Thanks for Graham Richards of grahamrichardsonline.co.uk for this comprehensive review of Cheltenham Festival 2018.
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Cheltenham Festival 2018 Day One – Champion Day
Supreme Novices’ Hurdle (Grade 1)
Despite a game effort in second, Kalashnikov found Summerville Boy too strong in the closing stages. Kalashnikov has the size and scope to make an above average novice chaser. The winner lost a couple of lengths in the second last melee where both Western Ryder and Lostintranslation suffered interference. Summerville Boy will stay further. However, if his jumping improves he can develop into a Champion Hurdle candidate. Mengli Khan (Earplugs) deserves credit for a good run on ground far from ideal. He will improve again for good ground and a break to strengthen further (Fences may beckon). Paloma Blue is worth noting over fences next season along. Claimantakinforgan needs further while Western Ryder and Lostintranslation (Efforts marked up) can improve on their misfortune.
Arkle Challenge Trophy Novice’ Chase (Grade 1)
Following a suicidal pace set by Petit Mouchoir and Saint Calvados, Footpad, despite a bad mistake at the sixth, came through to win easily. The sectionals, and final time, suggest that despite handed the perfect scenario, he achieved one of the highest time figures recorded by a novice in the past decade. Talk of Gold Cup aspirations appear, to me, fanciful given his breeding and efforts over three-miles when hurdling. Brain Power was nursed round and should improve for this confidence booster. His best efforts have come right-handed with Sandown Park’s final meeting a possible target. Petit Mouchoir’s FSF (Form and Speed Rating) was not far off his best despite the bizarre tactics.
Ultima Handicap Chase (Grade 3)
Coo Star Sivola travelled well and kicked on at the right time to hold off the strong challenge of Shantou Flyer in the closing stages. Backed throughout the week prior to the race, connections felt he was idling and deserves a crack at Conditions Races. Shantou Flyer finished second for the fourth time on the trot. Despite a rise in the handicap, his FSF suggest he may be able to defy his new rating. Vintage Clouds is a game and consistent chap. He seems to hit a flat spot whatever the distance of the race. He would not look out of place in the Grand National. Beware The Bear got his career back on track in fourth looking one for marathon trips in soft ground. Singlefarmpayment would have finished closer but for his jumping letting him down once again. O O Seven finished mi-division, which should set him up nicely for an assault on the Topham Trophy. Gold Present ran well for a long way. Post-race, it transpired that he broke a blood vessel.
Champion Hurdle Challenge Trophy (Grade 1)
A combination of Buveur D’Air running 4/5lb below his best and Melon (Earplugs) improving 6lb led to a close finish. Both hurdled and travelled well off the fast pace set by Charli Parcs. With Mick Jazz running on into third, the duo duelled stride for stride until close home. The winner deserves credit as he found himself in front too soon at the third last. Melon was well-backed and found the race run to his needs. He has the size and scope to see him a leading candidate for the 2019 Arkle. Identity Thief ran well enough in fourth to suggest he can win if dropped in grade while Elgin was below the form shown at Wincanton recently. Faugheen found Charli Parcs taking him along too quickly. Not the force of old, he deserves a crack at further when ridden with some restraint.
Mares’ Hurdle (Grade 1)
Benie Des Deux ran on well to retain her unbeaten record for Mr Mullins. She will return to chasing over three-miles and may develop into a top-class performer. With her mares’ allowance, improvement of 7/8lb will see her amongst the top novices. Midnight Tour ran the race of her life to finish second. She may return to Cheltenham in April. Apples Jade ran a flat race proving 8/9lb below her best. (Later found to be in season) Following a lengthy break, Jer’s Girl ran a promising race running on in to fifth.
National Hunt Challenge Cup Amateur Rider’ Novices’ Chase (Grade 2)
Rathvinden and Ms Parfois fought out a tight finish. In receipt of her 7lb allowance, Ms Parfois tried her heart out but found her older rival just too strong. She looks a suitable type for the Welsh National and similar staying races. Rathvinden landed a gamble under a strong ride. Having been dismounted and given oxygen, one hopes he has a good break to recover from his exertions. No Comment may prove the one to note from the unplaced horses.
