Sport Cheltenham

Monday 9 December 2019

Damien McElroy's Race Reads: Day 2

1.30 National

Damien McElroy

1.30 National

Hunt Chase

A memorable occasion for Ruby Walsh's younger sister Katie as she powered home on Poker de Sivola after a tremendous, sustained duel with her friend Nina Carberry from the second-last fence.

This 140th running of the four-mile contest for amateurs was a hectic affair, in which Irish riders filled the first four places, with Carberry looking more likely to succeed when Becauseicouldntsee took it up three out.

At that stage Walsh was getting a ready response from Ferdy Murphy's charge as they made relentless progress from mid-division and the battle was joined in earnest when the principals dashed clear of Any Currency.

It was only rising to the final fence that the winner was getting on top and Walsh kept the 14/1 chance at full tilt to open her festival account, with Prudent Honour coming late for third money and probably the unlucky horse of the race, after being badly hampered in a melee at the last ditch.

2.05 Neptune Novices Hurdle

No joy for the well-backed Irish pair of Rite Of Passage and Quel Esprit, with the former ending up taking third money for the second time here, after threatening to succeed in the closing stages, and the latter exiting at an early stage.

Reve de Sivola took the eye, along with unbeaten Irish-bred Peddlers Cross as they hovered behind the leaders going to the second last, where Sleepy Hollow ran out and Rite Of Passage got competitive on the outer.

Off the final turn, it was the second and third that had their moments, Reve de Sivola getting the better of that particular argument until Jason Maguire sent Peddlers Cross into overdrive for a worthy triumph.

2.40 RSA Chase

Pre-race notions that the Nicky Henderson yard would dominate proved wide of the mark, although the much-hyped Long Run had every chance and Burton Port came through late to make the frame as well.

Those who pinned their faith in their stable companion Punchestowns lost out as mistakes left him chasing shadows from halfway, whereas Davy Russell was getting a great tune out of Weapon's Amnesty.

The pace-setting Citizen Vic was still just in front when taking what proved a fatal fall two out, leaving Long Run and Weapon's Amnesty to take control.

Revelling in the drier ground after Grade One seconds in the mud at home, Russell's mount bounced back to the form that saw them triumph over hurdles here a year ago as they swept past Long Run on the homeward journey.

3.20 Queen Mother Champion Chase

The layers who set out to get a result by laying treble-seeking Master Minded, enjoyed another hefty pay-day as the hotpot failed dismally to emulate Badsworth Boy's third win on the trot back in 1985.

Possibly unsuited by the drying ground, the favourite was never able to get in a blow as Forpadydeplasterer and Golden Silver set a decent gallop and from three out the former easily got the better of that tussle.

However, it was patently obvious that Barry Geraghty was poised to pounce whenever he liked on Big Zeb, whose heavy fall in the corresponding race last year was never in any danger of being repeated.

Rounding the last bend Geraghty drew alongside Forpadydeplasterer and it was all over bar the shouting as Colm Murphy's stable star asserted his superiority over the final obstacle, with Kalahari King coming through in the dying strides to snatch third money from a weary Master Minded.

4.0 Coral Cup

The usual competitive handicap, but a most impressive victor as Spirit River again showed his liking for a circuit around which he scored in December on his second start since being purchased in France.

Unable to recover from a bad error three out at Newbury last month behind Get Me Out Of Here, Nicky Henderson's charge was much more accurate this time and was far too good for rank outsider Tullamore Dew and James de Vassy.

4.40 Fred Winter Handicap Hurdle

No contest here really once the favourite Sanctuaire was produced with a perfectly timed late challenge by Ruby Walsh between horses to attack the final flight and sail clear of the pack on the climb to the post.

Notus de la Tour which also came from France and indeed a third French import, Son Amix for Tom Cooper, had their moments from two out, along with Orsippus, until the hotpot arrived to stamp his authority.

5.15 Weatherbys Champion Bumper

For only the fourth time in 18 renewals of this contest the prize was kept at home and there certainly was no doubting the manner in which Cue Card put the issue to bed once given his head by Joe Tizzard.

Up to the final bend it had been a case of Ruby Walsh dictating a sensible gallop on the ex-Irish Al Ferof, accompanied by the favourite Shot From The Hip which was pulling too hard for his own good.

It was evident, however, that Tizzard was sitting motionless on the surprise winner as the others fell away one by one, with the exception of Frawley on which Barry Geraghty hugged the inner and Tavern Times.

Rather like Dunguib 12 months previously, Cue Card careered up the hill with gusto, as Al Ferof could give no more, with yet another clear gap to Frawley.

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