Monday, well what looked like a normal industry racing day turned into anything but as the news broke that Faugheen and Min will miss Cheltenham. I have to say the reaction was slightly hysterical. The facts are Faugheen has not run since last January, the vibes have been poor in relation to Faugheen all season. The fact that Nicky Henderson decided to send Buveur D'air back over hurdles last week showed the big trainers thought there was blood in the water. The absence of Faugheen at Cheltenham was no real surprise in truth.As for Min it was no certainty that Min would have won the Arkle in any event. Altior is a horse out of the top drawer who has already defeated Min convincingly at the Cheltenham festival. Of course Min would have helped make the market , however there is no evidence or reason to suggest that a form turnaround with Altior was more likely this season then last season.
We start at Sedgefield a card that survived five inspections. Ask Paddy followed up last weeks Catterick win for Same England and David England winning by sixteen lengths. Peter and Sean Bowen made it a successful trip from Wales taking the two miles five furlongs handicap chase with Dr Robin. Sedgefield's day of family combinations continued as Peter Winks and Ryan Winks combined to win with Chestnut Ben. The fourth family combination to win on the card was the win of Dark And Dangerous for Simon and Amie Waugh. At Wolverhampton, there was a double for Tony Hamilton and Richard Fahey with Nimr and Right Action.There was also a double for Joe Fanning with Tartan Bute and Annie Salts.
Tuesday, we start at Market Rasen where all six market leaders on the card won. The performances that stood out were Domperignon Du Lys who defied a winners penalty to take the juvenile hurdle by five lengths for Daryl Jacob and Nicky Henderson. Any Drama took the novice hurdle by thirty eight lengths for Harry Fry and Noel Fehily, in a race that fell apart. Venetia Williams kept up the good recent work with the winner of the handicap hurdle over two miles four furlongs with Eminent Poet. At Hereford, the going was testing. The Novices handicap chase went to Wild West Wind who despite being forced left all the way around by The Bay Oak who was jumping left. Wild West Wind picked up The Bay Oak on the run in to win well by 3 parts of a length. Wild West Wind was conceding at least 7 pounds to all his rivals here. Wild West Wind was advised to our members 2pts win at (11/4).At Newcastle, there was another winner for Hollie Doyle on board Moayadd. Richard Fahey has had a good week , Fahey had another winner with Energia Fox.
Wednesday, we start at Carlisle where it was a fantastic day for Donald McCain and Will Kennedy. The horses that did the business included Viserion, Freedies Portrait and Lastbutnotleast. The success of Lastbutnotleast was an emotional victory, Lastbutnotleast was the last horse ever bought by the legendary Ginger McCain father of Donald. On top of that Lastbutnotleast ran in the colours of Red Rum the Aintree icon who of course with his three victories in the 1970's saved the Grand National. I must admit whenever I see Red Rum running on TV , I get this incredibly warm feeling. I was too young to remember him actually racing. I remember my father drilling into me from early age how important Arkle and Red Rum are as figures in our sport. I still every day before racing at Cheltenham go to Arkle's statue take a minute and then touch it for luck.I would say to anyone who goes to Aintree , walk the track and after it take a moment at Red Rums grave stone what he achieved was incredible. I digress back to Carlilse, Tontos Spirit backed up last weeks Sedgefield win with a very comfortable win in the two mile one furlong handicap hurdle.
At Ludlow ,the day belonged to wonderful Alan King, who is one of the trainers I have a soft spot for. King of course served his apprenticeship with "The Duke" the legend that was David Nicholsan. Alan King and Wayne Hutchinson delighted favourite-backers when notching a 6-1 hat-trick at Ludlow on the day. The horses were Label Des Obeaux , Tara View and Master Blueyes . The season Master Blueyes has seen him knocking heads against the top juveniles in the UK. I think Master Blueyes could be a Fred Winter contender provided the handicapper does not hike him miles up for this win. Master Blueyes was off 132 going into this a 8 pounds hike would see him at 140 which would be fine. At Chelmsford, Adam Kirby was back among the winners as Siege Of Boston took the finale. At Kempton, there was a double for Richard Hannon and Sean Levey with Pepita and Tai Hang Dragon.