Novices’ Handicap Chase (Listed Race)
Mister Whittaker and Rather Me fought out another close finish. The winner ran out a deserved winner having been short of room from three out. Both should do well next season, with the former likely to stay three-miles. Rather Be should go close if sent to Aintree, where he won last season. Rocklander ran well in third. He arrived off a break and looks one to consider at Aintree. Barney Dwan looks to need three-miles while Any Second Now and Ibis Du Rheu need better ground.
Cheltenham Festival 2018 Day Two – Ladies Day
Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle (Grade 1)
The hype surrounding Samcro disappeared as he produced a performance of quality and substance. The second, third, and fourth ran to their best or produced higher FSFs. Travelling easily throughout Samcro, was handily placed on the outside of his field. Making ground down the hill, he went on two from home before comfortably holding the challenge of the runner-up (Lost his right front shoe during the race). Possessing the mid-race pace to position wherever his brilliant jockey decides, he looks the real deal. Given his owners predisposition to fences it will be interesting to see how he is campaigned next season. Black Op would have been closer but for a mistake at the last. He has the build of a chaser, will stay two and a half-miles over fences, while his dams side of breeding suggests three-miles may prove within his stamina range. Next Destination ran on strongly to take third. His size and scope suggests he will do well over fences. His dam stayed three-miles with his sire imparting enough stamina to see out three-miles. Scarpeta is to be commended in finishing fourth on his third start over hurdles. Duc Des Genievres is steadily improving, while Aye Aye Charlie should find a handicap stage.
RSA Insurance Novices’ Chase (Grade 1)
Presenting Percy produced a top-class performance to follow-up last year’s Pertemps Final win. Jumping brilliantly throughout, he went passed Monalee at the second last and soon had the race in safekeeping. The Gold Cup is sure to be on his agenda next season though improvement of 9/10lb will be needed. Having raced a shade freely, Monalee looked be found out by stamina from the second last. Twenty-one furlongs may prove his optimum trip. Elegant Escape is an out-and-out galloper. Recovering from an early mistake, he ran on into third. He looks one for handicaps on galloping tracks. Trainer Colin Tizzard is likely to be rueing his decision not to go for the NH Chase. Ballyoptic is another for staying handicaps if finally over his jumping frailties. Black Corton spoilt his chance with low jumps.
Coral Cup Handicap Hurdle (Grade 3)
Bleu Berry showed little on his previous start. A Listed and Grade 2 winner in his novice season placed him on a competitive handicap mark. Held-up he was produced to lead a hundred yards from the winning post. Topofthegame ran a blinder off an 8lb higher mark than his last run. He may well have prevailed had he not missed the second last hurdle. If he takes to chasing, he should prove a high-class novice. Barra ran well to finish third despite losing her left fore shoe. William Henry ran well under his new handicap mark to finish fourth. He will stay three-miles while fourth home The Organist will appreciate a return to that trip. Red Indian can find a handicap on soft ground as can Burbank returned to better ground. Similar remark apples to Burbank’s stablechum Stowaway Magic. Given the amount of ground he made up running down the hill, racing wide, Mischievous Max should have his effort upgraded. A 9lb lower handicap mark in Ireland suggests he can find something similar. Right-handed track form reads 1, 5, 4, 2, 1, 2, 2. Voix de Reve is one to keep an eye on.
Queen Mother Champion Chase (Grade 1)
The departure of Douvan at the top of the hill, whilst disappointing, should not take away from an excellent renewal. Whist it was too far out to make an accurate assessment of Douvan’s chance, it is worth noting Mr Mullins brought back Penhill to win a Grade One after an interrupted preparation. Altior maintained his unbeaten record over fences. Taking time to find his stride, he jumped the last two fences as he built up momentum leaving Min and the others in his vapour trails. Given his much publicised problems this was a performance to savour. For the second year in a row he found himself outpaced coming down the hill before finding his stride up the hill. Interesting to hear Mr Henderson would like to try him over further. He will stay two and a half-miles with three-miles a possibility on breeding. Min looked at the top of his game pre-race. He settled off the pace, finding a high-class horse just too good on the run from the second last. God’s Own came back to form in third. If avoiding mistakes he can prove competitive at Aintree and Punchestown. Politologue appears happiest away from Cheltenham. Six his seven wins in the UK, have come on right-handed tracks. Despite words to the contrary earlier in the season, one suspects he will be stepped up in trip.
