An apprentice rider to keep an eye on, a Coral Gold Cup pointer and a self-professed 'filthy each-way' antepost bet come under the spotlight as our man reflects on the weekend's racing.
David Pipe, JPR One, Mouse Morris, Minella Missile, Broadway Boy, Springwell Bay, Nico de Boinville, Nicky Henderson, Jack Quinlan – it's not endless, but the list of heroes, villains, eyecatchers and names not to be missed in future! can be quite daunting following a three-day fixture like Cheltenham’s November Meeting.
Paul Nicholls, Harry Cobden and Stage Star winning Saturday’s Paddy Power Gold Cup from a mark of 155 will have been the clear highlight for many and you can’t really blame them. He’d been pulled-up at Cheltenham and Aintree in the spring of his novice hurdling campaign but set the record straight in the Turners Novices’ Chase at the Festival in March, and has kicked on again following another summer’s grass.
Quite how he survived that dramatic last-fence blunder I’m still attempting to process but he’s clearly as razor-sharp mentally as he is jumping from fence to fence. There are more big days in Stage Star, but he’ll need further improvement and I’m not bowled over by him as a 4/1 shot for the Ryanair Chase.
It’s the Coral Gold Cup a week on Saturday and the next cab off the rank for Nicholls and Cobden is Complete Unknown, but I was left wondering if we received a slightly more subtle nod towards the prestigious Newbury handicap in the aftermath of one of Sunday’s races at Prestbury Park.
Former Newbury winner Cloudy Glen saw off the challenges of Guetapan Collonges, City Chief and the Gavin Cromwell-trained Peaches And Cream, which may sound like a right result for Venetia Williams’ bold-jumping 10-year-old, but unfortunately for Cloudy Glen fans he was a mere 10-length second to another Cromwell runner in Malina Girl, who sprouted wings late on under Sean Flanagan.
The winner isn’t in the Coral Cold Cup but it’s clear her owners love nothing more than plundering major UK jumps prizes and they’ve got the Kim Muir runner-up Stumptown (20/1) entered up in the big one on December 2. That horse will be dead interesting if aimed there and I came away from Cheltenham thinking the likelihood of his participation at Newbury had probably heightened if anything.
There are filthy each-way bets and then there is Captain Guinness for next month’s Tingle Creek Chase. Frankly, what else is going to take Jonbon on after the Shloer Chase on Sunday?
Edwardstone was battered the thick end of 10 lengths and could well be heading for a step up in trip sooner rather than later, and I can’t imagine connections of Nube Negra or Editeur Du Gite will be in a hurry to take Nicky Henderson’s horse on again at Sandown.
Good old Captain Guinness (he’s still only eight for the record), second to Energumene in the Queen Mother and beaten less than four lengths by Jonbon in the Celebration Chase on the final day of last season, made a fantastic start to the year with a smooth, seven-length defeat of Riviere D’etel at Navan on Saturday.
He was giving Gordon Elliott’s mare 13lb in weight and 9lb to the third home, favourite Dysart Dynamo, so has clearly run right up to his best.
The current 5/1 won’t appeal to everyone but he’ll be more like 5/2 if there ends up being just three or four runners which unfortunately looks highly likely at this point. And if anything were to happen to Jonbon - before or during the race itself - then I’d bank on Captain Guinness being first in line to pick up the pieces.
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The north of England really does need Donald McCain operating at a consistently high level as the cupboards can look a little bare ‘round are way’ otherwise.
Things seemingly weren’t too rosy for the man who has 130 ‘horses in training’ listed on his (excellent) website during last month, McCain recording a measly tally of one winner from 40 starters. Several had been performing alright in defeat (11 seconds, three thirds and eight fourths for October), but the ones have now started to flow over the past seven days which will come as a relief ahead of the Betfair Chase card on Saturday.
Grand National also-ran Minella Trump was the only horse considered good enough to run at Cheltenham and he was beaten a long old way on his return to hurdles, which was no doubt expected, but five winners from the yard’s past 11 runners paints a much brighter picture and the seven-year-old Richmond Lake looks like taking the team to some good meetings this term on the back of his reappearance success at Wetherby.
He improved for a run last season so look out for him back over fences some time soon, possibly in the handicap chase at Wetherby on Boxing Day if the assessor leaves his mark alone for this (any increase from current chase mark of 142 would take him beyond the ceiling for that particular race).
Sundays in Ireland are a rich source of future champions and there were several high-class performances at Navan, not least from American Mike, who beat Fact To File in a beginners chase, and Croke Park, who shaped like he could have gone around again had he needed to in the two and a half mile Monksfield Novice Hurdle.
Robcour unleashed a couple of likely types in juvenile hurdle winner Kala Conti (Gordon Elliott) and mares’ maiden winner Look To The West (Henry De Bromhead), while Only By Night (Cromwell) – another in those green and yellow starred silks of Stumptown – added to her trainer’s impressive recent haul in the bumper.
But the widest smile was produced by Caragh Monaghan after registering her first winner under Rules on Ian Donoghue’s 40/1 shot St Denis’s Well in the two-mile handicap hurdle.
A very handy Gaelic footballer too by all accounts ("I used to play for Meath and have a few all-Ireland medals"), Monaghan looked fairly stylish in the saddle, particularly as she was fresh off a Saturday evening trip back from Cheltenham, where she'd been riding out for a certain Gavin Cromwell in the week.
There must be something in the water.
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