October 20, 2014 Leave a comment
Steve Chambers (@SteveChambers86) headed to Prestbury Park as the curtain went up on another season at the home of National Hunt racing. Here’s his wrap-up of the two day meeting…
Johns Spirit produced another scintillating display at Cheltenham on Saturday as the Jonjo O’Neill-trained seven-year-old fought off a spirited Persian Snow to bag the Marie Curie Cancer Care Handicap Chase for the second year on the spin and the Jackdaws Castle Raider and took his Prestbury Park tally to three wins from seven starts and he is set to return to Prestbury Park for next month’s Open meeting.
The consistent performer was victorious in the same race 12 months ago before going on to edge out Colour Squadron in the Paddy Power Gold Cup and O’Neill’s raider was cut to 10/1 with the sponsor’s for the Paddy Power Gold Cup and who’s to say that he can manage that feat once more? He travelled and jumped with aplomb for Richie McLernon and showed sheer tenacity to out battle Persian Snow and he was one of the stars of a marvellous Showcase meeting.
In Friday’s fixture at the Gloucestershire track, there were more valuable Paddy Power Gold Cup clues as Jamie Snowden’s Present View ran a superb trial for the 2m 4 ½f showpiece next month as he was just touched off in a novices’ hurdle. A fine winner of the Rewards4Racing Novices’ Handicap Chase last year, the six-year-old was just outsprinted by Paul Nicholls’s Vicente in the Friday curtain-raiser, but the bookmakers were impressed by Present View’s display and he is a best-priced 10/1 for victory on November 15.
The National Hunt season may only be beginning to click into first gear and the more likely Grade One contenders may still be in early work at home before they embark on a gruelling campaign, but the Showcase meeting provided a hatful of valuable pointers for the imminent season and there were some early movers in some Cheltenham Festival ante-post markets.
Evan Williams’s Court Minstrel was certainly the eye-catcher of the two days in the two-mile division as the former Scottish Champion Hurdle winner eased clear of Chris Pea Green and Thomas Crapper in the squareintheair.com Novices’ Chase on Friday afternoon. The seven-year-old has always had his quirks, but Paul Moloney produced a masterful waiting ride and produced his 6/4 shot late on and jumping to the front at the last fence propelled clear and he is now a best-priced 25/1 shot for the Arkle Challenge Trophy next March.
Gordon Elliott’s travelling Irish contingent have been in sparkling form in recent days and he bagged himself another notable success on UK soil as last year’s Triumph Hurdle winner Tiger Roll beat the classy Calipto in a thrilling finish to the Masterson Holdings Hurdle on Saturday. Coming down the hill it looked like the latter had got first run, but Bryan Cooper, fresh back from injury, stalked Sam Twiston-Davies into the straight and gradually worked his way past up the hill to bag the prize and cemented his place as a 25/1 shot with William Hill for the 2015 Champion Hurdle.
John Ferguson finally bagged his first winner at Cheltenham as Commissioned strode to victory in a mediocre novices’ hurdle, but he looks destined for bigger and better things and some bookmakers have priced him up as a 33/1 shot for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle next season, whilst Rebecca Curtis’s The Romford Pele got the better of Lamb Or Cod in an intriguing novices’ chase and that duo could both been seen in handicap events come the festival.
Cheltenham’s first meeting may not have been oozing top quality performers that will be contesting favouritism for the major races come the spring, but adding In The Rough’s victory in Saturday’s opening race, there’s a whole host of informative races to take away from their two-day Showcase meeting and one thing’s for sure is that many will be back to GL50 in a month to compete in some of the big races at the Open meeting.