Glenfarclas Chase (A Cross Country Chase)
The remarkable Tiger Cry won the National Hunt Challenge Cup last year, following his win in the 2014 Triumph Hurdle. Travelling with ease through the race, he kicked early for home and held on well up the hill (Post-race he was dismounted due to exhaustion). One would not put a big run in the Irish or English National beyond him. Urgent De Gregaine ran on gamely. He clearly enjoys his trips across the English Channel as his form over this course now reads 1, 3, 2. The Last Samuri ran well on his first start over these fences. He is likely to be campaigned in this discipline next season. Auvergnat ran well in fourth; he should be noted if reappearing at Punchestown.
Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle (Grade 3)
Veneer of Charm returned to form having failed to build on a winning hurdling debut. Looking green and perhaps quirky, he wandered about markedly in front, eventually consenting to stay on well. If he irons out his quirks with experience, he should prove a useful dual-purpose performer. Style De Garde stayed on despite showing signs of racing freely as he did at Huntingdon. He has the build of a chaser and one imagines that will be his job next season. Nube Negra hurdled and travelled like a dream before finding the hill too much at this stage. If he reappears at Aintree, he would be one to consider. Padleyourowncanoe is consistent and holds up the form. Look My Way had his chance ended when badly hampered by the fall of Knight Destroyer, a fate that befell Mitchouka.
Weatherbys Champion Bumper (Grade 1)
Carefully Selected, handed an easy lead, kept galloping all the way only to be denied close home by the winner. Relegate, receiving her 7lb mares allowance, came from last place running down the hill to snatch the race in the final hundred yards, despite drifting to her left. Tornado Flyer ran well for one that had not seen a racecourse until January of this year. He looks the one to for the future. He completed a 1-2-3 for Mr Mullins. Acey Milan, far from disgraced in fourth, earned a break before going over hurdles. Blackbow finished fifth despite being just below his best. A good-looking horse, he has a future in staying novice hurdles.
Cheltenham Festival 2018 Day Three – St Patrick’s Thursday
JLT Novices’ Chase (Grade 1)
Shattered Love is good-sized mare that looked well in the paddock. Travelling well throughout, she joined the runner-up two from home and ran on well having clouted the last fence. Terrefort looked well and raced on the pace through the race. Tackled by the winner at the second last, he kept on well in the closing stages. At five-years, he will improve for a summer holiday. His is yet to race on anything other soft or heavy. Benatar ran a huge race to finish third. Pulling hard, he refused to settle. Deserves much credit rallying to finish third. Jumped well in the main and looks to have a serious engine to use when his head is in gear. Finian’s Oscar needs a break to forget a disappointing season. Invitation Only was never travelling with his usual fluency. However, he still had a shout when departing the fun as he slipped on landing at the fourth last.
Pertemps Network Final Handicap Hurdle (Grade 3)
Delta Work came in for strong support and did enough to edge Glenloe out on the run-in. The latter’s last flight blunder cost him the race. Third and fourth, Connetable and Taj Badalandabad, arrived in good form and confirm the form to be solid. Who Dares Wins ran well (Raced a shade to freely) before weakening on the run-in. He is a credit to himself and connections. I hope he has a break and returns for the Chester Cup. A Great View would have preferred a stronger gallop. However, he was going well when diving at the second last, losing around four lengths. Recovering, he ran on strongly to finish an unlucky sixth. Wait For Me ran as though he failed to stay. On good ground, he can find a handicap over two and a half or two and three-quarter miles. Prime Venture ran well and should be noted.
Ryanair Chase (Grade 1)
Balko Des Flos ran out a comfortable winner having travelled easily through the race. A mistake at the last failed to halt his momentum. He stays three-miles and may return to action at Punchestown. At seven-years, he may find further improvement. Un De Sceaux (Earplugs) looked well running his usual game race until finding the trip catching him out on heavy ground. Cloudy Dream finished third. He may find his turn coming at Aintree or Ayr, on better ground. Cue Card looked as though his Ascot run had emptied his reserves. Sub Lieutenant and Frodon ran below their best.
