A great weekend of sport and drama at the 2 day Boylesports meeting at Cheltenham. So what did we learn with regard to the Festival? On Friday, Weird Al looked the most imposing horse in the paddock before the opener and was impressive in the Novice Chase and jumped well throughout. Ian Williams is not a trainer associated with good long distance chasers but he looks to have one on his hands here. A step up in trip to the 3 miles off the RSA Chase looks as if it will suite and he could well factor when the race is run on 17 March 2010.
The last race of the day was billed as a rematch between Ghizao and Lidar but it was General Miller that came out on top to complete a hat trick. He will probably go for the Supreme along with Ghizao but I really can’t see them troubling Dunguib at the moment. Lidar was most disappointing.
On Saturday, I was hoping for a heavenly performance from Celestial Halo but his halo wasn’t shining after the race having been outpointed fair and square by Khyber Kim who normally struggles to put 2 good performances together. Khyber Kim seems to have improved enormously and/or Celestial Halo hasn’t improved as much as anticipated. One poor run doesn’t mean he’s lost all chance of winning the Champion but this was disappointing. On the plus side he’s in the best hands with Paul Nicholls and he did seemingly disappoint before winning the Triumph Hurdle in 2008 when napped by your blogger. Furthermore, his very best performances are on slightly better ground than yesterday…clutching at straws a bit here? Maybe! Punjabi was back in fourth and most commentators seemed to think that he blew up and is the one to take out of the race. I’m not so sure and would consider this disappointing in the context of Nicky Henderson’s current hot streak. The last race of the day went to Nicky Henderson’s Zaynar who appeared to struggle a bit before coming out on top. He’s now the new favourite for the Champion Hurdle but I can’t have him. His preparation is very unusual and 5 year olds rarely win the Champion. Katchit in 2008 was the first since See You Then (trained by Henderson) in 1985. So in an open race Celestial Halo still has the chance to shine. Let’s hope we see a better performance in his next race. Paul Nicholls stated today, “There are no plans yet as I’ve not discussed it with Andy (Stewart), but he’ll have one run maybe two before the Champion. He got beat fair and square, but Cheltenham in March is a different day. It’s an open race now and we’ve just got to try to get him a bit better than he was yesterday.”
After the Paddy Power meeting I had some good words to say about Poquelin. Yesterday, Poquelin won the Boylesports Gold Cup and is now vying for favouritism with Voy Por Ustedes for the Ryanair. It was a taking performance and Paul Nicholls has confirmed today that he will be now be trained for the Festival with the Ryanair being his next race.
Keep your eye on the blog this week as I’m likely to post my selection for the RSA Chase, one of my favourite races and one in which my record is not too shabby.