The weather was unseasonably warm as thousands of racing fans filed their way into Cheltenham on Friday and Saturday as jump racing returned to Prestbury Park for the first time this season. October is always an important month on the calendar as the meat of the National Hunt season goes into top gear and that was certainly evident over the weekend as Cheltenham hosted their first fixture of the campaign.
The long road to the Cheltenham Festival really does begin here and already we have seen some very good horses indeed make their seasonal debut. Maybe we have already seen a potential Festival winner strut their stuff and from here until four day spectacular in March, we will be following all of the action in our weekly Road to Cheltenham blog. We will feature many of the horses who have made an impression on us each week, as well as those all important Cheltenham Festival market movers and there has already been some interesting performers gracing the track.
Cheltenham Showcase Meeting on Friday and Saturday
There is no doubt where the majority of the action took place over the past week as Cheltenham hosted their two-day Showcase fixture on Friday and Saturday. Attendances were as impressive as ever at Prestbury Park and there were some very nice horses on display with at least one eye on the future for us.
Barry Geraghty and In The Rough
after their success at the
Showcase Meeting .
The action in the Cotswolds kicked off on Friday and one horse that did catch the eye was Court Minstrel who made it two from two over fences in the 2m Novice Chase. Trained by Evan Williams, Court Minstrel was a Scottish Champion Hurdle winner over the smaller obstacles and looks just as at home as a chaser. He jumped well on Friday and won with something in hand and although March is a long way away, it is easy to see him running in the Arkle Chase in March for which he is now as short as 16/1, from 25/1, for with Bet Victor.
Elsewhere on Friday at Cheltenham we saw an impressive win from the John Ferguson trained Commissioned who won the Maiden Hurdle in impressive fashion and Sybarite, who won the first of many Pertemps qualifiers for Nigel Twiston-Davies. Commissioned was second in the Adonis Hurdle last season and looks to be a quality performer who has plenty more improvement to come and he will surely be winning more races this winter.
The action continued at Cheltenham on Saturday afternoon and once again there were some eye catching performances for the notebook. Perhaps the best performance of the day came in the first when In The Rough scored for JP McManus and Jonjo O'Neill in the Lewis Badges Novices Hurdle over 3m1f. In The Rough had won three races over the summer and completed a four timer after tracking Vivaldi Collonges for much of the trip before striking up the hill under a cracking ride from Barry Geraghty.
Jonjo O'Neill said after the race that In the Rough is now likely to be put away until the spring with him not wanting the ground too soft but Skybet were impressed and installed him in as a 16/1 shot for the Albert Bartlett in March as a result of this Cheltenham success.
Tiger Roll in the winners enclosure after
another Cheltenham win.
Nigel Twiston-Davies always picks up a winner or two at Cheltenham through the early part of the season and he followed up his success with Sybarite on Friday with another win on Saturday. This time it was the Splash of Ginge who won his first race over fences in good style with a comfortable win in the Royal Gloucestershire Hussars Novices Chase over 2m4f. Splash Of Ginge won the Betfair Hurdle last season and he looks to be taking his fences well and he is a 20/1 shot for the JLT Novices Chase in March after this facile win.
There was also a winning return to Cheltenham for Triumph Hurdle hero, Tiger Roll, who won the Masterson Holdings Hurdle over two miles from Calipto. The pair of them went well clear of the field with the Gordon Elliott trained four-year-old cut from 25/1 to 16/1 for the Champion Hurdle as a result of this decent success.
The Bumper on Saturday at Cheltenham during the Showcase meeting has produced some good winners down the years and we saw a nice winner this weekend for David Pipe. Moon Racer was a bumper winner at Punchestown last spring and he bolted up on his first start for Pond House to mark himself out as a potential star of the future with connections still to decide whether or not he will go over hurdles this winter.
Kempton on Sunday
The star attraction at Kempton Park on Sunday was The New One who won the Williamhill.com Hurdle for the second year-in-a-row. It was a decent run from the Champion Hurdle third although he hit the last one hard which is of slight concern. All roads lead back to the Champion Hurdle in March and the Nigel Twiston-Davies trained horse is a best price of 4/1 for the Festival race after this seasonal debut triumph.
There was more success for David Pipe at Kempton as he saddled Stars Over The Seas to victory in the juvenile hurdle and he could well make up into a classy type. By the legendary Sea the Stars, Stars Over The Sea won with plenty in hand on his hurdling debut for David Pipe with Paddy Power already going as short as 16/1 about him winning the Triumph Hurdle in March.
The racing action continues to hot up over in Ireland as well and we have seen some nice performances over their recently as you would expect. There was a terrific card at Punchestown last Thursday and the feature race was won by the improving Don Cossack for Gordon Elliott. The Gigginstown horse won the Star Best for Racing Coverage Chase over 2m7f in very nice style and he could be stepped up in class next time. The seven-year-old will need to improve though the season but he stays well and was installed in the Gold Cup market after this success at a price of around 25/1 which may appeal to some.
We should also give Tammys Hill a positive mention after he returned to the track at Cork on Sunday for the first time since he won the Foxhunters Chase at the Festival last season. He won a hurdle contest with plenty of weight in his favour and connections have said that the JNWine Champion Chase could be the next target for a very popular horse who has plenty of options in front of him.