Cheltenham, Friday November 13th
Fanion D’estruval looked in tip top shape for his first start for the campaign. He made a slight mistake at the first, but his jumping was good until he went through the second last and pecked at the last fence. Overall this was a good start and granted slightly softer ground he should be in the winner’s enclosure in the near future.
Magic Saint looked fit and well and was majestic over the fences. Brian Carver just had to point his mount and the rest was poetry in motion. I like the way he lengthened up the hill to win in decent fashion. I am sure he will go well when he is next on track after he has been reassessed by the handicapper.
Beat The Judge looked in rude health and ran a fine race. He was no match for the front two coming off the final bend, but I thought overall that this was a steady performance.
Born Survivor looked fit and may have not been at his best because the vet reported that he had burst a blood vessel which caused him to bleed from the nose.
On The Slopes did not look 100% fit and I thought he ran a reasonable race, but he is at his best on a flat track.
Ballywood, who looked grand, might be slightly better dropping in grade.
The best horse to come out of this race in recent times has been More Of That and this year’s winner Protektorat did not put a foot wrong over 16 fences. I know he won by 17 lengths, but at no stage throughout the contest was his jumping put under pressure and his jockey was able to do his own thing out in front. The trainer has suggested he may come back here for The Dipper on New Year’s Day.
Southfield Stone had an impossible task trying to concede 3lbs to the winner. This fine looking grey tried to stalk the winner from some way out, but he was simply left for dead coming around the final bend.
Paint The Dream has taken a step forward since his last performance and on this showing should be able to win a small race over fences in the future.
Mossy Fen had skin like a seal and was bursting with health, but for one reason or another failed to fire. He was clearly not at his best.
This race has a rich history of producing top-class performers. They were Black Jack Ketchum, Diamond Harry, Fingal Bay and the best of all was Coneygree who went on to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup in 2015.
This year’s running lacked strength in depth, but take nothing away from the winner Does He Know who completed a hat-trick. This likeable 5yo was a bit of a boy in the paddock, but in the race itself he put up a good performance even though his jumping still needs some tlc.
The mare Wild Romance looked fine and came from way off the pace to close the winner down to 3 lengths approaching the line.
Polish looked fit and ran a respectable race in third.
The Grand Visir looked in tip top shape and tried to make all the running, but his mistake at the top of the hill kind of knocked the stuffing out of him and he was a sitting duck coming in to the home straight.
Grand Mogul was the paddock pick and for most of the race things seemed to be going well. As he came to the second last he looked a major player, but he went out like a candle once the pressure was applied.
Cheltenham, Saturday November 14th
Over the years this race has been dominated by Nicky Henderson and Paul Nicholls and Gordon Elliot got on the score sheet courtesy of Duffle Coat. This grey gelding took advantage of the strong early pace and came from last to make steady headway to win by 5 lengths. I suspect the next time he will pitch up will be at Leopardstown at Christmas.
Adagio looked fit for his second run over hurdles. Placed in mid field he came wide in to the straight, but once he cleared the last you could see he had no more to give.
The sizeable Balko Saint looked in decent order and made a satisfactory second start. This was definitely a step in the right direction.
Cabot Cliffs led the field at a ridiculous pace and he paid for his early exertions when he was faced with the hill.
The favourite Hell Red who made a good impression at Chepstow looked well, but was a spent force at the top of the hill. I suspect this was not his running.
Gumball, Phillip Hobbs’s grey gelding looked fine and caught his five opponents on the hop from the start. He put pressure on their jumping with his front running display and as he cleared the open ditch at the top of the hill most of the field were starting to feel the pinch.
He had all of his field beat coming around the final bend only for him to fall two out. Looking pretty dazed when he got to his feet this 6yo will need a little time off to regain his confidence.
Eldorado Allen looked fit after winning at Newton Abbot last month. His jumping was under pressure and he came off the bridle coming around the final bend and in the end was a fortunate winner. His connections have nominated the Henry VIII at Sandown next month as his next likely race.
Quel Destin looked well, but could not live with the front two from some way out.
Fusil Raffles, who made a good impression when winning last time out over C&D, never looked happy at an early stage and he made a few minor errors on the way round, but once he left his hind legs in the open ditch at the top of the hill he was a spent force.
This is one of the first big handicaps of the jump season. I am not sure how the field compared to previous years, but it had a competitive look about it.
Coole Cody, this horse seems to have had a new lease of life since switching to Evan Williams and this was his biggest success to date. Prominent from the start he jumped adequately even though he made a few mistakes on the way round. As he cleared the last it looked for a second as if he was going to be swallowed up, but he found for pressure to hold on. I suspect he will return here next month.
Spiritofthegames came from last and ran a courageous race in second.
Al Dancer who looked well, travelled strongly in mid field and was picking his opponents off one by one, but he didn’t have what was needed when he encountered the hill for the final time. Overall, I thought this was a good performance.
Sky Pirate who looked fine was given a quiet ride and was being nursed in to contention. He made a mistake two out which halted his progress, but in the end had no more to give approaching the line.
Simply The Betts looked well, but his jumping did not hold up and he struggled from some way out.
Last year’s winner Happy Diva who was running off an 8lb higher mark looked as if he was going to be in the mix. He came under pressure coming around the final bend and was still in the mix when he fell two out.