Thursday, we start at Doncaster where there was a double for Nico De Boinville. The first leg was on board Creep Debois. The second leg was Might Bite who when last seen crashed out at the last at Kempton in the Kauto Star Feltham Novice chase. In truth we learned nothing new about Might Bite as he sauntered to a 99 length victory. Might Bite will go to the RSA with a very good chance if his jumping holds up. There was also a double for Aidan Coleman on board Beggars Cross and Chelsea Flyer. At Huntingdon, there was a double for Warren Greatrex and Gavin Sheehan with Petticoat Tails and Keeper Hill in the Sidney Banks novice hurdle. Keeper Hill got the better of Messire Des Obeaux by a neck in a good finish. Messire Des Obeaux lost little in defeat conceding 8 pounds all round. Keeper Hill did it well I felt he might be an Albert Bartlett horse possibly. I think Messire Des Obeaux is still of interest in the Neptune at Cheltenham. The handicap hurdle over two miles three furlongs went to Kalondra in really impressive style winning by eleven lengths from Allee Bleue with a further three lengths back to Who Dares Wins.
At Thurles, Dont Touch It deservedly got off the mark over fences seeing off Dicosimo by three lengths. Capital Force has been knocking on the door for Henry De Bromhead , he finally got his head in front here scrambling home by a head from Sharps Choice. The feature the Cashel Novice hurdle went to Livelovelaugh who won by twenty lengths from stablemate Aussie Reigns. At Lingfield, there was a double for Timmy Murphy on board Lunch and Grand Facile. At Chelmsford, Adam Kirby was on the mark again on board Boomerang Bob. That victory completed a double on the day for Jamie Osbourne who earlier had a winner with Lunch at Lingfield.
Friday, we start at Kempton over the jumps. There was a double on the day for Paul Nicholls with Captain Bucks and Politologue. The win for Politologue booked his ticket to Cheltenham. I was intrigued by the use of the hood on Politologue, I think it sharpened his ideas up. Politologue is an excellent jumper if the hood has sharpened him up he is a massive player in the JLT especially if Yorkhill goes elsewhere. At Bangor, the good day for Paul Nicholls continued as he had a double at Bangor as well as Kempton. Pacha Du Polder won the hunters chase , surely going for Cheltenham now. The second leg of the Nicholls double was Antartica De Thaix who won the Mares novice chase, after principal market rival Sainte Ladylime crashed out at the last. There was also a double for Donald McCain and Will Kennedy with Testify and Cousin Oscar.
At Southwell, there was a winner for Graham Lee on board Kencunim. At Newcastle, Richard Fahey has had a good week he got another winner here with Chiswick Bay.At Dundalk, the eagerly awaited return of Royal Ascot winner Pique Sous did not to plan at at all. Pique Sous dumped Pat Smullen on the Dundalk track before the start. Pique Sous the completed at least 4 full circuits of Dundalk unaccompanied. The race was delayed by fifteen minutes , it went to talented hurdler Rashann. There was a double for Joseph and Donncha O'Brien on the night with Tommy Welsh and War Goddess.
Saturday, we start at Newbury there is only one horse to start with the magnificent Altior. I am biased towards Altior however his performance here was jaw dropping. Altior jumped spectacularly at times. Altior was thirteen lengths too good for the 167 rated Fox Norton. Altior now surely has the Arkle at his mercy, a lot of people questioned Nicky Hendersons decision to go over fences. It now appears Nicky Henderson knew exactly what he had with Altior. There is a temptation to say we are marking time till Altior and Douvan clash. I think every racing fan wants to see that race. I feel Douvan and Altior are so good we may see another Arkle V Mill House style rivalry. whatever the future holds Altior is a incredibly gifted racehorse. The Denman chase saw another national hunt darling win as Native River, did what he does wins races. This was straightforward enough in the end with Bristol De Mai not enjoying being held up . Native River won by just under four lengths from Le Mercurey. Native River goes to the Gold cup with a massive chance now. I find it impossible to see Native River out of the first three in that race. The Three mile handicap hurdle saw the very consistent Tobefair win his seventh race in a row. Tobefair had to fight to win, he will now go to the Pertemps at Cheltenham with a massive chance. The feature race the Betfair hurdle was pretty straightforward in the end as the two progressive novices fought it out.
