There are few finer sights in racing than a horse really enjoying Cheltenham’s undulations and jumping from fence to fence with relish. We were treated to that with the victory of Midnight Chase in the Argento Chase. Although four horses have won this en route to Cheltenham Gold Cup glory, the last horse to do so was Looks Like Trouble in 2000. It is highly likely that Midnight Chase will improve on his fifth place obtained in last year’s Gold Cup; he absolutely adores Cheltenham with Saturdays win being his fifth at the course. However he looks booked for a place at best as it’s hard to envisage him being able to beat either Kauto Star or Long Run.
The eye catcher of the race for me was Knockara Beau, another horse who welcomes the Prestbury terrain. He really stayed on well to capture third place. He has been raised seven pounds for this performance but could still factor greatly in a Festival handicap. He has previous Festival form; 5th to Mikael D’Haguenet in the 2009 Neptune, 4th to Weapons Amnesty in the 2010 RSA and 4th to Buena Vista in the 2011 Pertemps Final.
|Rocky Creek by Fran Altoft|
I was delighted to see Rocky Creek score at Doncaster in the Grade Two Novice Hurdle. I have been talking up this horse since the beginning of the season. He is a full brother to the ill-fated Tell Massini and would be of serious interest if he were to line up in the Albert Bartlett in March for which he is as low as 10/1. His maiden win at Carrigtwohill a year ago was considered one of the most impressive by a newcomer for some time and he was bought before he had left the track.
Sivola De Sivola caught everybody’s eye for the Pertemps Final in the handicap hurdle that closed Cheltenham’s Trials Day. He stayed on exceptionally well to finish 4th, having previously won a Pertemps Qualifier over 3m 1/2f at Newbury. The 2m1f on Saturday would have been far too short for him. Prior to his Newbury win he was fifth to leading Festival hope Fingal Bay over 2m5f at Cheltenham’s November meeting. Another eye catcher for me was Hinterland in the same race. I know some won’t agree but I was quite taken by his effort in third place against older rivals. He goes into my notebook for the Fred Winter.
Just six weeks to go until my hometown, Cheltenham comes alive for the best four days of the year. We are filming our own Festival preview from Cheltenham Racecourse which will be online from 1 March. It is completely free to view and features myself, JP aka @JPFestival and our special guest Ben Aitken aka @narrowthefield of Narrowing The Field. To subscribe to our YouTube channel please visit: www.youtube.com/user/jpfestivalcom.
Note from JP: Many thanks to Fran Altoft aka @riosrider2 for allowing us to use her excellent photograph of Rocky Creek above. We look forward to featuring more of her work in future blog posts.