Fairy takes flight as Master jumps to it
While nobody could be surprised to see several Cheltenham Festival winners emerge from a weekend that raised the temperature of the jumps season, it would be wrong to not recognise first the winner of a Flat race staged on the other side of the world.
For the fact is that Snow Fairy's oriental conquests, crowned by a supberb display in Hong Kong yesterday, have belatedly qualified her as one of the defining performers of 2010.
The dual Oaks winner seemed to have discovered her limitations when beaten by Midday at York in August, and then by the extra distance in the St Leger. But she has since reached unimagined heights in the Far East.
Her trainer, Ed Dunlop, first targeted a huge bonus in Japan last month, and then decided to clarify options for next season by restoring her to 10 furlongs in the Hong Kong Cup. And the man who gained precious experience of a globe-trotting filly with Ouija Board was rewarded with the most striking winner of his career.
Though the pace had not been excessive, Ryan Moore only had one behind him approaching the far turn. Angled wide, however, his mount launched a charge up the straight. With several lengths to find even over the last 300 yards, Snow Fairy only got up by a neck, but somehow the result never seemed in doubt. "On the top of the bend I thought I had no chance," Moore admitted. "She's an absolute machine to do what she did."
Mastery, last year's Doncaster St Leger winner, achieved a new peak for Saeed Bin Suroor with success in the Vase under Frankie Dettori. This was a 200th global winner of 2010 for Godolphin, but there was no such joy for fellow invader Paco Boy which, making his final start for Richard Hannon before retiring to stud, trailed in last in the Mile.
It is quite a sport that can shift the scenery from Sha Tin to Plumpton for consecutive instalments, but there is a worthwhile jumps card in Sussex today -- not least with Medermit bidding to put his recent Huntingdon debacle behind him in the novice chase.
Sadly an instructive assignment for Riverside Theatre was lost when frost claimed Huntingdon yesterday, but with Cork getting the Irish jumps show back on the road, Willie Mullins hopes to get some of his other big names on the track this week -- in the rescheduled meeting at Fairyhouse on Wednesday.
While the season barely seems to have started for many, it is already half over for some of the best jumpers around. Last Saturday at Cheltenham will probably prove the last public sighting of Menorah before the Champion Hurdle and Colin Tizzard has already vowed that Cue Card, beaten for the first time, will not run before the Festival where he will presumably now revert to novice company.
Paul Nicholls will also be keeping Poquelin fresh for the Ryanair Chase after his success in the big handicap, one of his brilliant four-timer. With so many horses being put away for the Festival, Master Minded's appearance in next month's Victor Chandler Chase at Ascot should prove one of the few to relieve a mid-season torpor over jumps.
Master Minded truly was a sight to behold on Saturday. Nicholls admitted to having reservations over whether he could still string two top-class performances together after his breathing operation but the 7/4 quotes flying around about a third Champion Chase now look pretty big.
Noel Fehily seems to fit the exuberant chaser like a glove and you can see just why Nicholls was so keen to have him on board, even though he had only been back in action for 24 hours.
Nicholls' earlier victory of Woolcombe Folly in the Jenny Mould Memorial Handicap Chase has given him another string to his already burgeoning Queen Mother team.
Sam Winner strengthened his position for the Triumph with another fine performance in the juvenile hurdle, but Nicholls believes he may end up in the Supreme Novices' Hurdle.
Others to impress at Prestbury Park included Paul Webber's Time For Rupert which oozed class under William Kennedy in the novices' chase while Tony McCoy grabbed a notable victory on the JP McManus-owned Karabak in the Relkeel Hurdle.
(© Independent News Service)