for the win here and handicaps will ideal for him.
4.25 The Jack Dee Here on October 31st Maiden Hurdle,Class 3,2m110yds 8 flights (4yo+)
An all the way win for Lac Fontana here who jumped out under Daryl Jacob and made all the running to easily land the spoils from Germany Calling who was 4.5 lengths in second place and a much improved run by Apollo Eleven back in third
Lac Fontana had the better form here,third in a Grade Two at Kempton before being in mid division in the Triumph at the festival and looks set for a good season,he could return here at The Open although the 4yo hurdle at Haydock could also come under consideration while Germany Calling will come on for the run and Apollo Eleven will be suited by 2m4f and handicaps in due course.
5.00 The Fine & Country North Cotswold Amateur Riders Handicap Chase,3m110yds 19 fences (4yo+) (0-125)
Possibly the most exciting finish of the season so far,Rockshandy and Dammam set the early pace together then Dammam dropped back through the field and Handy Andy kept Rockshandy company until coming down the hill as the race approached the business end of the contest then as they took three out Rockshandy fell which left Handy Andy alone but he began to get lonely then Oscar Davy and Freddo got involved as the three of them turned for home, Oscar Davy was all set to take the lead as the jumped the last fence but he fell and again Handy Andy was infront by six lengths but again he felt lonely and began to wander then from almost another county last years winner Hunters Lodge picked up and flew up the hill under Mr J Bargary who until today had never ridden a winner at Cheltenham to win by 0.75 lengths from the staying on Five Star Wilsham.
It was a race like this that makes you love jumps racing,thankfully the fallers were all ok but it’s a race finish that is typical of Cheltenham, it’s never over till the horse has gone over that winning line.
5.30 The Rewards4Racing Reward Your Passion Conditional Jockeys Handicap Hurdle,Class 3,2m110yds 8 flights (4yo+) (0-140).
A chance for the new jockeys to have their own unofficial Champion Hurdle here over the same course and distance,well the apprentices on the flat have a Derby at Epsom so why not here.
Anyway it was Nicky Henderson who took this with First In The Queue,a 6yo carrying top weight he was very impressive under Jeremiah McGrath (3) and has been fairly busy in the summer winning a race at Aintree in June and been placed on his following three starts, he could be turned out again at Aintree next Saturday or wait and see if he gets in the Greatwood in November.
Canadian Diamond back in second looks held by the handicapper and the third Foxcub who went off favourite will be better for going up in trip.
Day one all done and it was great to be back over the sticks here.
Some exciting racing over the months to come and today was a real appetiser with the finish to the amateur riders event being the one event that really got the crowd all excited.
Day two next with Showcase Saturday and another day in the Cotswolds to enjoy.
Below,looking out to Cleeve Hill.
Below,Arriving at work!