Race one was made out to be a two-horse race, between Paul Nicholls’ Quel Destin, and Nigel Twiston-Davies’ Torpillo. Both horses had shown tremendous amounts of ability beforehand, but yesterday was very much about whether Torpillo could match up to the known quantity of Quel Destin. As seen, he could not cut it. The Nicholls horse went off the 4/6F after considerable support and ended up justifying that price in style. He led after the third flight and was never headed thereafter. In the end, Torpillo ended up finishing 4th of 4 after an error prone round of jumping. I feel he will be better once his jumping is up to scratch as he looked like he could be involved coming to 2 out, but he was in no way able to match the best horse on the day. Capone (20-1) was Quel Destin’s nearest rival, 6 length back in second place. He ran promisingly considering the fact he dramatically over raced and got himself worked up. A further 10 lengths behind him saw Fanzio (66-1) who didn’t run disgracefully all things considered, but was clearly not good enough to be involved, not to say he won’t improve on for the run. Quel Destin’s next target is the Triumph Hurdle at the Cheltenham festival, providing everything goes right.
Quel Destin coming in after his victory
The second race saw a competitive Listed mares Hurdle, with a few popular contenders. When writing my review, confidence was there for the Henderson Mare, Laskadine, but once the race come along, her odds drew longer and longer. She ended up going off at 11/4, and her performance mirrored the feeling around the track about her. She put up a highly lackluster performance, with no obvious excuse. Perhaps she found it all happening too quick around Haydock, but it was hard to tell. Conversely, she may have just struggled to match up to the class of the rest of the field. The eventual winner was the ever-popular, Jester Jet, who managed to break her 5-race long 2nd place streak but she did need to fight hard to get it. Jester Jet, and the prominently raced, If You Say Run, were locked in battle along the final furlong, resulting in Tom Lacey’s mare coming out on top by a neck. Both mares have huge potential, having both been placed in listed and graded company before yesterday. Jester Jet’s connections have the Coral Cup in mind for her at Cheltenham, however they are keen to mix and match her hurdling and fencing abilities throughout the season. If You Say Run’s next target is unclear, but I’m sure they’ll look at something at the festival, perhaps the Mares Hurdle?
Jester Jet after winning
Race three was the Grade 2 Rendlesham Hurdle, where the favourite flopped. Yanworth (11/8F), coming back off almost a year off the track, found it all too hot at the end of the race when Aidan Coleman asked him for his effort 3 out. It’s hard to say whether he under-performed due to fitness levels or whether he’s not the force of old. I think his next race, wherever that may be, will shine a light on that. He currently has an entry in the Stayer’s Hurdle at the festival but is a 40-1 shot, out from 20/1 after pulling up yesterday. Moving on from Yanworth, I suppose we should talk about the 8-length winner, Shades of Midnight who was ultra-impressive on the day. Sandy Thomson’s 9-year old came on leaps and bounds from his last hurdle race, where he was pipped home by Paisley Park (who now looks to be inferior to all in the division), to absolutely destroy his rivals yesterday. Shades of Midnight was always to the fore, and was able repel the challenge of Kilcooley, who was returning to the racetrack after an absence of approximately 1066 days, meaning his stamina ran dry very quickly in the closing stages, allowing Petticoat Tails to run on from a mile back to claim 2nd place by a neck. By then, the winner had strode clear and wasn’t for catching. Shades of Midnight doesn’t currently have an entry in the Stayer’s Hurdle at Cheltenham, or indeed any entries at the festival, but is under consideration for the 3 mile hurdle at Aintree if the ground comes up soft enough or the Scottish National.
An exhausted, Shades of Midnight after winning the Rendlesham
The Novice chase of the day saw only 4 of the 8 completing. The favourite, Scorpion Sid unseated Gavin Sheehan at the 3rd fence, blowing the contest wide open. In the end, the horse carrying the lightest weight in the race prevailed after a dramatic exit by Slanelough at the last fence when coming to challenge. The Paddy Pie kept on gamely to win by a length from the staying-on Wilde Blue Yonder after his nearest rival crashed out most unluckily. Wilde Blue Yonder might be better over further, I believe, whereas The Paddy Pie is one who needed the line yesterday. Both are fine novice chasers, but you must feel for Slanelough, who would have been well in the mix had he not come crashing down. The Paddy Pie does not currently have any future entries.
