Sport Horse Racing

Friday 15 November 2019

Third time lucky for Saint at Cheltenham

Saint Calvados clearing the last fence. Photo: PA
Saint Calvados clearing the last fence. Photo: PA

Graham Clark

Saint Calvados exorcised his Cheltenham ghost when making the most of a drop in class to provide Harry Whittington with his first winner at the track in the Randox Health Handicap Chase.

Having suffered defeats in the 2018 Arkle and last year's Champion Chase on his previous two visits to the track, the talented six-year-old made it third time lucky when carrying top weight to glory on his seasonal return in the two-mile contest.

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Taking up matters just before the last, the 5-2 favourite, who had undergone a wind operation over the summer, was forced to pull out all the stops to defeat Vaniteux by a length.

Whittington said: "That was my first Cheltenham winner and it is very special. "It's just great. What can I say? He handled the track. He loved those conditions - we know that. You can safely say it was a classy performance in those conditions off top weight. It was a big drop in class."

Watching videos of Ruby Walsh riding around Cheltenham paid dividends for Harry Cobden as Quel Destin (5-2) took the Masterson Holdings Hurdle by three-quarters of a length.

"We planned to do that (go wide) and pick that better ground," said Nicholls. "Ruby used to do that and I've been getting him to look back at some of those old videos Ruby use to ride round here. He used to go as wide as you like."

Barry Geraghty celebrated his first winner back from injury when Time Flies By made a successful debut in the bumper. The former Irish Champion jockey returned from the sidelines only this month, after breaking his right leg in a fall from the Peter Fahey-trained Peregrine Run in the Topham Chase at Aintree in April.

He was always going well on Nicky Henderson's debutant, and the 13-2 shot picked up well to defeat favourite Butte Montana by a length and three-quarters.

"It is always great to get a winner here - (and) it was for all the right connections, the boss (owner JP McManus), the former boss (Henderson) and I suppose at the place we love more than anywhere," said Geraghty.

Meanwhile, Degraves stamped himself as a colt with a future as he won the Bet With The Tote At Leopardstown Eyrefield Stakes. The Joseph O'Brien-trained youngster travelled with authority and quickened up smartly into the lead, putting the race to bed in a matter of strides.

Having his fourth outing, Degraves was following up a win at Navan last time out, and provided Shane Crosse with a third Group Three win of the season. Despite idling in the closing stages, he held off Persia and Justifier by half a length.

"He travelled well," said O'Brien. "Shane said he quickened up very well and had a bit of a look when he got to the front. He'll have his break now and come back for a nice race in the spring. He's a Camelot, so he'll go 10 furlongs anyway - and then we'll go from there."

Asked if that may include a Derby trial, the trainer agreed: "That would make sense, something like that. He's won on soft ground, but he's only really been on that because he's had no choice."

Colin Keane missed out on a winner when he preferred Laughifuwant over Psychedelic Funk in the Tote Proud Sponsors Of Leopardstown Racecourse Knockaire Stakes. The five-year-old was winning for the first time since April 2018 for Ger Lyons, with Gary Carroll sticking to the rail on the 8-1 chance.

San Pedro (5-2 favourite) sprinted clear to win the Irish Stallion Farms EBF (C & G) Maiden (Plus 10 Race) by five and a half lengths - impressing Donnacha O'Brien, riding for his father, Aidan.

"These Gleneagles are tough, genuine and have speed, which is good, and they progress," said the winning trainer.

Jessica Harrington's daughter of Galileo, Celestial Object (13-8 favourite), was a ready winner of the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Fillies Maiden - having shaped well in Listed company previously.

"I think the only other winner I've had by Galileo is Supasundae!" said Harrington. "She's not very big, but she's tough and hardy. All she wants to do is please you. We'll see next spring, and I'd say we'll be looking at stakes company."

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