Weekend Roundup: Long Run Flops As Harry Topper Lands Charlie Hall Chase And Roi Du Mee Wins At Down Royal

Long Run’s exemplary British record that had seen him finish in the first three of every race he had competed in came to an abrupt end at the weekend, as the former Cheltenham Gold Cup winner could only stroll home a tame fifth in the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby and left people scratching their heads over his poor showing in the Grade Two event.

However, Nicky Henderson was quick to set the record straight and let it be known that the eight-year-old scoped dirty following his exertions at the North Yorkshire track and that he would expect his Seven Barrows inmate to bounce back but bookmakers were quick to take on the Robert Waley-Cohen-owned gelding and he is as big as 25/1 with William Hill to regain the Cheltenham Gold Cup crown he won back in 2011.

Long Run’s jumping yet again failed on occasions over the 3m 1f trip and Sam Waley-Cohen was forced to sit tight as followers of the 11/10 favourite held their breath when he sent the birch flying, but it was his lack of zip in the home straight that would’ve alarmed his followers and they will be hoping that the dirty scope is the reason for his mediocre display and that Henderson can get him firing back on all cylinders when he goes in search of a third King George VI Chase title on Boxing Day, for which he is currently available at 12/1.

Kim Bailey’s Harry Topper was Long Run’s conqueror in the Charlie Hall but even though he landed the spoils by edging out the gutsy duo of Wayward Prince and Unioniste, it’s tough to see him shaping up into a genuine Cheltenham Gold Cup contender and William Hill have kept him around 33/1 for the Prestbury Park showpiece in March.

Earlier on the card, Paul Nicholls’s Tidal Bay showed he still has a love for the game as the 12-year-old dual-purpose performer landed the West Yorkshire Hurdle and the veteran was installed as a 50/1 chance for the Cheltenham Gold Cup, whilst he is a 33/1 shot for the Ladbrokes World Hurdle, and who’s to say that the wily old campaigner won’t be seen bidding for top class glory? The race at Wetherby was the same he won 12 months ago en route to Lexus Chase victory at Leopardstown last Christmas before injury ruled him out of Cheltenham. It has to be thought that Saturday’s re-appearance was a warm up for another tilt over bigger obstacles and his next engagement comes in the Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury at the end of this month, where he’s currently a 14/1 chance and would have to be respected.

Elsewhere at the weekend, Down Royal hosted a cracking card over the Irish Sea and their feature event was the JNWine Champion Chase, which has been to throw up a few first rate winners in the past but this year’s renewal saw a shock as the likes of Sizing Europe and First Lieutenant were unable to deal with the classy Roi Du Mee, who stormed to a 12-length success in the Grade One at an sp of 12/1.

It was the Gordon Elliott trained eight-year-old’s first Grade One success but even though he gained some sporadic quotes of 40/1 by some firms for the Gold Cup, he could well shape up into more of Ryanair Chase contender for which he is around the 20/1 mark for anybody look to speculate for value within their antepost portfolios.

Who’s Up For The National Hunt Season?

With the opening meeting of the season at Cheltenham already been and gone, we can now firmly say that the new National Hunt season is well underway and we look forward to the feast of ‘jumps’ racing that is coming our way over the next few months.

Of course, Cheltenham use their first meeting of the season in October as a dress rehearsal for the bigger meetings that they will be hosting during the season, the major one being the Cheltenham Festival in March but the Open meeting in November and International meeting in December have both become increasingly popular in recent years.

However, Cheltenham is not the only course hosting big early season events and this weekend, Aintree opens its gates with the first important chase of the season, the Grade Two Old Roan Chase taking centre stage on Saturday. The two-day meeting hosts a total of 14 but the Old Roan, which was first run only in 2004. Since then, Kauto Star won in 2006 and Monet’s Garden made the race his own, winning three times between 2007 and 2010. Last year’s winner, Alberta’s Run, has won the Grade 1 Ryanair Chase at the Cheltenham Festival twice and this year’s race will be sure to provide some early season pointers.

The following weekend will see the first Grade One Chase take place at Down Royal in Northern Ireland, the JN Wine Chase; won twice by Kauto Star in recent years whilst other well-known winners include, Beef Or Salmon (twice), The Listener and Florida Pearl. Whilst a quality field will be assembled for that race, another quality field will line up at Wetherby to contest the Grade Two Charlie Hall Chase over 3m1f.

Like the JN Wine Chase, the Charlie Hall  is a genuine early season trial for the King George and the Cheltenham Gold Cup and has had a number of past winners who has won one or the other. Horses of the calibre of See More Business, won the Gold Cup, whilst One Man, Barton Bank, Wayward Lad, who all won the Charlie Hall twice also went on to win the King George at KemptonPark at Christmas.

The main supporting race on Saturday for the ‘Charlie Hall’ is the Grade Two John Smith Hurdle over 3m1f a race won in 2005 by the great Inglis Drever, three-time winner of the World Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival.

National Hunt meetings will also be held at Ascot the first weekend in November, with the Berkshire track hosting a Grade Three Chase and a Listed Hurdle event.

