The second edition of the weekly Racing Review and this week we will be taking a look back at the The Showcase Meeting, which signalled the return to action at Cheltenham racecourse kicking things off there for the season.
This weekend also saw the return of Champion Hurdle aspirant The New One, who returned to the track in the Williamhill.com Hurdle at Kempton Park on Sunday. We will also be covering action across the Emerald Isle once more, highlighting the best performances of the week.
MINSTREL HOLDS COURT AT SHOWCASE
Evan Williams has a smart prospect on his hands after Court Minstrel continued his improvement over fences, stretching his unbeaten run to two over the larger obstacles.
The relatively slow pace will have suited the son of Court Cave who made light work of Keltus at Newton Abbot on his first outing of the season and he stretched nicely clear jumping the last to pull away from his rivals with the minimum of fuss.
He could come back for the graded novices’ chase at the Paddy Power meeting providing the ground isn’t too soft according to trainer Evan Williams, and he is likely to be lightly raced throughout the winter months when the ground gets worse.
Of the remainder Chris Pea Green ran really well on debut on ground quicker than ideal, he remains more than capable of winning his fair share of races this season, and will be seen to best effect when the mud is flying.
Un Ace fell early on in the contest so it’s hard to say what he’d have done at the business end, and Thomas Crapper made a satisfying debut over what is surely a trip on the short side for him. He looked to hold every chance in the home straight but lacked the requisite pace to stick with his rivals in the closing stages, and he will be suited when going back up to the distances he was campaigned over last seen over hurdles.
PRESENT VIEW TUNES UP FOR PADDY POWER
The smart chasing prospect from the Jamie Snowden yard made his return to action at Cheltenham on Friday, lining up back over hurdles for a pipe-opener ahead of the Paddy Power Gold Cup next month.
The form of this contest looks relatively sound to me, and Present View would probably have won but for making a costly error at the last, which resulted in him losing a shoe in the process before going down by a head. The winner Vicente was having his first run back since bursting a blood vessel at Ayr last April, and by my reckoning has run up to his previous win at Wincanton back in March, which suggests Present View has improved over the summer to post his best effort over hurdles to date.
Chasing is ultimately the game for Present View, so I’d see this as a positive for last season’s Rewards4Racing Novices’ Handicap Chase winner at The Festival, and if he can carry that improvement shown in this run back over fences next time, he’ll be a major player in the Paddy Power Gold Cup next month.
THE ROMFORD PELE CONTINUES UPWARD CURVE
Since the fitting of blinkers, The Romford Pele has recaptured some of his zest for trainer Rebecca Curtis and has made it three wins on the bounce for connections.
After initially showing some promise over fences when close second to Balder Success, and not beaten far behind both Taquin Du Seuil and Wonderful Charm, he lost his way a little at the start of the year but the application of headgear has brought about plenty of improvement.
Judging by this run both The Romford Pele and Lamb Or Cod are above average sorts, and will pay their way this campaign over similar distances. Trainer Rebecca Curtis hinted they could go down the Hennessy Gold Cup route next before looking to take up novice options for the remainder of the season.
LITTLE KING ROBIN ELECTRIC AT PUNCHESTOWN
There is plenty to like about Colin Bowe’s mare, and once again she continued her upward curve with an all-the-way success here in the hands of Mark Walsh. This victory made it four wins from her last four starts over hurdles, and in doing so is quickly putting herself forward as a real contender for the OLBG Mares Hurdle at Cheltenham in March, which looks open this year with the absence of the now retired Quevega (assuming Annie Power goes elsewhere).
SPIRIT BACK ON TOP ON SEASONAL RETURN
Last season’s Paddy Power Gold Cup winner Johns Spirit was last seen when a well beaten tenth at Aintree back in April, but returned here on top form to win the race he won twelve months previously off an 18lb higher mark.
Held up in his usual running style, he moved stylishly up the order as the field came down the hill and won this stylishly under Richie McLernon, and based on this effort looks a major player back here next month, providing the ground stays decent.
TIGER ROLLS DOWN CALIPTO LATE
Last season’s Triumph Hurdle victor Tiger Roll made a winning return to the track he looked so impressive at last season, with a battling display to get the better of a sustained battle with the Paul Nicholls trained Calipto.
Giving away 8lb to that rival, Tiger Roll looked in trouble rounding the home turn when coming under pressure behind the much better travelling Calipto. However he responded well to a power-packed effort from Bryan Cooper and stuck his head down to narrowly force an advantage a few strides before the line.
Paul Nicholls later reported that Calipto (who was fitted here with a tongue-tie), has a breathing problem and is likely to undergo the routine operation so many of his horses undertake throughout their careers.
ULZANA STEALS SHOW FOR HUTCHINSON
The fifth race on the card the handicap hurdle over 2 miles 5 furlongs, looked an intriguing contest on paper and it played out that was with an impressive effort in victory from the upwardly mobile Ulzana’s Raid who continued Alan King’s great early season form.
