The JCB Triumph Hurdle Trial (Finesse Juvenile Hurdle) (Grade 2)
The JCB Triumph Hurdle Trial saw another victory for Nicky Henderson’s French import Rolling Star; typically promoted to favouritism for the ‘real thing’ in March. Rolling Star came up the hill well enough to beat the Paul Nicholls trained Irish Saint by 2 1/4 lengths, with the next best of an ordinary looking bunch more than 30 lengths away in 3rd.
Irish Saint appears to be more of a chasing type and is unlikely to run in the Triumph – “More of a horse for the future” said Nicholls – there are some good juveniles to be seen.
Victor Chandler Chase (The Clarence House Chase) (Grade 1)
Sprinter Sacre, donned the Frankel of Nation Hunt Racing won once again in effortless style. If the young chaser stays fit and sound, then baring a fall he will not be beaten for a long time to come. Credit due though to the 2nd horse Mad Moose and a fantastic ride from Sam Twiston-Davies. Sam who is fast becoming a favourite jockey of ours sent Mad Moose into a 25 length lead from the start, and although he was caught and demoted back into 4th at one stage, horse and jockey battled on gamely to get 2nd place at the odds of 50/1.
Argento Chase (The Cotswold Chase) (Grade 2)
For us this race was all about the return of the 2010 Gold Cup winner Imperial Commander; and what a great feat of training from Nigel Twiston-Davies to get the horse to run so well after nearly two years off the course. The Commander raced prominently throughout, jumping well and going 3 lengths clear approaching the last, then driven up the hill by Paddy Brennan, looking the likely winner. The fairy tale ending though, was not to be as Cape Tribulation patiently ridden by Denis O’Regan, loving the ground, came storming up the hill to take the race in the last few strides. Hunt Ball ran with credit for a long way until tiring and finishing a remote 3rd with the rest nowhere in sight.
Once again Gran Crus was made favourite and disappointed. He would not have enjoyed the heavy ground, but it wouldn’t surprise us if connections decided to run him in the World Hurdle come March. Stranger things have happened, but we can’t see any of these horses going on to win the Gold Cup, could this be the year for the new kids on the block?
Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle (The Classic Novices’ Hurdle (Grade 2)
Another exciting finish involving Sam Twiston-Davies on The New One and A P McCoy on At Fishers Cross. Conygree made most of the running but soon faded back into 3rd place as the leading pair went for home. Sam did nothing wrong on The New One, taking him into a 2 length lead, approaching the last and grabbing the rail up the hill. A P had to switch his mount to the left but once again – he showed us why he is still the champ, in a thrilling driving finish to get up by a neck on the line. It’s unlikely that the two will meet at the festival as The New One will probably go for the Neptune and At Fishers Cross for the Albert Barlett, both around 5/1 for their respective races.
Rewards4Racing Cleeve Hurdle (Grade 2)
It certainly was a day for spectacular finishes and the Cleeve Hurdle was no exception. Oscar Whiskey had been patiently held up by Barry Geraghty at the rear of the field for much of the race, and making steady headway to go 2nd approaching the last. Reve De Sivola had raced prominently throughout and held a slight lead at the last. The pair were toe to toe going to the finish, with Richard Johnson and Reve De Sivola just prevailing by a neck on the line. The pair are around the 4/1 / 9/2 mark for the World Hurdle in March, which promises to be the most open race for years in the absence of Big Bucks.
Much has been said about the testing ground conditions that have prevailed this winter and credit due to the horses that have battled through them, however if the ground comes up good in March as is usually the case, you can’t help thinking that some of the form will be turned on its head. All part of the joy of trying to find the winners.
– Bruce Roger