Cheltenham Festival 2020

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Champers on Ice - Double Winner this Season

The good form of the yard continued last week with a long journey up north paying rich dividends courtesy of a Sedgefield double, whilst Champers On Ice rolled back the years with a valuable win on the opening day of Newbury’s Ladbroke Chase meeting.  Those successes plus Miss Tynte at Plumpton this afternoon took our seasonal tally to 40 which means that we are fast approaching our final total from last term with almost half of the campaign still to go.

We gave a positive mention of Induno in last week’s column and he ran out a brave winner of the novices’ hurdle at Sedgefield on Tuesday so I hope that a few of you may have backed him.  It wasn’t plain sailing all of the way as he did not travel as well through the race as he can do and I thought that he may be in a spot of bother when headed at the last.  He picked up well from there though, staying on in good style to win a shade cosily with Tom Scudamore not needing to resort to the whip.  He jumped very well for this hurdling debut and is a very talented horse who will benefit from more of a test of stamina in time.  He is the first horse I have had for potato baron Ronnie Bartlett of Albert Bartlett & Sons and he looks to have a nice prospect on his hands.

                                      Sedgefield Double - Induno & Paricolor

We also mentioned Paricolor and up and coming young amateur jockey Fergus Gillard last week after their Fakenham success.  Well, I am pleased to report that the pair followed-up with a smooth victory at Sedgefield on Tuesday.  It was a conditional and amateur riders’ contest and Fergus gave him an extremely cool ride, biding his time on the rain-softened ground.  Indeed, he had quite a bit of ground to make up at the third last and I must confess, I was starting to get a little worried when he seemed to be making little progress.  Fergus was unflustered however and delivering our progressive three year old with a perfectly timed ride, he joined the leader at the last and went on to score with the minimum of fuss.  Both horse and jockey are improving at a rate of knots and will be winning more races.

I was delighted to see Champers On Ice back in the big time with his success in the valuable staying handicap hurdle at Newbury on Friday.  He has always been a quality horse, but has not been the easiest to train down the years owing to a number of niggling issues.  He put up a good performance to win at Ffos Las on his seasonal debut but this was a different level altogether.  Making all the running under a well-judged ride from Tom Scudamore, he jumped really boldly and repelled all challengers in the straight for a hard-earned success.  I am particularly thrilled for owners Caroline Tisdall and Bryan Drew who never lost faith in the horse.

Winner number fourty for the stable has come at Plumpton this afternoon courtesy of Miss Tynte under Tom Scudamore.  She paid the price for winning nicely at Worcester in August with a big hike in the ratings but has dropped a little bit for recent runs and this was enough to see her bounce back to form and she relished the step up to three miles.  This was her second win of the season and providing the handicapper does not put her up too much she can win again.  She could jump a fence one day.

There were a number of other good performances last week with Story Of Friends, Delface and Meep Meep Mag all finishing narrow runner’s-up.  Story Of Friends was second at Kempton on his handicap debut under Jonjo O’Neill Jr.  He hung towards the stands’ side in the closing stages and that may well have been the difference between victory and defeat.  The winner of an Irish point-to-point in his younger days over three miles, he obviously stays further and is capable of winning similar races.

Delface made his second start over fences at Hereford on Wednesday and ran another solid race to finish runner-up, only being headed after the last.  He jumped a little to the left at his fences so will be well-suited by going the other way round.  He will be going up in the weights for this so we may have to run him again shortly (weather permitting of course!).  On the same afternoon, Meep Meep Mag never stopped trying in the Wetherby bumper, showing a really gutsy attitude under Tom Scudamore.  We could try again to win a bumper with her, although her future is most definitely over hurdles and a longer trip.

Our Saturday runners, Nordic Combined and Daklondike both ran with credit in competitive races at Newbury.  Nordic is very consistent and again ran his race but perhaps the 2m4f trip stretched his stamina.  Daklondike appeared a little unsettled by the preliminaries of the Ladbrokes handicap chase and could never really get into the race after a slow start.  He was not actually beaten that far in the end.  He is very talented and there is a big prize in him if all falls right on the day.

Looking Ahead   

Looking ahead to this week we have two runners on Tuesday, Ghost Serge has his first run for the yard at Lingfield and First lord Du Cuet runs at Southwell.  Ghost Serge has some good form and has been going well at home, David Noonan rides.  First Lord Du Cuet ran a nice fourth on his hurdling debut at Wincanton against some useful rivals on his seasonal reappearance.  He should come on a little bit for this and looks to have a good chance of gaining his first win over jumps.

On Wednesday we have entries at Haydock and Ludlow, on Thursday at Leicester and Wincanton and then at Exeter, Sandown and Sedgefield on Friday so it looks set to be a busy few days!  At the weekend Vieux Lion Rouge is likely to return to the Aintree fences he loves in the Becher chase and he could be joined by Rathlin Rose but he also holds an entry the same day at Sandown.  We have a few entries at Sandown and Chepstow as well on Saturday so keep checking the daily column for more updates on the stable runners.

Aintree Fences

Talking of the Becher Chase, we were joined earlier in the week by Aintree’s senior groundsman as they set up the Easyfix Grand National fences on our gallops.  They are replicas of the obstacles they will face at the track on Saturday and are brilliant to school the horses over.  It is a fantastic facility to be able to take advantage of and are available for all trainers to utilise.  There is another set of the schooling fences available for use at the Lambourn training centre.

Sport Writers Awards   

Gerry Supple and I are in London today (Monday) for the Sports Writers Awards as guests of Mike Vince.  It is our annual pilgrimage to the Capital and it is always a great day out and I will update you with any gossip next week!

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