Ballyandy and Movewiththetimes had a great battle with only 3 parts of a length between them at the line. I would imagine both horses will head for Cheltenham with Ballyandy having the Neptune as a logical target, although the supreme is just as likely to be fair. I though Song Light ran well in fourth I would like his chances in the County hurdle.Song Light has run well twice in big handicaps at Cheltenham. While we are on Cheltenham ,High Bridge booked his ticket for the supreme with a very good win in the opening novice hurdle. At Warwick, there was a good card. The listed mares hurdle went to Rons Dream who saw off Jessber's Dream in a good finish by six lengths. Rons Dream deserved a turn after a near miss at Kempton earlier this season. The Kingmaker normally a good guide for The Arkle went in impressive style to Flying Angel for Nigel and William Twiston- Davies. The double for Nigel Twiston- Davies on the day was completed as Templehills defeated Vibrato Valtat by seven lengths. Venetia Williams looks to have a nice horse on her hands with Belami Des Pictons who bolted up by twenty two lengths in the Three Mile novice chase. It was a very average card at Uttoxeter nothing stood out to be frank. At Lingfield, Adam Kirby and Josephine Gordon continued their good runs with wins on board Munro and Cloud Dragon. At Wolverhampton, there was a double for Luke Morrison board Big Country and Tripartite, who was completing a double on the day for trainer Jeremy Gask.
At Naas, there was a double for Joseph O'Brien with Outspoken and Slowmotion in the mares novice chase. The bubble of Listen Dear was well burst by Slowmotion, Listen Dear appeared to go too quick and did not get home. Yaha Fizz took the novice hurdle in great style. Yaha Fizz once again made all the running to win easily by seventeen lengths. Yaha Fizz advised to our members 3pts win (9/4). The bumper went in really impressive style to Carter McKay for Willie and Patrick Mullins who must be high on all lists for Cheltenham.
Sunday, there is only one place to start and that is at Leopardstown which on Sunday was like the arctic circle. I have never been racing on a colder day, the action was at least red hot however. Who's That took the mares handicap hurdle for the third consecutive year. Who's That did it here well seeing off Toe The Line by a neck. This was a superb effort from the Liam Cusack yard to plan it out and deliver three years on the spin. The race also further advertised the talents of Rachel Blackmore who was superb in the plate here.Who's That was advised to our members 1pt each way (8/1) . There was a Rule 4 15% deduction however. The first of the Grade 1 races saw the juveniles clash. Mega Fortune ceased the initiative early fired up by first time cheek pieces. There was three lengths to Bapaume (who has beaten Mega Fortune twice this season) with Daria Des Obeaux in third. Meri Devie ran ok in fourth and would be of interest in the Fred Winter if going for that race. The ex Coolmore horses were scattered across Foxrock. In summary, I can see Mega Fortune running well in the Triumph , however the UK horses look stronger right now. The second Grade 1 of the day was the Deloitte novice hurdle one of the best trend races for Cheltenham winners. Saturnus was backed as if defeat was out of the question (5/2 -5/4) , the backers of Saturnus knew their fate early. Saturnus finished last. The race saw a 1-2 for Willie Mullins as Bacardys fought off Bunk Off Early in a cracking finish with Brelade running well in third. Bacardys was the best of these as a bumper horse with the Neptune or Albert Bartlett looking the way to go for this horse. Bacardys provided Patrick Mullins with a Grade 1 winner also.
The Third Grade 1 on the card was the Flogas Chase. This saw Disko put up an exemplary round of jumping from the front to win by just under two lengths from Our Duke. Disko was gaining revenge over Our Duke who beat Disko at Christmas. It may have been the same result again but for Our Duke pecking on landing after the last. Bellshill a 6/5 shot was stuffed out of sight when falling at the last. Disko will be of interest wherever he goes next. The Irish Gold Cup saw a cracking race with Sizing John emerging from the considerable shadow of Douvan to claim a tremendous victory. Sizing John saw off Empire Of Dirt by three parts of a length, it was another three parts of a length back to Don Poli in third. The front three gave everything, I would imagine they will all head to Cheltenham. I reckon they all have the potential to be placed. Sizing John ,looked very well beforehand and ready to run for his life. Empire Of Dirt is entitled to come on for that run after a break. Don Poli traveled much better here then in recent races and David Mullins seen to understand the mercurial Don Poli. The hunters chase was the final race to note. It went to Foxrock who battled back well to beat On The Fringe. I thought this was excellent from On The Fringe with Jamie Codd really getting him to travel in the race. There was one for the notebook in third as Stalker Wallace ran really well in third.
At Exeter, Finians Oscar landed the 1/16 odds by four lengths and will head for Cheltenham high on many lists. I am not sure about this horse to be honest. Impulsive Star took the Pertemps qualifier for the Whaley-Cohens . This race is worth following as it was won last season by Unowhatimeanharry. Tea For Two took the graduation chase , which lost much of its interest when Alary crashed out at the third last when a length down. At Sedgefield, it was dire going. Joseph Mercer splashed through the mud to gain a second win in six days at Sedgefield.