The ground was riding soft for the two-day International meeting at Cheltenham according to the jockeys.
Friday, December 11th
Make Me A Believer, this imposing type by Presenting looked in great nick after having wind surgery. He travelled comfortably in third place and I like the move he made coming off the final bend which brought him to the front. He had to find extra on the running, however he responded all the way to the line. I can see no reason why he will not progress after this.
Any News, this well-made future chaser looked fine beforehand and was held up off the pace. He gradually crept in to contention and jumped to the front crossing the last flight, but as hard as he tried he was unable to concede the 5lbs to the winner. I thought this was a solid effort.
Lucky One who is slightly smaller was a touch keen to start with and I thought he ran well to a point, but he was left by the other two coming off the final bend.
Happygolucky, last time out this fella did not look happy around the tight turns of Fakenham and once this race was underway he clearly appreciated the galloping nature of this track. This son of Jeremy measured his fences well throughout the contest and he bounded clear up the hill. I see no reason why he cannot progress, but he is far from the finished article just yet.
The Mighty Don, looking at this fella beforehand I thought he looked fine, but when the pace increased down the back it put pressure on his jumping. To his credit he didn’t give up and he stayed on all the way to the line which eventually saw him take second place.
Hold The Note looked well and he led the field at a good pace, but you could see that once he cleared the second last he was fighting a losing battle and in the end he failed to see out the trip.
Breffniboy completed a four timer off his highest ever handicap mark of 122. I have to say coming down the hill I didn’t give him much chance especially when he was short of space coming around the final bend, but he found an impressive turn of foot that brought him to the front which saw him pull away in the closing stages.
Lively Citizen got very hot in the preliminaries, but it didn’t stop him from running a terrific race in second.
Marlborough Sounds looked very fit and was well positioned from the off. He moved to the front with two flights to go and even though he dug in he had no answer to the winner’s turn of foot.
Haafapiece was unlucky when he took a horrible fall at the last because I think he would have been involved in the finish.
Rowland Ward looked the part and looked a big player coming down the hill, but once straightened up for home his efforts petered out.
The paddock pick was Benny’s Bridge, but he was never a factor.
A good field assembled for this Grade 2 and the unlucky horse in the race wasFanion D’ Estruval. Looking in pristine shape this 5yo jumped well and was still hard on the bridle when he fell three out. Given the way he was going I think he would have been involved in the finish.
Mister Fisher looked fabulous paddock side and he lifted this Grade 2 event. The key to this 5yo’s success is that he is at his supreme best in small fields because he clearly hates to be crowded.
Kalashnikov looked grand, but I thought there was still room fitness wise. Held at the back he jumped and moved to look menacing coming down the hill. As he made his challenge he found a slightly more determined character in the winner. This was a huge step in the right direction.
Clondaw Castle who won last time out came here looking in great nick, but he lost his position down the back and in the end ran through beaten horses.
Top Notch looked to be carrying plenty of condition which surprised me. Overall he ran a respectable race.
Saturday, December 12th
I am not sure this was the strongest running of this race and the winner Adagio paid a huge compliment to Duffle Coat who beat him by 5 lengths here last month. Looking the part paddock side this juvenile jumped and seemed to travel comfortably within himself. As he came through to make his challenge victory was never in doubt. He is clearly a talented hurdler and it will be interesting to see where his trainer pitches him in next.
Historic Heart, this ex flat racer who was rated 78 probably ran the race of his career in second. He was no match for the winner jumping the final flight.
The not overly big Son Of Red looked in tip top shape and probably stepped forward from his victory at Newcastle.
Nicky Henderson has dominated this race over the years and he supplied the winner in Fusil Raffles. This good looking type turned up here looking full of himself and even though he made a couple of minor errors I thought he showed great guts to come out on top. I am sure he will appreciate better ground and I think this is clearly his trip.
The solidly made Lieutenant Rocco made the winner pull out all he had to come out on top. Nick Mitchell’s gelding jumped well at the head of affairs and had most of the field in trouble jumping the second last, but it looked as if he took a blow and he became leg weary approaching the post.
The favouriteChantry House looked to have taken a step forward since his victory at Ascot, but he never looked happy on the second circuit. His jumping became scratchy and I just wonder if he will be better over further and on good ground.
This was meant to be a competitive Grade 3 Handicap, but the winner Chatham Street Lad made mincemeat of his rivals. He had been put up 13lbs for his previous victory at Cork and you could see throughout this contest that his jockey was never in trouble. His jockey took a pull at the top of the hill and he was literally running away approaching the last fence and in the twinkle of an eye he bolted 15 lengths clear of the second. Michael Winters clearly has a progressive horse on his hands.
Midnight Shadow who got a touch warm probably ran the race of his life, but all he could see was the winner galloping in to the sunlight. Sue Smith’s gelding proved that he is back to his best.
Benatar made a highly encouraging return to the track after a 693 days absence. A touch keen to start with he got himself in to a lovely rhythm and overall this was a commendable display.
Good Boy Bobby looked great and came from off the pace to stay on to finish in fourth. I see no reason why he cannot step up by half a mile.
This race has been won by some top novices over the year including Iris’s Gift, Comply Or Die, Black Jack Ketchum and Coneygree. I do not think this year’s renewal will match any of those, but I was taken by the way the winner Make Good spread-eagled his field to win by 7 lengths. You could see that Richard Johnson had plenty of horse underneath him and once he got a clear passage he strolled clear. The frightening thing is that he is not even one of the top novices in Ireland.
The chaser Pats Fancy looked fine/well and even though he didn’t run too badly he will be better further down the line.
A big field assembled for this Group 2 which saw the admirable Song For Someone come out on top. He looked immaculate paddock side and even though he was dropping down in trip it didn’t inconvenience him and he prevailed by a nose. The trainer said he will bypass the Champion Hurdle.
Silver Streak, this grey looked well and ran a cracker in second.
Ballyandy who always looks the part runs his best races in this grade.
Sceau Royal looked terrific and was smuggled into the contest coming to the last, but the soft ground blunted his turn of foot.
Summerville Boy looked the part and ran his heart out, but is clearly better with an extra half a mile.
Goshen turned up here looking in A1 shape and took a keen hold throughout the race. He fell away coming around the final bend and the trainer discovered he had an irregular heartbeat.
Star performance of the meeting:
CHATHAM STREET LAD, the way he won this competitive handicap suggests his trainer has a graded performer on his hands and when you consider this was the first time at this trip he is open to a fair amount of improvement.
Horse to note:
COURT MAID, this horse caught my eye in running because she was positioned out the back and ran wide throughout. She had a small chance coming around the final bend, but in the end was allowed to come home in her own time.