By Samantha Martin (@sam_angelina22)
The first day of the Showcase Meeting belonged to Rouge Vif. Harry Whittington’s stable star turned the competitive feature race, the Bentley Flying Spur Handicap Chase, into a procession. He jumped amazingly and asserted without even breaking a sweat to a seven and an eased-down, half-length victory under Daryl Jacob. This was his first start of the campaign and off a mark of 156 – so seriously impressive. Daryl Jacob achieved a double on the card with Fusil Raffles in the 16:45. This horse has always promised an awful lot and seems to have a big future now over the larger obstacles. He jumped slickly and won by a huge margin. So did Galvin in the second race. Gordon Elliott’s charge had already had seven runs over fences and put his experience to good use.
There was a novice and a maiden hurdle on the card. I was hoping for a big run from Domaine De L’Isle, who is in my 20 To Watch, in the opening novice event but he didn’t quite have the pace for the trip and got severely hampered at a crucial time. The winner was Does He Know, a lovely, raw son of Alkaased, who is little known in the UK. He stayed on strongly but looks like he still has a lot to learn. The maiden hurdle was won convincingly by Faivoir for Dan and Harry Skelton. This was his second try over hurdles and he could be a nice type. He’s a half brother to a horse with a peak rating of 137.
There were two handicap hurdles on the card as well. The first was won by Captain Tom Cat for Deva Racing and Dr Richard Newland under a brilliant ride from conditional jockey Cillin Leonard. They went from the front and no one could get past this exciting five-year-old. The final race on the card was for conditional jockeys only and it was won by Irish jockey Kevin Brogan, one of the retained riders for Jonjo O’Neill, on board Tegerek. This horse was a good second on seasonal reappearance and went one lace better in this at 5/1.
Day two of the Showcase Meeting looks more difficult to pick the winners of but a great day of action. The rest of this article is some of my observations for the races. The first race is the Masterson Holdings Hurdle. This race is just for four year olds and has been won by some nice horses lately with one of my favourite racehorses Pearl Of The West and Quel Destin. Pearly’s stablemate Anna Bunina comes over from Ireland. She was with Jedd O’Keeffe on the flat and got off the mark on her fifth start for John McConnell. That was by eleven lengths and she followed it up next time with a hard-fought victory. Last time, she followed in a subsequent winner so can’t be ignored. Nordano won a few nice races last season. Most eyes will be on ALLMANKIND and Botox Has. The former was sensational on his first three jumping starts and won a grade one at Chepstow over Christmas. He finished a good third in the Triumph Hurdle and has to be a leading player. It’s exciting to see him back out on the track. It’s also good to see Botox Has back out after 315 days. This horse was a great winner at Fontwell in October and then he faced Allmankind here at the November Meeting. Next time, he won at Cheltenham in mid-December and we haven’t seen him since. It’s a long time to be off but Gary Moore’s horses are starting to hit form.
The next race is the Best Odds At Matchbook Novices’ Chase. Four runners head to post. Southfield Stone has had a wind op since we last saw him and he has had five runs in chases so far, winning on the fourth and coming second in grade two on the fifth start. The yard couldn’t be in better form and the experience will be useful. He’ll be near the top of the market and the likely outsider is Coole Cody. This horse made a likeable start to his chasing career on his first start for Evan Williams Last time, he only went down just over two lengths to Soldier Of Love, who was second in behind Galvin later on. Not That Fuisse ran well in behind some good horses over fences last season. He won well at Perth last time. It was a cosy win. Pileon makes his chase debut in this race after a short head defeat in the Martin Pipe. He has had just five runs under rules so there is still a lot to come from him. I think I’m going to side with COOLE CODY as he looks a huge price at 10/1. His winning chase performance was really good.
The Pertemps Network Handicap Hurdle is one of the qualifiers for the big race at Cheltenham. Eighteen runners go to post and that includes last year’s winner Tobefair. He has top weight and carried 3lbs more than last year. He absolutely loves it here. Top conditional jockey Jack Tudor takes off 5lbs. Right at the bottom of the handicap is Vaniteux. This horse has been running in France since January and collecting a good amount of prize money. He has form figures of 6024224 over in France and he goes on pretty much all types of ground. He’s eleven now. My eye was drawn to BALLOON ONABUDGET in this. He has ran three times this season and was a good second first time this season and then third at Uttoxeter. Last time, he won at Newton Abbott and Story Of Friends was in second carrying 2lbs less. There is the same difference in weights this time around. Neville’s Cross won his last two starts and Lock’s Corner is on a five timer for Jonjo O’Neill.
Eleven runners go to post for the feature race, the Matchbook Betting Exchange Handicap Chase, which has attracted a field of some old favourites. For example, Ryanair winner Frodon; 2017 winner of this Cogry; thirteen-year-old Perfect Candidate and ten-year-old West Approach. The youngest runners are Sensulano and Manofthemountain at seven years of age. The former is a good mare and won twice last season. She’s just 1lbs higher than her last winning mark. MANOFTHEMOUNTAIN is my selection though. I think he’s a really exciting recruit to this kind of race. He was in my 20 To Watch in 2019/20 and I think he is just the perfect looking chaser. He’s very easy on the eye and jumps well too. He should’ve won all five of his starts but unseated in one of them. He travelled so well last time so the extra furlong won’t do him any harm. Captain Chaos is interesting at 18/1. He either finished in the top two or is a complete blow out. Last time, he won really dominantly at Doncaster but I feel he needs mud to show his best form.
The next race is the six runner Lara Telfer Reined In For Racing Welfare Novices’ Hurdle over three miles. STREETS OF DOYEN really jumps out to me for John McConnell. I hold this yard in high regard and his horses are flying along in Ireland. This horse has won his last three outings, all over three miles, and he’s related to lots and lots of winners. This looks a very open contest though. Minella Encore was good for Willie Mullins before switching to Dr Richard Newland. He made his debut for the new yard in a maiden hurdle and it was a really nice run. Lee Edwards is a good jockey and gets the leg-up.
The penultimate race on the card is the Ryman Stationery Cheltenham Business Club Amateur Jockeys’ Handicap Chase. The top amateur jockey riding at the minute is Sam Waley-Cohen and he partners JEN’S BOY for Nicky Henderson and Middleham Park. He has been second on all three of his chase starts but is a dual winner over hurdles. Call Me Vic is making his yard debut for Fergal O’Brien. He was last seen winning a point to point three hundred days ago. He’s a grand horse but is thirteen now. I’m a fan of Lillington and he won in September and then placed twice subsequently. He is hard to catch right though. Plantagent was twenty-five lengths behind Lillington when he won and only 1lbs split them.
The final race is the Royal Gloucestershire Hussars Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race. Fifteen horses go to post for this. The horse that is likely to be top of the market is Smurphy Enki. He didn’t win in point to points but he was an eighteen length winner on debut back in March. Harry Whittington has Calidad and he’s a half-brother to Badger Ales Trophy winner Drop Out Joe. Seymour Promise made his debut in February with a fourth-placed finish. I really liked RESTANDBETHANKFUL’s debut. It was a head victory but the second and this horse pulled twenty-nine lengths ahead of the third. He looks an exciting horse.