Cheltenham Trials Day 2018

Many Clouds (Leighton Aspell) and Thistlecrack (Tom Scudamore) jump the last together.

By Samantha

Last year, Cheltenham’s Trials Day was a moving one. The sadness came in the Cotswold Chase. It was a high-class renewal containing two Hennessy Gold Cup winners in the form of Smad Place and Many Clouds, who won the Grand National. Smad Place led until Many Clouds passed him at four out. He jumped well but King George winner, Thistlecrack appeared at his girths. It was a head to head battle from the last. They jumped it together and as they galloped up the run-in, Thistlecrack looked to be in the lead. But Many Clouds said no. He battled on under Leighton Aspell’s strong drive- fighting like a boxer, pushing himself to the limits all the way to the finish. It was a photo. Many Clouds pushed himself too hard. In the shadow of the winning post, Clouds collapsed. The result to the finish came through. He had won. Then the news came through that he had died. There was a strange atmosphere around the course. Spectators had witnessed one of the most spectacular horse races in history and yet it had concluded with a tragic end. In an interview after, Clouds’ trainer Oliver Sherwood said, “I always said he would die for you and he’s died for me and the team today, doing what he does best. He wanted to win that race. He was beaten and then fought back to win in the last fifty yards to win.”

Hopefully, no sadness comes out of 2018’s Trials Day, only joy at the incredible performances that we will get to see.

The Races

JCB Triumph Hurdle Trial (Grade 3)

Nicky Henderson, who is enjoying a great time of it at the moment, has Apple’s Shakira in this Grade 2 that kicks off the card. She is current favourite for the Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham. She’s won her last two by a combined twenty and a half lengths, both were at Cheltenham. Look My Way comes to this race of the back of a win at Ludlow and a second to Act of Valor, who hasn’t done anything to help the form, on his first start. Elixir De Nutz has a brilliant jumping pedigree and it is interesting that he is making his debut in a Grade Two event so he must be held in high regard at home.

Timeform Novices’ Handicap Chase

This race could go to Colin Tizzard once again after he won it with Royal Vacation last year. Here he has Sizing Tennessee. The gelding put up a brilliant performance in defeat behind Yanworth on heavy ground over two miles five. Ballyandy was beaten eleven lengths in that race in forth. Previously to that, Nigel Twiston-Davies’ charge beat Duel At Dawn the only other finisher and that horse was beaten into second last weekend by progressive Ms Parfois in a Listed race. The youngest runner in the race, Mister Whitaker, ran well last time out behind nice-looking Hell’s Kitchen. They pulled readily clear from Touch Kick, nineteen lengths back in third. Previously to this run, Mister Whitaker won at Carlisle, beating Solstice Star, who re-opposes in this race.

Crest Nicholson Handicap Chase (Grade 3)

Ballyhill won last time out at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day, beating in form Shantou Flyer, who had a return to form on that run due to cheek pieces. The latter is four pounds better off than the former and, if his cheek pieces work for a second time, he could turn the tables on Nigel Twiston-Davies’ gelding. Frodon had O O Seven behind him last time out when they were behind Gold Present, who managed to turn the tables on Frodon, after he won a Grade Two at Kempton in February of 2017. Paul Nicholls’ charge has been in the top three on his past four starts. The only problem is that he has to carry a big weight. Lightly-raced Pressurized comes here off the back of a nice win at Chepstow, where he bolted up by fifteen lengths. Coo Star Sivola is having his first start in a handicap so that could be interesting and Ultragold, who was a good second over the National fences last time out, tends to pop into the winners enclosure when it is least expected.

Betbright Trial Cotswold Chase (Grade 1)

Bristol De Mai’s performance in the Betfair Chase could arguably be one of the best of the season if not ever. He won that race by a whopping fifty-seven lengths. He had nine times Grade One winner Cue Card in second as well as Outlander and Tea For Two filling the other places. Nigel Twiston-Davies’ grey was well-fancied to win the King George but failed to fire in Kempton’s big race and it was later discovered that he had suffered from stomach ulcers but now he’s back and on a retrieval mission. Tea For Two is a good horse in his own right and has danced in all the major dances this season. He ran very well for third in the King George. Definitely Red was favourite for the Grand National last season but was pulled up after a tack malfunction. This season he was third to Bristol De Mai in the Charlie Hall Chase and franked that form by following it up with a win at Aintree in impressive style. His old foe, The Last Samuri, has been second on both starts this season. His last run was over Grand National fences and he was beaten by Blaklion.

Mulcahys Hill (left)


Ballymore Classic Novices’ Hurdle (Grade 2)

Mulcahys Hill looked a nice sort when finishing second to Poetic Rhythm in the Grade One Challow Hurdle. Adrian Heskin kicked for home on the home turn and went very far clear at Newbury but the horse got very tired on the run-in but rallied back to be beaten only by a short head. Nicky Henderson is double handed in this race; he has Pacific De Baune won first time out in a maiden hurdle by seven lengths and has the possibility to be anything but Santini seems to have the better form because he won in December at Newbury by four and a half lengths and the second has won twice subsequently. Tikkanbar won on both starts this season. His most recent was a listed contest where he beat Aye Aye Charlie into forth. Slate House is rated 1lbs lower than Tikkanbar and he won his first two for trainer Colin Tizzard but found three horses too good last time out.

Cleeve Hurdle (Grade 2)

It would be very emotional if Beer Goggles was to win this race after his trainer passed away on Tuesday. His win last time out beating the likes of Unowhatimeanharry and Thistlecrack came as a complete surprise but he won really nicely. His main threat could come from Wholestone, who won the previous race on the card last year. He comes into this race off the back of a smart win at Cheltenham beating Agrapart and Colin’s Sister. That was Agrapart’s only run in this country this season and could be thereabouts. Finian’s Oscar comes into this race off the back of a relatively successful bout over fences, where he won two of his four starts. Over hurdles, he won the Tolworth on his second start and the Grade One Mersey Novices’ Hurdle at Aintree’s Grand National meeting. Consequently, he has to be respected on his return to the smaller obstacles. The Worlds End hasn’t shown much this season but he won four of his six starts last season so could return to form. It is also interesting that Saint Are has been brought back over hurdles considering he is usually up in the front ranks in most of the Grand Nationals from the past few years. He last ran in 2017’s Grand National and was second last time out but he hasn’t ran over hurdles, over which he won a Grade One, since 2011.

Beer Goggles and Richard Johnson


Steel Plate and Sections handicap Hurdle

Our Merlin ran well in defeat behind Call Me Lord, who looks smart, after completing a three-timer. He’s gone up four pounds for that but he looks to have more class than the rest. Remiluc could go close as he has been running consistently well and knocking on the door lately. He was second to Old Guard on the Ladbrookes Trophy card at Newbury and the third horse ran well in defeat behind Jenkins last time out. Dino Velvet was forth in that race and his only win to date has come over one mile seven furlongs and has gone close over two miles. Recently, he has been running over two and a half miles, which has seemed a bit far for him, so this drop down should suit. Huntsman Son is a model of consistency and he has only been out of the top three on one of his five starts. The forth came last time out where he was comfortably in third when Brave Eagle shot past them to win well. Clondaw Castle could be a smart hurdling prospect as he has won two of his three starts over obstacles and he won by four lengths last time out so he could be one to watch for the future.

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