Thursday 14 December 2017

Snowden gets Festival first in dramatic finale

Present View ridden by Brendan Powell on their way to winning the Novices' Handicap Chase at Cheltenham
Present View ridden by Brendan Powell on their way to winning the Novices' Handicap Chase at Cheltenham

Thomas Kelly

There was a dramatic finish to the concluding novice handicap chase at Cheltenham and no shortage of controversy afterwards.

Present View got the better of Attaglance by a half-length, but the 8/1 shot had to survive a stewards' inquiry before being named Jamie Snowden's first Festival winner under Brendan Powell.

Riding the runner-up, Brian Hughes was left with nowhere to go after a daring run up the inside and although he got going once switched wide, he was half a length down at the line. However, Snowden argued afterwards that Hughes was in the wrong:

“I think the second jockey should never have been there, without a shadow of a doubt,” said the winning trainer. “If I was the trainer of the second horse, I would be having serious words with my jockey. He should never have been there and I've ridden in plenty of races. It was a ludicrous ride from the second jockey.

“Our horse won on merit. He jumped from fence to fence, he's run an absolute cracker and he's a lovely horse. We're very lucky to have him and it's a massive team effort.”

However, speaking before the stewards had confirmed the placings, Attaglance's trainer Malcolm Jefferson

backed his jockey’s ride. “I think it (the interference) has cost him the race. It's very rare you get them now in the stewards' room, but it has definitely cost him,” said the Yorkshire trainer. “He had a clear passage and was stopped – he definitely would have won. Brian said it stopped him, but that's racing.

“The horse has run a blinder. I thought he would and he has. This is a hard place to win, it's harder to finish second and when you think you should have won, it's harder still.”

Earlier, Alan King sent out his first winner of the meeting when Midnight Prayer claimed top honours in the Terry Biddlecombe National Hunt Chase under Joshua Newman.

The 8/1 chance moved sweetly throughout the four-mile test and saw off leading fancy Shotgun Paddy by a neck, although the placings could have been replaced if the latter hadn’t made a bad mistake at the final fence.

Suntiep fared the based of the Irish runners, with the Willie Mullins-trained gelding staying on strongly from the rear to finish third, beaten just over a length and a half.

According to King, the victorious nine-year-old could now be bound for a

tilt at next month's Scottish Grand National at Ayr – a race he won last year with Godsmejudge.

“He was always in the right position and Josh gave him a beautiful ride,” King reflected. “I always thought that if he ran well here then the Scottish National could be an option and I've no reason to think any different now.

“My thoughts are with the owner-breeder John Reynolds. He's 85 or 86. He got rushed away just an hour before the race with a massive heart attack. We just hope he's going to be all right.”

Meanwhile, Al Ferof, Benefficient and Dynaste are among 12 runners in tomorrow’s Ryanair Chase, with First Lieutenant a significant absentee. First Lieutenant was runner-up behind Cue Card in the two-mile-five-furlong Grade One 12 months ago, but the nine-year-old appears bound for a tilt at the Gold Cup.

Benefficient and Dynaste were first and second in last year's Jewson Novices' Chase, now sponsored by JLT and will lock horns again.

Tony Martin's Benefficient arrives on the back of a Grade One victory at Leopardstown but David Pipe’s Dynaste must overcome a poor display in the King George at Kempton. Al Ferof has good form at Prestbury Park as a former winner of the Paddy Power Gold Cup, but was a well-beaten third in the King George.

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