The Paddy Pie cooling off after his win
The fifth race was the highly competitive, Pertemps Qualifier Handicap Hurdle. The race was so open, it had 3 co-favourites, all at 5/1. They were Silva Eclipse, Champers On Ice and Down The Highway. However, in the end, none of them were victorious, they finished 2nd, 4th and 8th. The winner came in the form of Nicky Martin’s 10-year-old, Sykes (11/1). Sykes ran out a very gutsy win after making all and battling off Sue Smith’s 6-year-old, Silva Eclipse. One would assume that both Sykes and Silva Eclipse will head to the Pertemps at the Festival, however, neither currently hold any future entries. Other horses to take out of the race would be the 3rd placed horse, Burrow’s Park. Despite being 3 1/2 lengths down from the front two, Burrow’s Park ran a very eye-catching a race to finish 3rd in this step up in company. Another to mention is the 5th placed horse, Blaklion. He may not have been in the top 3 yesterday, but it was a great trial run for Aintree in April, where, if he runs, is due to carry 10st 11lbs. He also has an entry in the Gold Cup in March, but it’s highly unlikely that he will take part there.
Sykes after the Pertemps Qualifier
The sixth race was the big race of the day, the Grand National Trial Handicap Chase (Grade 3). The eventual winner, Robinsfirth, ran out a very convincing winner, after threading through the middle of both Ramses De Teillee and Chef D’Oeuvre. The close finish was an absolute thriller, as it seemed that the well fancied, Ramses De Teillee would actually win a race away from his favourite track, Chepstow. However, it was not to be, as Robinsfirth came from the clouds to sweep through and take the win. The trip was new to Robinsfirth and it was thought that it would see him utilized to the best of his ability, which they very much succeeded in. He stayed the distance really well and looked to be able to go even further. However, ironically enough, he does not have an entry in the National and the owners are keen to swerve Aintree. Instead, he could go for the Ultima at Cheltenham or and Scottish National. The second placed horse, Ramses De Teillee, has been allotted 10st 5lbs for the national and is not guaranteed a run at this point, but if he does get in, he’d be one to watch out for. The third placed horse, Chef D’Oeuvre, was well-held by the front two in the end, but ran a great race at a price of 12/1. He seemed to flatten out towards the finish after rallying to challenge Ramses De Teillee, meaning he should probably be played late if running over the marathon distances. Chef D’Oeuvre doesn’t have a National entry, but is in the Eider Chase at Newcastle on the 23rd that will probably come up too quick to take part in. Perhaps he’s another one for the Scottish National? The other three finishers, Royal Vacation, Yala Enki and Bishop’s Road all seemed to struggle this time around and found that the front three got the trip much better. Bishop’s Road is an interesting horse as he went all-out for much of the trip and did very well to finish considering how much energy he must have exerted early. He does not have a Grand National entry.
Robinsfirth after his thrilling victory in the National Trial
The Albert Bartlett Prestige Novices’ Hurdle (Grade 2) was comprehensively demolished by Rebecca Curtis’ Lisnagar Oscar, an ex- Irish pointer. He showed great improvement here to win at his second crack at 3 miles. His first attempt saw him finish 2nd to Rockpoint in a Grade 2, meaning it was only a matter of time until he won his own, which he managed yesterday. He was a 10-length winner and he was very impressive. Sean Bowen had a push button job coming down to the last as he tanked on past Ask Ben who had gone for home. Ask Ben ran a very good race in 2nd considering he was significantly stepping up in grade, from a class 4 novice hurdle, to a class 1, grade 2 race. He’s a horse to look out for and I have no doubt he’ll be winning his own graded race soon enough. Kateson was a disappointing 7th of 9. He raced keenly, made a couple critical errors and didn’t seem to stay out the trip in the end. I wouldn’t give up on him, however, he’s a talented horse but he may be better over a shorter trip. Lisnagar Oscar is currently 10/1 for the Albert Bartlett Novice’s Hurdle at the Cheltenham festival, Ask Ben is 20/1 and Kateson is 33/1.
Lisnagar Oscar after his win
The Walrus Open Hunters’ Chase is the race I have the least to say about. The Even money favourite, Road To Rome, trained by JJ O’Shea and ridden by Sam Waley-Cohen, made all and drew further and further clear after 4 out, resulting in an unchallenged, 34 length victory. Nothing could touch him. His nearest challenger was Ballotin for a long time, but he faded badly after attempting to go with the prolific Road To Rome. Ballotin ended up in 4th place. Sybarite (50/1) stayed on for 2nd after jumping poorly and hanging badly left in the closing stages. The popular, Pacha Du Polder, was never better than midfield throughout and found it all happening too quickly to handle. However, he can be excused as it was his first run since March of 2018 when winning at the Cheltenham Festival. He was looked after by Harriet Tucker yesterday and will most probably go back to Cheltenham next month. Road To Rome has no current future entries.
All photos are my own (@lowy121)