Another Cheltenham Open Meeting has come and gone…
It was difficult to see any major pointers towards the Festival in March but no doubt the layers have shortened up anything that ran well…
Friday was interesting…
Before the Cross-Country chase, all the talk was of a re-match between Tiger Roll and the French horse Easysland… after the race, the talk was entirely different. Both horses had not run up to expectations Tiger Roll who seemed edgy in the paddock and lifeless in the race has left his supporters wondering if there is one more Tiger Roll of the dice left in his illustrious career or does retirement beckon? Gordon Elliot seemed to me to be preparing the way for drawing stumps but no doubt he will chat to the Gigginstown lads before any decision is made. O’Leary has been quoted as saying “Tiger Roll will be retired when Tiger Roll tells us he wants to retire”.
Whatever happens the horse has done them proud. The French horse also disappointed, connections blaming a combination of ground and weight. I am sure we will see a different Easysland come March when the race is at level weights and not a handicap.
Talking of the Cheltenham cross country course… talking to a French trainer some years ago, just after the course had opened I asked him what he thought of the fences… his shoulders went up in a classic Gallic shrug, his nose and eyebrows likewise followed by a loud “pffft…too small” …mind you having seen some of the courses in France I could see his point. In Cheltenham’s defence the course does look a lot stiffer these days.
Friday gone seen one of Hope Eden’s trainers Phil Kirby introduced a nice novice chaser at Newcastle. Admittedly it was only in a class 5 but for this grade Epsom des Mottes jumped well out in front and came home clear of his field. I think he would have won even more easily if all the fences had had to be jumped but two were omitted because of the low sun. If the handicapper is not too harsh, I am sure this son of Maresco Sorrento will be able to follow up.
Selection Recap: Al Dancer – Cheltenham: Paddy Power Gold Cup Handicap Chase
Saturday was almost pay day but Al Dancer, although being backed into favouritism, just could not do us a big favour. Having watched the race back a couple of times I felt he did not jump too fluently on the first circuit but really started to motor when the pace picked up going away from the stands. Coming to three out I thought it was just a matter of Sam T-D releasing the handbrake, but the leader seemed to quicken again whilst our lad started to run on empty. Much to his credit he stuck on valiantly for third, but he seemed to have a hard race let us hope it has not left its mark on his future performances as there would seem to be a good race in him.
I felt for Gumball and his supporters as well at the weekend, given a really attacking ride from the front by Richard Johnson he was still tanking when horse and rider had a Cummings /Boris moment at the second last and parted company. Whether he would have held on up the final hill is an unknown but if he is none the worse for the fall, he can gain compensation.
Sunday’s card was rather spoilt by the ground altering which led to lots of non-runners, leading to some weaker contests not least the Shloer Chase where last years winner Defi du Seuil ran no sort of race leaving this year’s Arkle winner Put the Kettle On to overhaul the 2019 Arkle victor Duc des Genievres on the run to the line. Obviously, the mares allowance came in handy, but the winner is now three from three at the course so must be respected if showing up in March for the Champion Chase.
Away from Cheltenham on Sunday there was a performance to note at Fontwell in the Southern National over a stamina sapping 3m 3f and 110 yards. Held up at the back by Charlie Deutsch Cloudy Glen sauntered away over the final two fences to win easily. He won this off 134 so assuming he goes up say 6lbs to 140 or thereabouts Venetia Williams might have something in mind like the Welsh Grand National providing he gets in off this low handicap mark. Last years winner Potters Corner was rated 145 and ran off 10st 5lbs so it will be touch and go.
Will be in touch,
Good luck as always throughout the winter. If you’re interested in racehorse ownership, take a look at Hope Eden’s available shares.