Showcase Saturday at Cheltenham and another seven race card on a busy day for British Racing, next year this meeting moves forward a week which for me would be a bit wrong as it would mean a week less between now and The Open meeting in a November,having it moved back would be a sensible option surely?
A much bigger crowd turned up at the jewel in the crown of jumping and from the stands it was a river of tweed, Tweed is as common to Cheltenham in the same way that the Egg and Bacon ties are in the Long Room at Lords or the Panama at Goodwood.
Today was more about trials for some of the big upcoming races as the season gets going.
2.00 The Lewis Badges Novices’ Hurdle,Class 3,3m1f110y,13 flights,4yo+
Anyone who has been an Annual Member at UK courses will have owned a badge by Lewis’ in Birmingham!
A nice looking race with some good staying types for the future here.
The top two in the market dominated the finish here as the Jonjo O’Neill trained In The Rough managed to get up by half a length to just topple Vivaldi Collonges,both horses like a few in this raced wide under the trees going down the back for the fresh ground.
This was the fourth win on the bounce for In The Rough after getting a hat trick at Worcester during the summe,he could be put away now but will make a good chaser in time,Vivaldi Collonges is a smart horse and is a lot better over three miles,Plenty of options await him but he could go chasing at some point this season and staying races will be his forte.
Man Of Plenty was 27 lengths behind the front two,This was a respectable run although he will be better dropped back to 2m4f.
2.35 The Marie Curie Cancer Care Handicap Chase,Class 2,2m4f,14 fences,4yo+
A very competitive Chase with many having this as a prep before next months Paddy Power and just like last year it went to the Jonjo trained Johns Spirit who was given a real peach of a ride by Richie McLernon as he sat off the pace and made smooth headway coming into the straight and led very cozily without the persuader being drawn on him.
The early pace was set by Champion Court who was reluctant to go out for another lap and needed some persuasion by Tom Scudamore, turning for home plenty held chances and Persian Snow was the only one who could give Johns Spirit a race but he could not pass him when overtaken.
Both should take their chances in next months Paddy Power and should both be involved in the finish.
Of the beaten ones Claret Cloak came back tenth of the eleven but hit the open ditch at the top of the hill which cost him any chance,this can be ignored. Ericht came third but ran a much better race in this than he has in any handicap so far over fences, wether he can maintain this is a question to be asked.
3.10 The Masterson Holdings Hurdle,Class 2,2m110yds,8 flights,4yo
A small field of four here but it involved the first and fourth in the Triumph hurdle at the Festival, Tiger Roll and Calipto.
Tiger Roll duly obliged again as he made up plenty of ground off the pace set by Calipto as he made the running when the runners eventually started a good few seconds after the tapes were released.
Turning for home Calipto was still in front but Sam Twiston Davies began to urge him along at which point Tiger Roll was eating up the lead and despite making a mistake at the last dug deep to get the measure of him by half a length.
Tiger Roll will probably go to Down Royal for a big hurdle race or maybe even Haydocks new hurdle on Lancashire Chase Day, Calipto had a bit of a breathing problem according to trainer Paul Nicholls, He has plenty more big days ahead of him but he won’t be a Champion Hurdle contender unlike Tiger Roll I think.
3.45 The Showcase Trophy (Hcap Chase) Class 2,3m1f,20 fences,4yo+
The sort of race that jumps fans love to see here, plenty of top quality chasers doing what they do best around the ups and downs of the place where it really matters.
Your Busy and Standing Ovation both set a real good gallop from the outset with Alfie Spinner in their slipstream and were really excelling themselves over the fences as the reached the top of the hill,coming down the hill plenty of them were queuing up ready to play their hands but turning for home Roalco Des Farges came through to lead and kept up to his work held Standing Ovation to a 4.5 length lead as they passed the line, Alfie Spinner came third and former festival winner Chicago Grey was fourth.
The Badger Ales at Wincanton has been touted as has the 3m3f race here next month but maybe the Becher could come under consideration for the Hobbs stayer, Standing Ovation who won the Badger race last year will probably go to defend his crown again and should take part in the big three mile handicaps, Chicago Grey the fourth will no doubt go for the big cross-country events after this.
4.25 The Vanilla Photobooks Handicap Hurdle,Class 3,2m5f,11 flights,3yo+ (0-140)
Plenty of improvers in this contest and a good few held every chance off the final turn and it went the way of top weight Ulzana’s Raid who just had half a length over Dragons Den as the crossed the line and the well touted Forthefunofit back in third place.
Ulzana’s Raid had some useful form coming into this race,notably behind Deputy Dan when they were second and third at Warwick who subsequently took the Grade Two Leamington Novices at the same course in January, Going in off 136 he should offer more progression but mainly his future will be over fences next season, Dragons Den ran a cracking race but will be better back in easier company than this, Forthefunofit was in need of the run and will be better over a bit further in time, Ardkilly Witness more known as a chaser came fourth and had a good blow out here.
5.00 The Royal Gloucestershire Hussars Novices’ Chase,Class 2,2m4f,14 fences,4yo+
Just the three in this but it was effectively a match between favourite Ainsi Fideles and Splash Of Ginge who both met at Perth just over three weeks ago and were separated by over 47 lengths that day.
Today though was revenge for the Nigel Twiston Davies trained Splash Of Ginge as he learnt a lot from his Perth run and tracking the leader throughout led over the last fence and handed Ainsi Fideles a seven length defeat, Outsider Gentleman Jon was always in last place and held but he got round in his own time,he will fare better when he goes handicapping.
As for the winner he should pick a few more up and he looks at home over this trip so as the season progresses races like the Scilly Isles and the Pendil would be be the realistic targets.
Ainsi Fideles as had a busy old late summer and early autumn and he remains in good heart.
5.30 The Jockey Club Venues Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race,Class 4,2m110yds,4-6yo.
Plenty of quality horses in this flat race but in the end it was all about one horse the David Pipe trained Moon Racer who cost £225,000 after winning a Fairyhouse bumper at 50-1, going in here winning like the way a 11-4f should I’d be shocked if he didn’t make his mark over hurdles when he gets sent over timber, he looks a real top quality prospect.
Twelve lengths back in second was twice bumper winner Arabic History who won cozily at Market Rasen last month when I was there, he ran up to his best and was simply outclassed by a better horse and will probably get sent over hurdles after this, Paolozzi came third and ran well considering the opposition.
This is a bumper worth following as it should produce some good winners over the coming months.
So a very good two days of racing comes to a close, Cheltenham did feel a bit different with the girders of the new stand towering over the paddock but it will be all worth it when eventually completed in time.
Plenty of horses to take note of from this meeting as the season slowly begins to get going, one of the joys of all jumps fans is seeing the young horses that could be potential winners in the big Graded events.
Saturday coming I shall be at Aintree for the Grade Two Old Roan Chase.
Till then keep up the reads and RT please.