Thursday 14 November 2019

Opening day race reads

Ruby Walsh on Quevega, right, crosses the line to win The Olbg Mares' Hurdle at Cheltenham
Ruby Walsh on Quevega, right, crosses the line to win The Olbg Mares' Hurdle at Cheltenham

Richard Forristal

1.30 Supreme Novices' Hurdle 2m 1f Vautour raced keenly in the front rank from the start and had assumed the lead by the time they straightened up down the back straight. Ruby Walsh elected to drop his hands and let him dictate things from there. His only slight worry thereafter came when he missed the third-last flight. Vautour still danced home to an incredibly commanding six-length success.

Splash Of Ginge set out to make the running, but began to back-pedal once Vautour took over, while The Liquidator also sat right on the pace early on. He folded tamely in the end, likewise Gilgamboa, which had been close enough to the head of affairs early on.

Josses Hill and Vaniteux were others that sat just off the pace, before keeping on at one pace to fill the minor places. Wicklow Brave ran really well for a long way before tiring into sixth up the hill, finishing just in front of Western Boy, which raced wide for much of the way.

Irving misfired completely, though he still eventually finished just in front of the tiring Valseur Lido.

2.05 ARKLE CHALLENGE TROPHY CHASE 2M

Champagne Fever hardly deserved to be denied in an epic tussle after making all from the second fence until mugged on the line. He jumped and galloped with tremendous fluency all the way, and ultimately gave everything he had in his quest for a Festival hat-trick.

Western Warhorse led over the first and sat on the pace thereafter. He had won his sole previous chasing start, but to claim Champagne Fever's scalp here constitutes a huge upset. Tom Scudamore deserves credit for biding his time once headed and then delaying his challenge until the last possible moment.

Trifolium ran a gallant race in third after also sitting on the heels of the leaders, while Dodging Bullets was bang there in the straight. He and Valdez both got into it turning down the hill, but just didn't have the quality to get up the hill before finishing fourth and fifth.

Rock On Ruby was lucky to survive a blunder at the third and that soon put paid to his chance, while Ted Veale fell two-out. He wasn't far away, but he was never in contention. Grandouet hasn't progressed at this game and didn't jump fluently enough before taking sixth.

2.40 BAYLIS & HARDING HANDICAP CHASE 3M 1F

Holywell turned in a polished display here, seeing off Ma Filleule with a bit to spare. He was always on the heels of the leaders, and jumped better than he has done over fences.

Off a 5lb higher mark than his 2013 Pertemps win, this was a fair effort. Ma Filleule came there strongly at the top of the hill, but his chance wasn't helped by a mistake three-out.

Hadrian's Approach had a lovely position throughout, but couldn't mount a challenge when it came to it, while The Package and Green Flag kept on for third and fourth from the middle. Tour Des Champs and Standing Ovation didn't do each other any favours vying for the lead for the first two miles, while Wrong Turn pulled up tamely with nearly a circuit to go.

Vintage Star also fell early, with Cantlow exiting at the 10th.

3.20 CHAMPION HURDLE CHALLENGE TROPHY 2M 1F

Our Conor's fatal fall proved a critical incident for more reasons than the obvious, as he practically brought The New One down when he departed. The New One had a lovely position tracking the leaders on the inner, but he couldn't recover the ground lost.

He finished powerfully in third, so he would have had a big say. My Tent Or Yours ruined his chance by pulling ferociously for a long period. He travelled smoothly turning in, but didn't get up the hill as well as the winner. That comment also applied 12 months ago.

Still, for all that the second and third had excuses, Jezki was a worthy winner. The first-time hood helped him settle, and he got a lovely run through on the inside as he and Hurricane Fly touched down in front two-out. Hurricane Fly immediately began to labour at that stage, having sat in the box behind Captain Cee Bee and Our Conor early on.

He simply looked one-paced on this better ground, which is understandable at his age. It was left to My Tent Or Yours to press Jezki, but he missed the last flight and Barry Geraghty's mount pinged it. That gave Jezki the advantage, and he held on bravely by a neck.

4.0 DAVID NICHOLSON MARES' HURDLE 2M 4F

Ruby Walsh settled Quevega in at the rear before gradually coaxing her into contention. He was squeezing her down the hill, while also biding his time, though the writing appeared to be on the wall when Glens Melody powered away from the last flight after leading just before.

As we saw last year, though, it's never over until it's over with Quevega. She dug deep to record yet another famous and heroic win by three-parts of a length. Glens Melody ran a blinder, while L'Unique came through to finish the same distance behind in third.

There was plenty of them in there pitching turning in, with Highland Retreat fading into eighth after making much of the running alongside Sirene D'Ainay. Last year's runner-up was bang there when she crashed to the floor two-out. She didn't look a spent force at the time.

4.40 TERRY BIDDLECOMBE NATIONAL HUNT CHASE 4M

Beeves set a steady early gallop, as Foxrock settled in the middle. Katie Walsh's mount made mistakes, but was still in contention turning in before weakening into ninth.

Herdsman also raced handily, but mistakes did for him down the back last time, at which point Rogue Angel took over. He took seventh in the end, just behind Shutthefrontdoor.

Nina Carberry's mount looked dangerous down the hill, but didn't find as much as Shotgun Paddy, which rallied gamely to be just denied by Joshua Newman's mount Midnight Prayer. Living Next Door also threatened en route to coming home fifth, while Suntiep finished with a flourish in third. He raced stone-last for much of the way, and a horse with his stamina may have been better suited close to the pace.

5.15 NOVICES' HANDICAP CHASE 2M 5F

Buthelezi set a searching gallop, chased closely by Festive Affair and Up To Something. Grandads Horse was also bang there, as Ericht ruined his chance with errors.

AP McCoy loomed on Pendra at the top of the hill, as Festive Affair led on the descent.

Present View was also in contention at that stage and led turning in. He crossed the eventual runner-up Attaglance on the run-in, resulting in a stewards' inquiry.

On another day, Attaglance might have been awarded the race, as he kept on again after being switched. That said, maybe he shouldn't have initially been switched to challenge inside.

Pendra hit the last and just kept on for third, as Ahyaknowyerself faded into fourth.

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