Last weekend, the National Hunt season really kicked off. Did we see the Cheltenham Gold Cup winner? The Hennessey winner? The King George winner? So much happened, and we’ve so much to look forward too.
On Friday, Morning Run was an easy winner at Down Royal for Ruby Walsh and Willie Mullins, giving the stable another mare who could dominate the Mares Hurdle ranks. The gallant Little King Robin made every yard and ran on tenaciously to beat Arctic Fire in the Grade 2 WKD Hurdle. In the same race Tiger Roll was pulled up, with trainer Gordon Elliott reporting that the horse came back lame behind, so here’s hoping it nothing that will keep him off the course for too long.
Over at Uttoxeter Sgt Reckless made an ideal start to chasing when beating Gentleman Jon to make pleasing chasing debut for connections, who the week before made the same sort of impact with Knock House. Apache Stronghold was another to make an eyecatching start over jumps for Noel Meade and Paul Carberry.
Onto Saturday, were we saw some great action from Ascot, Wetheby and Down Royal. Conditional jockey Sean Bowen made an impact when giving a peach of a front running ride on Paul Nicholls’ Ulck Du Lin, after been based there for only three weeks. I’m sure there’s more to come from this extremely talented youngster.
For me, Sign of Victory, was undoubtedly the horse that caught my eye this weekend. Barry Geraghty looked cheeky after the last as everyone else was off the bridle with Barry still having a handful peeking through his legs to see what was behind him. He’s a really exciting prospect and is sure to go on mine, and others tracker.
It was a courageous front running win for What a Warrior for Dan and Harry Skelton, who dug deep to beat Black Thunder and Merry King. The horse has come on leaps and bounds since moving to this yard, and it will give the Skeltons a huge boost. As will the addition of Value At Risk, who has come over from Phillip Fenton’s yard in Ireland. I said a few weeks ago that I thought Dan Skelton will have a cracking season, and it looks like he will. What A Warrior will be seen in the Hennessey next. Unfortunately Emma Lavelle’s Le Bec suffered a tendon injury in the race, and is out for the season.
There was a shock at Wetherby, were At Fishers Cross got beat convincingly from Cole Harden for Warren Greatrex and Medinas for Alan King. Admittingly, Wetherby is a front running track, which suited Cole Harden, but I’m baffled by At Fishers Cross. I just don’t think he’s quite a Grade 1 horse and I doubt that putting him over chases will help either. His jumping isn’t great, and to me he seems weak behind. And the Novice Chasing division this season is ridiculously competitive and I’m not sure he’s up there with the best.
The Charlie Hall favourite didn’t come out on top either, with Paul Nicholls’ Silviniaco Conti only managing a fifth. He probably needed the run though, which is why he was in the race, but even when only 90% fit he should have won that race. Perhaps the older he gets the longer it takes for him to get fit. I don’t know, but we’ll find out next time he’s out I’m sure. Menorah was the eventual winner, making it another big Saturday winner for connections after Wishful Thinking last weekend. On his day he’s a class horse, and Phillip Hobbs said he’ll have to look at the King George next, whether the horse is good enough I doubt. Taquin De Seuil came on from his disappointment last time out, by finishing second, and Double Ross showed that he can compete at this level when finishing a game third. Some of these will clash again in the Betfair Chase at Haydock.
In the JNWine Chase at Down Royal, Road to Riches came out on top, with trainer Noel Meade admitting that a change in diet is the reasoning behind the horses progression. I’m a fan of this horse, and the step up in trip seemed to suit. I backed him to win the race, and I’ve also been brave and backed him ante post for the Gold Cup. Whether that’ll be his aim, I don’t know, but if it is, I’ll be confident of his chances. He’ll be aimed at the Lexus next. And to me, Paul Carberry is just a different class, so an added bonus. One that looked like she needed the run was Ma Filleule. She has shown that she has what it takes to be a player against the big boys, and as she’s one on my ’10 to follow’ list, I look forward to seeing her again, where I’m sure she’ll have come on a heck of a lot from that run.
At Carlisle on Sunday Holywell made his seasonal reappearance for Jonjo O’Neill but failed to get his head in front. Many Clouds came out the winner, and will be seen at the Hennessey next. Runner up Eduard looks one to follow for the season too. He’s gone under the radar up until now, and I think there’s lots more to come from this one.
And of course we can’t forget the flat… As I write this I’m still trying to work out The Melbourne Cup winner, and after changing my mind a number of times, I’ll opt for Royal Diamond for Johnny Murtagh. So good luck to all of the British and Irish runners!
The Breeders Cup didn’t disappoint either. Frankie’s ride on Hootenanny was just fab, beating stablemate Luck of the Kitten. Poor Andrew Balding had a luckless time of it, as Lord Van Percy, like Side Glance, were found to be lame. Farraaj finished a gallant 3rd from wide draw behind Happy Trails and He’s Your Man for Roger Varian and Andrea Atzeni.
In the Breeders Cup Filly and Mares Turf British pair Just The Judge Charlie Hills and Jamie Spencer, and Dank for Sir Michael Stoute and Ryan Moore were 3rd & 4th respectively. Dank was retired after the race. In the Breeders Cup Turf, it was 4 from 4 for Main Sequence who stormed down the outside to win from Flintshire. In the Breeders Cup Mile, Karakontie beat Anodin with Brit, Trade Storm finishing 3rd. Toronado raced in 2nd for much of race, ran a bit wide on final turn and folded tamely behind Karakontie who overcame stall 14 draw. In the Breeders’ Cup Classic, Toast Of New York just failed to catch front running Bayern with California Chrome finishing 3rd. There was an inquiry after the race, but the result stood.