Day two of The Showcase meeting at Cheltenham on what began as a lovely bright autumnal afternoon here at Prestbury Park on a card which was another mixture of big field handicaps and some tasty looking novice events with a wide open bumper to close proceedings.
This time last year I was at Ascot purely to see Excelebration and of course the mighty and amazing Frankel in the flesh for what for me was to be the only time but I am so pleased that I did as it made 2012 an even more wonderful year sporting wise for me personally.
Another seven race card for punters today with the feature races being the 4yo hurdle which had a nice look about it and the Showcase Trophy which is a very competitive 3m steeplechase.
It’s fair to say being at Cheltenham is as world away from Ascot,while at the Royal course it’s very much smart suits and dresses mixed in with bowler hats where as here at Cheltenham it’s a case of tweed jackets,funny coloured trousers and a respect of the bravery of national hunt racings horses and jockeys.
2.00 The Jools Holland Here On 9th November Novices Hurdle,Class 3,3m1f110yds,13 flights,(4yo+)
A mixed bag of ten in this opener,seven of which were improving staying novices and three experienced steeplechasers using this to open their season all under light weights as they were eligible to enter this contest.
The race itself went to recent Fontwell scorer Kings Palace who put them to the sword on the second circuit having taken the lead after the third flight on the first,he is a horse with a bright future ahead of him and stayed the extended 3m1f trip with effortless ease handing an 18 length thrashing to Creepy who is a fair sort himself but comprehensively beaten while the eye catcher for me was Monbeg Dude in third, way over priced at 25-1 for this he will come on a ton for this run and those long distance chases will be his target with the Welsh National being the main one but could come back here for a 3m3f Chase on Paddy Power day.
2.35 The Equs Fine Dining At The Festival Handicap Chase,Class 2,2m4f,14 fences,(4yo+) (0-152).
A wide open looking contest and a good few of these will have used it as a warm up for next months PP Gold Cup over the same course and distance albeit today the round course was used due to firm ground on the chute.
A fine waiting ride was the order of the day as Johns Spirit given a peach of a ride by Richie McLernon to lead after two out and comfortably beat Rob Conti who was second for the fifth successive time in a row, Tarktak on his first start for Victor Dartnall kept on for fourth,he needs dropping a few more pounds but is capable of winning a race soon and showed he retains some of his old ability.
Eastern Meteor went off favourite but made a few mistakes and even Noel Fehily lost an iron during the race,he never travelled well and pulled up coming down on the hill to three out but he can be forgiven for this for the moment.
Johns Spirit probably will be back next month no doubt and only a 6yo he has improvement in him and could even get three miles in time.
3.10 The Mastersons Holding Hurdle Race,Class 2,2m 8flights,(4yo)
Only six went to post chasing the first prize of £14250 but it was a cracking finish with just a neck separating first and second with first spot going to Sametegal who just managed to fend off Irish raider Bayan to give Paul Nicholls another winner here at the meeting,giving away weight including 6lbs to last weeks Chepstow winner Handazan who made the early pace but was being pushed along after they began the descent downhill,Sametegal travelled well but had to fight when Bayan got to his quarters and showed true grit to get the prize.
Bayan ran a cracking race in defeat,he has come on leaps and bounds winning his last three races and while Our Connor is the big 4yo hurdler at the moment he can pick some more nice races but will be better on the more flatter tracks I think.
3.45 The Showcase Trophy,Class 2,3m110yds 19 fences,(4yo+) (0-145)
Sixteen may have gone to post here but it was a bloodless victory for Balthazar King who made all the running under Richard Johnson to hand Tour Des Champs a 7 length thrashing and left many of this field toiling and even though fifteen of them got round,Connectivity pulled up, they were strung right out across Gloucestershire.
This was a hat trick of wins in this race for Balthazar King and no doubt the Cross Country here next month will be the next time he pops in for a run after which he will probably be rested for a while as he came into this race having win another Cross Country at Craon in France forty one days ago.