The following weekend on November 10th at Wincanton, the Grade Two Elite Hurdle over two miles shares top billing with the Rising Stars Novices Chase over 2m5f. The Elite Hurdle is a race that has yet to produce its first Champion Hurdler, but it has seen dual winner, Celestial Halo twice placed in the Champion Hurdle. It also saw Azertyuiop win in 2001 and who in 2004 went on to become the two-mile Champion Chaser at the Cheltenham Festival.

It is back to Cheltenham of course on 16th November for the hugely popular 3 day Paddy Power Open meeting, with the feature being the prestigious Paddy Power Gold Cup on the Saturday.

The first day feature is the Sharp Novices Hurdle over two miles which has seen the likes of Cue Card, Golan Way and Moon Over Miami in its winners enclosure in recent years. Top of the supporting cast on the opening day is the first Glenfarclas Cross Country Chases over 3m7f of the season.

The Paddy Power Gold Cup which is a Grade Three handicap over 2m4f, which carries a purse of £150,000. Although usually attracting the top handicappers, the race has been won by Imperial Commander who went on to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup. It was also won by Exotic Dancer, runner-up in both the Gold Cup and King George but a multiple Grade One winner in his own right. One of the early winners of the race was Gay Trip who won twice in 1969 and 1971, where in between those years he won the Grand National at Aintree. The first ever winner of the race in 1960 was Fortria, who won again in 1962. He also won the Queen Mother Two Mile Champion Chase at the Cheltenham Festival in back to back years of 1960 and 1961 and became one of the most popular chasers in the country and as such, the form of the race will be one to keep an eye on as the 2012/2013 season unfolds.

The third day of the Open meeting at PrestburyPark opens with the Grade Two November Novices Chase and the card includes the season’s first Grade Two Neptune Investment Management Novices Hurdle Trial over 2m5f. It also includes the Grade 3 Open Handicap Hurdle, making the meeting pretty much unmissable for NH fans.

As always at this time of year, I’m really excited by the return of Jumps Racing and I fully intend to keep the site bang up to date with just about anything there is to discuss in the world of National Hunt.

Leading Chasers Begin To Make Early Impressions On Road To Gold Cup

With November now here, National Hunt fans will be ‘licking their lips’ as a number of the quality early season chases get underway. Most of the upcoming races over the coming weeks, such as the Paddy Power Gold Cup at Cheltenham, the Betfair Chase at Haydock and the Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury will undoubtedly ‘mark the cards’ of several with chances ahead of the 2012 Cheltenham Gold Cup or other races at the Cheltenham Festival in March.

Already of course we have seen a number of horses put in performances that have caught the eye to force moves in the early antepost markets. Albertas Run for instance, proved that he is still a top class chaser when winning the Grade 2 Old Roan Chase over 2½ miles at Aintree a couple of weeks ago, where he had his old rival Master Minded well beaten and possibly out of contention for the Gold Cup. Albertas Run in fact will probably not run in the Gold Cup, with the preference of his trainer, Jonjo O’Neill, being a third consecutive win in the Ryanair Chase.

A week later we saw one of Donald McCain’s stable stars, Weird Al, win the Grade Two Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby, defeating several useful types in the process, including Time For Rupert who was three and a half lengths back in second place. The performances of both the first two home in that race was enough to force bookmakers to respond clipping Weird Al in to 16/1 and Time For Rupert to 14/1 for the Cheltenham Gold Cup. McCain has said his seven year old will probably next go for the King George at Kempton on Boxing Day while Time For Rupert will take on the King George and Gold Cup Champion Long Run in the Betfair Chase.

One Gold Cup contender that emerged over the past weekend was Quito de la Roque who delivered with a scintillating finish to deprive Sizing Europe victory in the Grade One, JN Wine Chase at Down Royal on the 5th November. In fact, at one point in-running, Quito de la Roque was trading at 279/1 on the exchanges as he had slipped seemingly out of contention as they rounded the final bend. At that point the race looked between Sizing Europe and The Nightingale, however, no sooner had the Champion Chaser seen off The Nightingale, it was Quito De La Roque, clearly relishing the trip, who came at him almost from nowhere and went by him with just a half furlong to run. It was a cracking finale to a great race, where both Sizing Europe and The Nightingale, who was running for the first time in almost a year, will improve for the run and on better ground they would both be in with better chances.

Quito De La Roque, who is trained by Colm Murphy has now won six of his last seven chases and looks to be a real Cheltenham contender, if not the leading Irish contender for the Cheltenham feature on Friday 16th March. This win would certainly earn him the right to be the called the best three mile chaser in Ireland and he can go a long way in confirming that when he is next seen in the Grade One Lexus Chase at the end of the year at Leopardstown’s Christmas meeting. His odds for the Gold Cup have been cut from 16/1 to 12/1 following his win, while Sizing Europe, not a certain Gold Cup runner is a 25/1 chance.

With the Paddy Power Open Meeting at Cheltenham this weekend, followed by the Betfair Chase and Hennessy before the month is out, there could be a much clearer picture of who the main pretenders are to Long Run’s crown and I for one am getting seriously excited for the coming months National Hunt action.

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