Racing wide towards the rear of the main pack, he crept into contention before being produced to lead just after the last and won this with the impression he could go on to better things in the future.
A solid effort from Forthefunofit in third who was making his handicap debut on just his second run over hurdles, showed up well for a long way before the lack of a recent run paid on him, and also a lack of experience over the obstacles surely couldn’t have helped. He certainly looks better than a mark of 122 he’s be allotted, and it shouldn’t be long before the yard gain compensation with this lightly raced sort.
Of the remainder Act Alone will surely have gone close but for a last flight blunder, which cost him all momentum, and there is an argument to suggest he would have won were it not for that mistake. I’m not sure if it’s as clear-cut as that but he remains lightly raced and on the right side of the handicap and it shouldn’t be long before the gelded son of Act Alone makes amends for connections.
GINGE MAKES A SPLASH SECOND TIME ROUND
The Nigel Twiston-Davies trained Splash Of Ginge was expected to get his chasing career off the mark with a victory at Perth at the first time of asking last time out, however like a couple of their horses at that meeting he performed below par on the day and was well beaten into third behind Ainsi Fideles.
Facing that rival again here he quickly gained compensation for that defeat by reversing the form with an impressive display to win by a convincing 9 lengths.
A winner of the ultra-competitive Betfair Hurdle at Newbury as a novice last season, he clearly is much better than that first effort judged on this run, and has put up one of the smartest novice chasing efforts of the season so far (still early days). He looks more than capable of continuing this improvement and should give connections plenty more days in the sun this season.
MOON RACES INTO BUMPER RECKONING
The final race of The Showcase meeting saw David Pipe unleash what looks to be an excellent bumper prospect in the shape of Moon Racer who made light work of his opposition, powering to a convincing 12 length success from a couple of above average rivals in this sphere.
Purchased for £225,000 in the spring after a surprise win for Michael Ronayne in a Fairyhouse Bumper in the spring, he has changed hands to David Pipe and it looks a shrewd piece of business by connections snapping him up earlier in the year.
This is a performance which even at the early stage of the campaign puts him forward as one of the smartest bumper recruits on the scene, and if he continues to improve over the winter then he’ll take some beating next March providing he lines up, and doesn’t go novice hurdling instead.
ALELCHI LANDS THE FIVE TIMER
Willie Mullins has another exciting chasing prospect on his hands judging by the recent form of Alelchi Inois, who has quickly racked up five successes over fences in as many starts.
By my reckoning this was his best performance to date, giving over a stone and a beating to his rivals in a fairly routine success from the front. It remains to be seen just how he ranks once he tackles better opposition but based on what I’ve seen so far he will win his fair share.
This performance also ranks as the top performance by a novice chaser this season so far, and although still in the early stages of the year ahead, this performance is a good benchmark moving forward and he is certainly above average based on this early season form.
COSSACK PUNCHESTOWN DON
Last season’s Grade 1 Drinmore Novices’ Chase winner Don Cossack made a pleasing return to action at Punchestown on Thursday, with a routine success under Bryan Cooper signalling what could be a good year ahead for the partnership.
He didn’t have a whole lot to beat in truth, but gave away 10lb and beatings to both Loosen My Load and Alderwood who are fair performers in their own right, albeit not top-class. It remains to see where Gordon Elliott goes next with this gelded son of Sholokhov but he should continue to pay his way this season, however he’ll need to improve further to lay up with the top table of the division this campaign.
CARLITO’S WAY IN KELSO ROMP
Carlito Brigante has always had a touch of class about him, and that class saw him streak to victory in the 2011 Coral Cup when in the care of Gordon Elliott amongst other successes, however it can also be said that over time he has often promised more than he delivers.
Now in the care of Karen McLintock the nine-year-old has put together a string of solid displays since April 2014, and hinted that his turn wasn’t far away when second to runaway winner The Romford Pele three outings ago.
Clearly bumping into a smart novice on that occasion, he failed to deliver at Perth on his next start to a David Pipe runner who was a fair performer over two miles, and unexposed over the longer trip.
Dropping down in class at Kelso on Saturday, Carlito Brigante became the third winner in as many years to carry top-weight to success in this contest, and after dictating the fractions almost throughout, powered to an emphatic success to win by 17 lengths from his floundering rivals, displaying that bit of class that once had him so highly touted in his earlier years.
THE NEW ONE BAGS WIN ON RETURN
Last season’s Aintree Hurdle winner and Champion Hurdle third The New One returned once again with an emphatic win over inferior opposition to get his campaign underway for what looks to be another season of top-level competition over the minimum trip.
Giving away weight to his rivals, his jumping wasn’t out of the ordinary on his return but he had far too much class for the likes of Hint Of Mint and Forgotten Voice and he won without Sam Twiston-Davies ever looking like getting serious.
The new conditions hurdle at Haydock in late November could be where we will see him next, before I’d imagine another crack at the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton on Boxing Day – a race where a last-flight error cost him victory against the high-class My Tent Or Yours.