Of the placed horses the one who caught my attention was Bradley back in fifth,making his seasonal reappearance he kept on through beaten horses and will suite by longer distances and this run will have blown the cobwebs off him for the season ahead.
After this race the heavens opened and gave Cheltenham an almighty lashing of rain which sent many including myself running for cover,being a northerner I adopted the “When in Rome” policy so I turned into a “Southern Softy” and legged it to the betting shop,fortunately it meant I could have a bet on Farhh winning the Champion Stakes at Ascot,a cracking race it was too and I was delighted for Saeed Bin Suroor,after a turbulent and interesting year for Godolphin it was good to see Saeed showing just how good he is with the training of a talented and fragile horse
4.25 The Go Racing With McPhersonRacing.Co.Uk Handicap Hurdle,Class 3,2m5f 11 flights,(4yo+) (0-134)
This race was run as the rain continued to fall upon Cheltenham in a race won by Thomas Crapper (Don’t want to know what is nickname is at home) from fair novice Silver Eagle just 0.75 lengths back in second place while Princely Player kept on in third after his recent Fontwell win.
Just how strong the form is I’m not sure but Silver Eagle will be a lot better when sent back over three miles.
Mickie who had some good novice form last season was fourth when falling at the last but got up and will be better suited to more sharper courses and if more improvement is found with her she may be back here in March for the Mares Hurdle.
5.00 The Royal Gloucestershire Hussars Novices Chase,Class 2,2m 13 fences,(4yo+)
A small field but a race full of incident,to being with Mr Watson (no relation) set off in front and was very keen early doors building up a good lead after the first five fences,however he began to slow down going down the back and was dumped towards the rear as joint favourites Dark Lover and last weekends Chepstow winner Balder Succes overtook.
Coming into the straight Balder Succes had a three length lead from Dark Lover as the came to the second last fence then it all changes, Balder Success fell which gave the victory to Dark Lover on his chasing debut.
The Cockney Mackem also fell at two out and this brought the screens up from the officials, I had backed Dark Lover but it felt like a hollow victory to me,I stayed in the stands and kept my eyes on what was going on at the second last, I noticed Sam Twiston Davies walking back and he had a smile on him so all seemed that he wasn’t panicked with what happened and moments later the screens came down and the cheers erupted as The Cockney Mackem was safely up and led away back to the stables.
5.30 The Have Your Christmas Parties Here Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race,Class 4,2m (4,5,6,yo)
Probably the best bumper I’ve ever seen with eighteen runners providing a mixture of winning bumper form and previous winners in Points who cost a good amount to buy at the sales.
It payed to go with previous winning form in this as A.P. got the victory on Carningli trained by Rebecca Curtis and followed up his April win at Ffos Las with a strong performance here.
Chase The Wind made it three second on the bounce and has a future while 4yo Vazaro Delafayette who cost £160,000 after winning his only start in a maiden point at Larkhill ran credible race in third and it won’t be long before he’s over hurdles,maybe the fixed brushes at Haydock will suit him.
This is a hot bumper to keep an eye on for the future and all being well many future winners will come out of it.
So two lovely days down in the Cotswolds to see jump racing at its ancestral home,some good horses for the future have certainly been spotted along with a mixture of some old favourites showing they still have what it takes.
After a busy flat season by my standards anyway it’s always good to see horses leaping over timber and birch.
Going racing at Cheltenham is always an amazing experience,even if you are not really into jumps racing you must visit this place just once to see the appreciation,love and respect it has in those who go their,when The Cockney Mackem got up the cheers he received was a loving warm touch by the crowd,sure I may have backed the winner but for me cheering Dark Lover just felt wrong,in many ways it was sort of like when a footballer scores for his new club at the ground of his old one and be refuses to celebrate, not a perfect analogy but I hope you get the picture.
Next up is Aintree this Saturday for the Monet’s Garden Old Roan Chase, the first Graded race of the season.
Below,Sametegal after winning.
Kings Palace winner of the first.
Somewhere there’s a pot of gold.
Having a lunch break.