January 31, 2011 Leave a comment
Cheltenham as always put on a fantastic day of National Hunt racing last Saturday, with several big fancies for the Cheltenham Festival running very well in the Trials. Probably the most impressive of them was the David Pipe trained Grand Crus, who hosed up in the Grade 2 Cleeve Hurdle and looks a very obvious threat to the attempt of Big Bucks of achieving a third straight win in the World Hurdle.
12.55 Triumph Hurdle Trial – Grade 2
Won by the Steve Gollings trained, Local Hero, who made it three from three over Hurdles where in the process staked a further claim to win the Triumph Hurdle at the Festival. It was not the greatest of performances and much of the credit must go to jockey, Tony McCoy who coaxed the four year old through a difficult race. In the event he won by 2 lengths from the well backed second favourite Third Intention, trained by Colin Tizzard and has earned a quote of 20/1 for the Triumph Hurdle.
1.30 Timeform Novices Handicap Chase
The Giant Bolster, trained by David Bridgewater looked a useful novice in the making when winning this Novice Chase when coming from behind. He looked to have plenty in the tank at the end, but did jump fluently or run too smoothly. It was a workmanlike victory as opposed to spectacular but was a big improvement from his last performance at Cheltenham when falling at the 12th fence when in contention in the Steel Plate and Sections Novice Chase, won by RSA Chase favourite, Time For Rupert. The Giant Bolster looks a good each way prospect at 25/1 for the RSA Chase.
2.00 Murphy Group Chase (Handicap) – Grade 3
It would appear that Phillip Hobbs has a genuine contender for the inaugural Jewson Novice Chase at the Festival in Wishfull Thinking who was the fully deserving 3½ length winner of this very competitive Handicap Chase. He jumped really well, was never far off the lead and took control three fences from home and stayed on strongly to beat a very good staying prospect in Calgary Bay. Wishfull Thinking is now 10/1 Co favourite with Nobel Prince to win the Jewson and is 14/1 to win the Centenary Novice Chase and 16/1 for the RSA Chase. Calgary bay may be one to consider for the Grand National in April!
2.30 Argento Chase – Grade 2
Trainer Paul Nicholls was put into somewhat of a dilemma after his Neptune Collonges, under Tony McCoy put on a brilliant performance to win this competitive Chase from a high quality field. It is true that Tidal Bay did put in yet another strong finish at the end (he seems to do this all the time!), but Neptune Collonges, who led from the start had the race won a long way out and looked to be back to his best. Nicholls is now unsure to pitch him in for another Gold Cup challenge or make a bid for the Grand National, either way he would have chances in both based on this run. He is as short as 20/1 for the Gold Cup and 25/1 for the ‘National’.
The race surely ended the Gold Cup hopes of the Nicky Henderson trained, Punchestowns, who disappointed connections again with his third place, however the enigmatic Tidal Bay is certainly one horse who could upset the odds in the Gold Cup; if he is there or thereabouts with one fence to go Watch Out!
3.05 Neptune Investment Management Novices Hurdle – Grade 2
After taking up the running from just after two out from Backspin, the hot 11/8 favourite, Bobs Worth ran on powerfully to win this important trial by 2½ lengths from Rock On Ruby. The win immediately saw him made favourite for the Neptune Hurdle itself at the Festival with odds of 5/1. While Rock On Ruby, trained by Paul Nicholls is second favourite at 10/1.
3.35 Cleeve Hurdle – Grade 2
As mentioned in the introduction, Grand Crus produced the performance of the day when taking the Cleeve Hurdle by 10 lengths and looking every bit the major contender he now is for the World Hurdle. It was his second successive win over 3 miles but he has improved enormously since he won the first of those, the Listed Fixed Brush Hurdle at Haydock back in November. His trainer David Pipe was in positive mood after the win but will now rest the six year old until the big race.
Bookmakers typically were quick to respond and have made Grand Crus second favourite behind Big Bucks to win the World Hurdle with odds of 11/4.