Stayers’ Hurdle (Grade 1)
On his first run since Punchestown 2017, Penhill returned to action with a remarkable win in a competitive renewal. He became the first horse to win the race following a win in the Albert Bartlett. Held up off the pace he showed good speed to lead approaching the final flight quickening away up the hill. Supasundae ran on gamely into second. He would have finished closer on better ground. Wholestone confirmed his liking for Cheltenham with an honourable third. He upheld the form of Penhill’s Albert Bartlett success. Colin’s Sister ran on well into fourth confirming he love of soft/heavy ground. Sam Spinner’s jockey may have been overwhelmed by the occasion. He seemed at pains not to go his normal pace. Despite keeping on well, he failed to use his main asset of stamina. Yanworth disappointed while The Worlds End once again found ground underhoof against him. Bacardys had been short of room before switching to the far side. Running on strongly, he overjumped and fell. Likely to have finished third, he is best at this time of the year.
Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Stable Plate
The Storyteller received a masterful ride from Mr Russell who hugged the inside rail until running down the hill. Challenging between the last two fences, he won decisively despite hanging towards the stand side rails. Splash Of Ginge ran with credit at a course that sees his best days. Kings Odyssey jumped well, enabling him to run a decent race in third. Ballyalton was not disgraced in fourth while Kings Socks ran well in fifth. Racing wide, he travelled easily until appearing to ground and trip finding him out. He can find something similar. Romain De Senam needs better ground while Pougne Bobbi found this grade too much for his abilities.
Trull House Stud Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle
Laurina is a strong, lengthy mare that outclassed her rivals in the paddock and race. Racing in midfield, she cruised into the lead two out winning easily despite hitting the last hurdle. With her mares’ allowance, she can make an impact against the best two-mile novice hurdlers. Cap Du Soleil ran a game race to finish second. A Listed winner, he run suggests the form is as strong as it looks. Champayne Lady ran the best race of her career while Maria’s Benefit struggled when she hit the uphill run from the second last. Cut The Mustard looked as though she was there act as a spoiler to Maria’s Benefit chances.
Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup Amateur Riders’ Handicap Chase
Missed Approach, having his first run since undergoing a wind operation looked well. He made all and held on bravely despite hitting the last. Mall Dini looked all over the winner turning in He seemed to hang fire and looked out battled on the run-in. Entered in the Irish National, he is also in the Topham Trophy. Squouateur steadily warmed to his task as the race went on. He had every chance in the straight before finding the trip stretching his stamina. If he can learn to jump consistently he is young enough to improve further. Double Ross has slipped to a decent mark running well in fourth. Actinpieces was not disgraced upped in grade, while The Young Master showed a return to form running on late in the day. The latter is well-handicapped these days and needs a longer trip.
Cheltenham Festival 2018 Day Four – Gold Cup Day
JCB Triumph Hurdle (Grade 1)
Farclas became the first maiden to win since 1980. The race came down to a rematch of Leopardstown‘s Dublin Festival form. On this occasion, with the emphasis firmly on stamina, Farclas reversed placing’s with Mr Adjudicator. Farclas will stay further than this while Mr Adjudicator may always be at his best on decent ground when the emphasis is on speed. For a once raced maiden hurdle winner, Sayo ran a mighty race. Jumping well, (Apart from the third last) he kept on well without raising the pace to challenge the first two home. A lengthy individual, he has further improvement in him. Apple’s Shakira, despite three wins, faced her first real test. She travelled strongly if a shade too freely. However, when push came to shove she was found wanting up the hill. A hood and decent ground will see her in a better light at Aintree – buy Aintree Grand National Meeting tickets. The front four were a long way clear of the remainder.
County Handicap Hurdle (Grade 3)
The bookies found a result when Mohaayed held off Remiluc on the run-in. The winner is thought best on good ground. Given his trainer’s remarks post-race and his SP, it was clear he arrived unfancied. Remiluc, while a good yardstick, ran above his best. It should be noted he has finished 2, 1, 2 at Cheltenham this season. Whiskey Sour attracted support coming from off the pace to finish third for each-way backers. Chesterfield ran well and remains in good form (best FSFs came on flatter tracks) while Lagostovegas and Spiritofthegames both ran with credit. A Hare Breath ran a sound race on ground too soft while heavily backed Flying Tiger found the ground and occasion getting the better of him.
Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle (Grade 1)
Yet another for the enemy as 33/1 chance Kilbricken Storm outstayed his rival up the hill. Tracking the leaders, he stayed on to lead before the final flight, going clear despite hanging left on the run-in. He looks a staying chaser in the making. Ok Corral ran a good race in second despite following the winners lead in hanging left on the run-in. If he remains sound, he should make an above average staying novice chaser. Santini was perhaps the one to take from the race. Inexperienced with plenty of filling out to come, he challenged from the second last. Trying his best he was unable to make an impression on the front two. He has the look of a 2019 RSA contender. Neither Ballyward nor Tower Bridge were disgraced with the latter likely to improve on better ground.
Cheltenham Gold Cup Chase (Grade 1)
Similar to a heavyweight boxing championship, we had the hard-hitting Native River against technically gifted Might Bite. From start to finish, the pair dominated the race with a series of accurate jumps, allied to raw galloping power. Repeatedly, Native River was asked to come up for mighty leaps, by his equally determined pilot. Meanwhile Might Bite ridden by quiet, but hugely effective, Nico De Boinville stalked the pair. Coming down the hill for the final time, the winner could still not be called. However, as the bout unfolded as they came into the final two rounds of fences, the sheer power of Native River saw him surge clear for a point’s decision. Embraces all round as the crowd cheered both combatants out of the arena. The eagerly awaited rematch, one hopes, will be run on better ground. Given that scenario, as the gladiators re-enter the lion’s den, opinions, and loyalties will be divided. A great end to a great week with the promise of more to come. Anibale Fly stayed on to take third place. Considering this came off the back of a heavy fall at Leopardstown he deserves the utmost credit. When he is on song, he is more than useful. At present Grade One success may prove a rung too high to climb. Road To Respect ran well until tiring and making mistakes at the final two fences. A combination of ground and trip appeared to find him out. Djakadam finished fifth confirming the belief he does not see this trip out. Definitly Red was never going and is a hard horse to read. He may be at his best in smaller fields. All his chase wins and places have come in fields of ten or less runners. Tea For Two finished well beaten but at least completed the race. He should not be overlooked if turning up at Aintree. Edwulf made headway until stopping after the fourth last. Killultagh Vic was never happy and his history of falls may have cost him chance at this level. Our Duke neither travelled or jumped through the race. One wonders if he still has a physical issue. Total Recall was under pressure but keeping on when falling heavily at the third-last. Progressive this season, this was not an ideal National preparation.
Foxhunter Challenge Cup Open Hunters’ Chase
An exciting finish with Pacha Du Polder coming from well of the pace to snatch the race on the run-in despite his riders shoulder dislocating at the second last. Top Wood winner of two Points this season, ran a brave race leading most of the way and keeping on well up the hill. Barel Of Laughs finished third, as last year, on ground he disliked. Cousin Pete is inexperienced under rules. That upgrades his dead-heat for third. Caid Du Berlais ran well but failed to stay while Grand Vision ran with credit for much to the race. Balnaslow finally stayed on into seventh having looked likely to finish way behind at one stage. He ran well at Aintree last year and should come on for the run. Burning Ambition travelled well but appeared not to stay from the second last. A seven-year-old, he was suffering from mild heat exhaustion post-race. If all is well with him, he should be capable of a good run at Aintree. On The Fringe may be getting on in years but was far from disgraced.
Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle
Grade 1 Bumper and Grade Three hurdle winner Blow By Blow was well-handicapped on his best form. Handed a few lengths at the start, he dominated the race from start to finish. Able to get a breather coming down the hill, he kicked for home turning in and never looked likely to relinquish his lead. Discorama came from well of the pace and deserves credit for running on into the runner-up spot. A 2lb rise in the handicap may not stop an early win. Early Doors, Sire Du Berlais (Perhaps the best of the three), and Diese Des Bieffes, all ran well, confirming the form of novices in this event. Lough Derg Spirit ran well once again considering he need better ground. When that arrives, he will land a decent handicap. Dream Berry caught the eye. Held-up well off the pace he ran on into seventh having never been put into the race. He ran well at Aintree and Punchestown last season.
