A look back at the Cheltenham November meeting 2017 from Graham Richards. An exciting 3 days with lots of quality on display but what did we learn?
Cheltenham Friday November 17th
Magic Dancer and Oxwich Bay looked well-handicapped horses for the handicap hurdle over two-miles. So it proved in the race. The former has been raised 11lb to an OR 124, while Oxwich Bay has been raised 6lb to an OR 121. Both look capable of defying their new rating, especially the latter if raised in trip. Champagne City was far from disgraced given the ground would not have suited him. Zalvados showed improvement.
Finian’s Oscar was the first his age group to win this since Crozan in 2005. This race, in the past, has gone to some top-class performers. The winner could join them as the season progresses. Whilst his jumping was, understandably, novicey at times, he won cosily conceding 8lb to the runner-up. Movewiththetimes is yet to master the art of jumping. However, he is a talented individual that should appreciate a fast run race when there are plenty of runners. He remains on a mark of 145, right on the limit for the Novices Chase at the Cheltenham Festival. Coo Star Sivola should do well in handicaps. Jumped well and ran on gamely having made the running.
On The Blind Side is good-looking sort with scope. Travelled well until the highest point of the track where he became outpaced. Responding well to pressure he moved into a challenging position down the hill. Switched as he approached and jumped the final flight he quickened nicely to win with something in hand. Both sides of his breeding suggests three-miles will suit. Momella ran a blinder upped in grade. She should do well if reverting to mares’ only races. Poetic Rhythm had clearly improved since Chepstow. His cavalier style of running is a joy to watch; however, it does leave him vulnerable at the business end of the race. Another good-looking sort, Vision Des Flos, may need to drop down in grade for a confidence boost. He has been asked a lot in his first two hurdle races. Calett Mad looked well in the paddock. Unfortunately, he ran a shade free which, in this higher grade, cost him when it mattered. A return to chasing may allow him to race with the choke-in.
Cheltenham Saturday November 18th
Apple’s Shakira impressed in the paddock and on the way down to the start. She jumped well, as she had done at Vichy, coming right away from Gumball on the run to the final flight. Her full-sister Apple’s Jade (Second in the 2016 Triumph Hurdle) handles most ground underhoof, raising hopes she can emulate her achievements in the coming months and years. Gumball’s jumping suggests he may prove happiest on a flat track on better ground. Eragon De Chanay ran a fair race and should be noted if sent towards juvenile handicaps.
Black Corton kept up his winning run and successful partnership with the impressive Bryony Frost. Leading on the home turn, she was still in control when the runner-up hit the final fence. That was not the only mistake Ballyoptic made, which is disappointing given his exemplary round at Exeter. West Approach ran like a drain and may prove best when fresh.
Perfect Candidate yet again showed his liking for Prestbury Park. He jumped and galloped his rivals into the ground and now has three wins and two seconds at his favourite track. Vicente ran a blinder on ground that is not his favoured surface. He will no doubt peak again next spring. Three Faces West ran well following a lengthy lay-off. He may have found the trip stretching his stamina. Shotgun Paddy needed the run while Premier Bond looked well but ran poorly. Minella Rocco looked well, but ran another disappointing race on ground connections felt was unsuitable (Why run him?). He is something on an enigma wrapped in a mystery.
Splash Of Ginge got the better of Starchitect in the BetVictor Gold Cup. The runner-up ran a blinder on ground that would not have suited. Ballyalton should find a similar race (lost a shoe during the race) while Tully East found the soft/holding ground less than helpful. Given a lot to do coming down the hill, Le Prezien ran on well before flattening out from earlier exertions.
Thomas Campbell has improved considerably this season and now resides on an OR 151. He needs to improve around 13lb to become a realistic Stayer Hurdle candidate. Handles most ground underhoof and received an excellent rider from his young claimer.
Cheltenham Sunday November 19th
Melrose Boy ran out a comfortable winner of the opening race. He looks sure to prove hard to beat if staying in a similar grade. Indeed, pieces of his form suggest he can defy a much higher handicap mark.
North Hill Harvey ran out an easy winner of the Arkle Trial Chase. He is at home around Prestbury Park and jumps for fun. Effective on good through to soft, he needs, historically, to find 10lb improvement to see him a threat in the race itself next March. River Wylde appeared to dislike the undulations and ground underhoof.
Fox Norton followed up his 2016 win in the Shloer Chase. He jumps well, taking over from the game front-running Sizing Tara and holding off Cloudy Dream (Probably best on good or good to soft) and Mr De Bromhead’s horse. Fox Norton will now run in the Tingle Creek where he look sure to go close. Unbeaten over fences going right-handed.
Elgin battled on well to follow up his Ascot win in the Greatwood Hurdle. He went round the wide outside, a manoeuvre, which played a large part in his success. Misterton, recorded a career best RPR on ground he would not have enjoyed. Progressive he should find a similar handicap in due course. Old Guard ran on to finish a never threatening third, while The New One ran an admirable race to finish fourth off a huge weight. One wonders why the claimer, who won on him previously, missed the ride.
Slate House ran out a cosy winner of the Supreme Trial Novices’ Hurdle (The flights in the home straight (Three in all) omitted). He remains a work in progress, while breeding suggests improvement over two and a half-miles.
FOUR TO NOTE
Coeur Blimey (IRE) 6yo (07Jun11 bb g) Sue Gardner
Fifth to Magic Dancer. Needs soft to heavy ground on a galloping track. May prove best on right-handed tracks.
Pineapple Rush 4yo (08Mar13 b f) Philip Hobbs
Third to Posh Trish in the Listed mares Bumper. Her breeding suggests she can improve when stamina is at a premium. Dam won over hurdles and fences.
William H Bonney 6yo (11Apr11 b g) Alan King
Ran well when fifth in the Greatwood Hurdle. Class Two races or just below should suit. Best on soft and looks a stronger individual this season.
Wylde Magic (IRE) 6yo (05Mar11 b g) Evan Williams
Well-backed in Melrose Bay’s race. Ran on at one pace and should improve over three-miles. Effective on most ground underhoof.