As the dust starts to settle following a fantastic Cheltenham Festival, it is time for reflection and look ahead to the future, which admittedly is uncertain in the short-term.
Nicky Henderson kicked off the meeting with Shishkin providing him with his fourth win in the Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle. The Sholokhov gelding looks tailormade for chasing next Autumn and every inch an Arkle Trophy contender.
However, his stablemate ALLART caught the eye in fifth. Rated 142 beforehand, the six year old went into the Festival opener as an unknown quantity following wide margin wins at Ludlow and Doncaster and, while he didn’t trouble the principals at the business end, the Shantou gelding was very much in contention turning for home. Beaten around 15 lengths, he is improving with each start and is bred to stay further.
One can envisage him developing into a live contender for next year’s Marsh Novices’ Chase. In the meantime, given the fact he is owned by Ronnie Bartlett, don’t be surprised if he turns up at Ayr’s Scottish National meeting before being turned out for his holiday.
CANARDIER wouldn’t have troubled Dame De Compagnie and co had he stood up at the last in the Coral Cup on Wednesday but there were still plenty of positives to be taken from his performance.
It was the eight year old’s first run for Willie Mullins having only joined Ireland’s champion trainer in late January. Fifth in the race in 2019, he was four pounds higher on this occasion but held every chance after the second last. Off the bridle soon afterwards, he was tiring when coming down but is handicapped to win something decent before the end of the season.
Tried over fences earlier in the campaign for his previous trainer Dermot McLoughlin, he is likely to tackle the larger obstacles again in due course but he is one to note for the Fairyhouse and Punchestown Festivals later in the spring.
Al Boum Photo rightly received all the plaudits when becoming the first horse to win successive Cheltenham Gold Cup since Best Mate on Friday. Willie Mullins’ eight year old fought off the late thrust of Santini to rewrite the record books.
The performance of his stable companion REAL STEEL is worth acknowledging, too. With an SP of 50/1, he was supposedly the yard’s third string but Brian Hughes' mount made stealthy headway coming down the hill and was still on the bridle approaching the home turn. A dual Grade 2 winner over fences, he was tackling three miles plus for the first time and his effort petered out after the last.
The Jared Sullivan owned gelding was only beaten seven and a quarter lengths though and will be suited by a drop back to three miles. Given the fact his trainer has always felt the seven year old is better suited by right handed tracks, the Punchestown Gold Cup is likely to be on his radar and he could be ideal for the King George on Boxing Day.
Paul Nicholls has won the BetVictor Gold Cup on two occasions, courtesy of Al Ferof (2012) and Caid Du Berlais (2014) and he may have another prime candidate for the 2020 renewal. SAINT SONNET won three times over hurdles and once over fences when trained in France. The five year old joined the champion trainer mid winter but didn’t make his UK debut until the back-end of last month winning cosily at Catterick.
Thrown in at the deep end a little over two weeks later in the Grade One Marsh Novices’ Chase, the Saints Des Saints gelding was largely ignored in the market being sent off at 33/1. He belied those odds though and ran better than his finishing position of seventh implies. Still holding every chance approaching the second last, he faded thereafter.
However, with a rating of 145, he looks tailormade for the prestigious two-and-a-half miles handicap in November – he would have carried 11st 5lb in this season's event with such a rating. Lightly raced and exposed, he has time on his side and can win a big prize next term.
Having approached the meeting with high expectations, it proved a bitterly disappointing few days for Colin Tizzard and his team. His 17 runners produced form figures of 0P734P6FP0P00PP30 with Lostintranslation providing the ‘highlight’ in the Gold Cup. The Betfair Chase winner ran a cracker in third holding every chance at the last until his stamina appeared to give way late on.
There was also plenty of encouragement taken from THE BIG BREAKAWAY’s run in the Ballymore Novices' Hurdle on Wednesday. Even though the previously unbeaten gelding was over 14 lengths in arrears of the brilliant Envoi Allen, he kept on in fourth suggesting a step up to three miles will be beneficial. With that in mind, the Grade One Sefton Novices’ Hurdle at Aintree, a race his stable won five years ago with Thistlecrack, looks an ideal end of season target. Looking further ahead, expect the former pointer to be tackling the RSA Chase in 12 months time. He remains a tremendous chasing prospect.
With a better round of jumping, THE BOSSES OSCAR could have won the closing Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle. One of four runners in the race for Gordon Elliott, the five year old went into the race with only three runs over hurdles against his name and making his handicap debut off a mark of 138.
Ridden for the first time by Sean O’Keeffe, he was at the rear halfway down the backstraight following an unconvincing round of jumping and appeared to have little chance of getting involved. However, he made relentless late headway inside the final half a mile and, having been hampered by the fall of stablemate Column Of Fire at the final flight, he kept on strongly and was beaten less than four lengths.
Placed in two point-to-points for Denis Murphy, his running style suggests he will stay three miles and may improve for better ground, too. There is a decent staying prize over hurdles to be won with him before embarking on a chasing career.