Grand Annual Challenge Cup Handicap Chase (Grade 3)
Finally rewarding his long-suffering supporters, Le Prezien jumped well. Despite being hampered three out, he came through to win going away. One could not be sure he would repeat this despite the convincing manner of the win. The Kerry Lee pair of Gino Trail and Top Gamble ran their hearts out to finish second and third. The trainer and her team should be congratulated on keeping their old warriors in good shape. Theinval finished fourth on ground he would have disliked. Aintree (Second in the Red Rum last year off a 3lb higher mark) will be on his agenda again. Doitforthevillage, returned to chasing, was far from disgraced making late progress having been hampered more than once. Dolos ran a sound race for a novice while last year’s winner, Rock The World bled from the nose.
RACING POST TOPSPEED FIGURES
|WINNER||DISTANCE||RP TOPSPEED||TIME BASED GOING||OFFICIAL GOING|
|Native River||3m 2½f||167||Heavy||Soft|
|Balko Des Flos||2m5f||156||Heavy||Soft|
|Veneer Of Charm||2m½f||121||Soft||Soft|
|Pacha Du Polder||3m 2½f||118||Heavy||Soft|
|Blow By Blow||2m4½f||94||Heavy||Soft|
|Tiger Roll||3m 6f||89||Soft||Soft|
|Benie Des Dieux||2m4f||62||Soft||Heavy|
|Coo Star Sivola||3m1f||53||Soft||Heavy|
POST CHELTENHAM RATINGS
|NOVICE CHASERS||TIMEFORM||FSFS||NOVICE HURDLERS||TIMEFORM||FSFS|
|PRESENTING PERCY||163||156||SUMMERVILLE BOY||156||153|
|PETIT MOUCHOIR||159||159||BLACK OP||152||148|
|BRAIN POWER||157||157||NEXT DESTINATION||151||145|
|SCEAU ROYAL||157||155||KILBRICKEN STORM||151||145|
|THE STORYTELLER||155||150||ON THE BLIND SIDE||150||145|
|INVITATION ONLY||154||143||IF THE CAP FITS||149||138|
|SHATTERED LOVE||154||151||BLOW BY BLOW||149||141|
|AL BOUM PHOTO||154||146||MENGLI KHAN||149||148|
|DEATH DUTY||154||148||OK CORRAL||148||142|
|BLACK CORTON||153||148||DUC DES GENIEVRES||148||142|
|MONBEG NOTORIOUS||151||147||GLOBAL CITIZEN||145||140|
|TOP CHASERS||TIMEFORM||FSFS||TOP HURDLERS||TIMEFORM||FSFS|
|NATIVE RIVER||172||173||MY TENT OR YOURS||163||157|
|MIN||169||166||THE NEW ONE||163||160|
|ROAD TO RESPECT||169||165||MICK JAZZ||162||155|
|SIZING JOHN||169||167||SAM SPINNER||162||154|
|GREAT FIELD||168||164||L’AMI SERGE||161||154|
|BALKO DES FLOS||167||167||SAMCRO||159||152|
|BRISTOL DE MAI||166||162|
|UN DE SCEAUX||166||166|
|TORNADO FLYER||122||125||MINELLA ENCORE||112||121|
|RHINESTONE||119||123||GOOD BOY BOBBY||111||115|
|ACEY MILAN||118||121||MERCY MERCY||110||118|
|RELEGATE||117||121||THE BIG BITE||110||114|
|FELIX DESJY||113||121||SAM’S ADVENTURE||109||119|
|JUVENILE HURDLERS||TIMEFORM||FSFS||JUVENILE HURDLERS||TIMEFORM||FSFS|
|MR ADJUDICATOR||153||142||ACT OF VALOUR||132||126|
|WE HAVE A DREAM||145||137||SUSSEX RANGER||131||129|
|ESPOIR D’ALLEN||142||132||ROCK DE BAUNE||130||133|
|APPLE’S SHAKIRA||140||136||VENEER OF CHARM||130||130|
|STYLE DE GARDE||134||135||MALAYA||129||124|