Stimulating Song took advantage of a race that fell apart to win going away. I am not sure if all his opponents handled the underfoot conditions, but you could not fault the way the winner preformed. It will be interesting to see where his trainer pitches him in next.
Whatsupwithyou, this well-made gelding looked fit and tracked a steady pace. His rider kicked for home coming off the final bend, but had no more to give in the final half a furlong.
Captain Tom Cat looked fit and was searching for his fourth win of the season. Even though he was well beaten I thought this was a commendable effort given that he was stepping up in grade.
Kepagge was disappointing given the form he had shown last season. He looked pretty straight so I just wonder if he needed the run.
Topofthecotswolds led the field at a steady tempo, but once the pace quickened this chasing type was caught flat footed.
Cheltenham, Sunday November 15th
After overnight rain the ground became very testing.
The Big Breakaway, this good looking chestnut put in a faultless display on his chasing debut. He measured the fences with speed and accuracy and the field were not good enough to test him. The way he performed today I see no reason why he could not come back in trip if required. He looks a very exciting recruit to chasing.
Doc Penfro, looking fine/well this 8yo made a couple of minor mistakes on the way round, but was fighting a losing battle from some way out. With this experience to call upon he should take a step forward.
The Butcher Said looked fine/well and was given a quiet ride to come off the pace, but his jumping wasn’t slick enough in the conditions and once he pitched on landing two out his race was over.
Yala Enki looked in terrific order and ran an honest race off top weight. He showed in the past that he is at his best first time out and he gave everything only to be denied by a short head. Hopefully the handicapper will not put him up too much for this and will be competitive wherever he runs next.
Ramses De Teillee has a good record when the mud is flying and even though he was a touch keen at the start I thought he was given a good weighting ride by Tom Scudamore. As he came with a sustained challenge from three out he had to dig in after not being fluent at the second last, but he had enough needed to get his head in front.
Big River looked fit and was held off the pace. His jumping was fine, but you could see he was struggling with four fences to jump.
West Approach who looked well was not a factor from some way out.
Discorama looked well having had a previous run, but was too keen in the early stages and he paid for it after jumping the open ditch at the top of the hill.
This Grade 2 kind of fell apart with the non-runners and Defi Du Seuil pulling up, but saying all that the winner Put The Kettle On maintained her love affair with the track by completing a hat trick of wins. Not adopting her usual front running role this 6yo mare was taken wide and was given time to work in to the contest. She made a slight mistake three out, but in the end she had enough left to reel in the winner.
Duc Des Genievres took a keen hold from the moment the race was underway and refused to settle until clearing the first four fences. To his credit he still had a healthy lead coming around the final bend, but you knew given the conditions that he would eventually pay for it come the end. This was a good starting point.
Riders Onthe Storm didn’t really convince today. He seemed a little lethargic and didn’t seem to be at the races on this occasion.
Defi Du Seuil looked fine, but he jumped way too big at the first fence which caused him to land steeply. It didn’t seem to affect his rhythm after that and he looked to measure his fences and travel ok, but once over the third last he was beaten and he was pulled up before the last. Given what he showed last year there has to be something wrong with him and hopefully something will come to light.
Harambe, last year’s winner, turned up here looking bright and well and from the moment the race was underway he travelled well in mid field. He was still in with a big chance as he swung off the final bend, but he unfortunately fell at the last. I am not saying he would have won, but surely he would have been in the shake-up. I just wonder if his trainer will switch him to fences now.
The bottom weight The Shunter appeared out of the gloom to take this prize back to Ireland. He took a good hold to start with and I thought he was in trouble with 3 hurdles to jump, but he kept on finding and his greater stamina kicked in which brought him through to victory. Even off his revised mark there could still be another decent pot in him.
The top weight Ballyandy looked great and comes out here with a lot of credit. Travelling well in mid field he took a slight lead three out, but you could see the weight starting to tell as he climbed up the hill. This fella was just caught between two stalls because he is too high in the handicap and he is not a graded performer.
Tegerek was on his toes down at the start having looked well in the paddock. He came from way off the pace, but was fighting a losing battle up the hill.
Hunters Call ran well given that he was returning from a long break on ground that was not in his favour.
Sir Psycho looked well and was slightly unlucky given that he was hampered by a faller at the last.
For Pleasure, who looked fit, ran his opponents in to the ground. Now I am not saying he bolted, but I just wonder how much control Harry Bannister really had. To the jockeys credit he gave his mount a breather coming down the hill which I think made all the difference between winning and losing because when he was challenged he found extra on the running.
Third Time Lucki who looked in terrific order was not helped by the conditions and the way the race unfolded. He had so much ground to make up and in the end it was a task too much.
Jungle Junction was too free in the early stages and combined with a couple of mistakes sealed his fate.
Overall I do not think this was a strong renewal.
Star performer of the meeting:
THE BIG BREAKAWAY. Colin Tizzard looks to have an exciting prospect on his hands. He looked in great shape and showed that chasing will bring out the best in him. He now heads off to Kempton for the Kauto Star Novices' chase over three miles and I see no reason why that track should cause him any problems.
Horse to follow:
EDWARDSTONE has strengthened up over the summer months and looks a fine chasing prospect. The ground was not in his favour this season and I cannot wait until his trainer decides to send him chasing. Two miles in good ground will be his ideal bag.