Monday,we start at Bangor. Donald McCain has an excellent strike rate at Bangor this continued as his , Gray Day took the two miles seven furlongs novice hurdle. The Three Mile handicap chase saw Whisky Chaser heavily backed, however he went off to quick and never looked like winning. The race went to Drumviredy who looks an out an out stayer for Venetia Williams. There was another UK winner for Gordon Elliott. Whizzey Rascal picked up a second win in a week in the UK under Richard Johnson, in the mares handicap hurdle. At Newcastle,it was over the jumps. Brian Hughes picked up another winner on board Casual Cavalier in the novices handicap chase. An incident packed two mile seven furlong handicap chase saw favourite Bigrononhiship whip round at the start unseating his rider Craig Nichol. Subtle Gray appeared to be on his way to victory, however crashed out at the second last. This left Fayette County 5 lengths clear, however he came to a complete stop jumping the last fence. Fayette County also jumped violently right in the process bumping eventual winner Alto Des Mottes who went on to win by a remarkable 8 lengths!! I reckon the in running betting on this race was carnage. At Wolverhampton, Adam Kirby keep up his personal charge with a treble on board, Gabrial The Thug, Start Seven and American Patrol.
Tuesday, we start at Leicester where there was a listed Mares Chase. It went to Desert Queen who bolted up for Harry Fry and Noel Fehily by 10 Lengths from Cresswell Breeze with another 6 lengths back to Tagrita. The two mile four furlong novice hurdle went to Ballyarthur for Nigel and Sam Twiston-Davies by 9 lengths from Global Stage. Romain De Senam completed a double for Sam Twiston-Davies at odds of 1/20. A handicap at the Cheltenham festival over fences will surely be the target. At Wetherby, there was a treble on the day for Tom Scudamore with Mr Big Shot for David Pipe. Scudamore's treble was completed with a double for trainer Neil Mulholland on board Most Celebrated and Fingerontheswitch. The Two Mile Three Furlong Handicap Chase went to Captain Redbeard who won by five lengths from Future Gilded. Captain Redbeard was advised to our members 1pt each way at (11/2). At Southwell, popular sprinter Dungannon won the seller for Andrew Balding.
Wednesday, the day started with the news Annie Power will miss Cheltenham. It is obviously a shame , however in many ways it may bring clarity to many of the races. Willie Mullins thinks Annie Power will make it back to Punchestown. I suspect Annie Power will be retired after or before Punchestown depending on how recovery from the injury goes. The one thing that is not in doubt is the name of Annie Power will be remembered for decades for being a brilliant race mare , however more so for that last hurdle fall in the 2015 Mares hurdle. I wish Annie Power well wherever the road takes her. We start at Catterick, where Nietzsche picked up a second win in a week under Megan Carberry . Nietzsche got back up after being headed to deny Alzammaar by a a half length, it was a good ride from Carberry. The novice chase saw Two Taffs go off 1/6 however he was easily turned over by the Irish trained Aminabad under Brian Hughes. At Ludlow,there was a double for Richard Johnson on board Tara Mist and Castafiore.
At Lingfield, there was a double for Richard Kingscote on board Inplausible and Simplify Me. At Newcastle, there was a double for Kevin Ryan with Captain Dion and Major Jumbo.At Fairyhouse, there was a decent card. Prospectus ran out a good winner of the Juvenile hurdle for Gavin Cromwell. The mares maiden hurdle saw an incredible incident with Chambord Du Lys and Ruby Walsh. The duo arrived between the last two hurdles going well with matters seemingly under control. Chambord Du Lys made a very bad mistake at the last pitching Ruby up over her shoulder. Ruby recovered incredibly, got Chambord Du Lys organised they went in pursuit on the run in 5 lengths down. Chambord Du Lys rallied to get within a half length of the winner West Bridge. Willie Mullins managed a double with Tin Soldier and Mystic Theatre. There was also a double for local trainer Dermot Anthony McLoiughlin with Lady Capri and Clontarf in the beginners chase. Clontarf could be a fun horse for his owners as he jumps well, something like the midlands national at Kilbeggan could be a race for him.
Thursday, we start at Gowran where it was Goffs Thyestes Chase day. It was an incredible day for Willie Mullins who had a four timer. The first leg was Bon Papa who took the two mile maiden hurdle in facile style. It is hard to be sure what Bon Papa achieved here, however it was not hard to be impressed. This horse looks very smart to me. Getabird followed up the recent Fairyhouse bumper win with a win at 1/10 here. Getabird had to fight for it, however Patrick Mullins expressed himself happy afterwards stating Getabird would go for the Cheltenham bumper. The third leg of the Mullins four timer came in the two mile beginners chase which went to Great Field in good style. Mall Dini got another educational ride in second , it is sticking out that Mall Dini will be aimed at the 3 mile handicap on day one of Cheltenham. The fourth leg of the Mullins four timer saw the ultra-consistent Shaneshill got back on the winning trail in the John Mulhern Galmoy Hurdle. Shaneshill made all the running stacking the field up seeing off Snow Falcon by 3 parts of a length. I felt Shaneshill was unlucky at Leopardstown over Christmas.I learned a long time ago you will not find many to agree with you when the 4/7 favourite wins the race. I think Shaneshill has a good chance in the stayers hurdle. I expect Jezki and Shaneshill to run massive races in the stayers. Shaneshill was advised to our members 3pts win at (5/2).
There was also a double on the day at Gowran for Henry De Bromhead and David Mullins. The first leg was Adreamstillalive in the two mile handicap hurdle. The second leg of the De Bromhead & David Mullins double came in the feature race the Goffs Thyestes Chase. It went to Champagne West who produced a brilliant front-running display to run out a wide-margin winner which could have been further.Champagne West was seven lengths clear of Ucello Conti and a further nine lengths back to Bonny Kate in third. I thought this was really impressive from Champagne West, who now could enter the Gold cup picture. I had a split bet in this race.Bonny Kate was advised to our members 1pt each way (11/1) placed in third.Champagne West was advised to our members 1pt each way at (11/1) who won the race.This completed a fine day for me at Gowran.
At Warwick, it was not near the quality of Gowran. There was a double for Aidan Coleman on board Don Bersy and Ms Parfois. At Southwell, Josephine Gordon had a winner at 20/1 on board Archimedas. At Wolverhampton, Josephine Gordon popped again with a winner on Black Hole Sun to complete a double on the day.
Friday,we start at Doncaster. The combination of Malcolm Jefferson and Brian Hughes have had a great season. They had another winner here with Mount News. Paul Nicholls was on the mark with Brio Conti who finally won a maiden hurdle under Sean Bowen winning by an impressive nine lengths. Premier Bond took the Novice Chase over two miles seven furlongs. It was a great finish with Premier Bond , Kerrow and Viens Chercher. Premier Bond got up right on the line. Premier Bond was advised to our members 2pts win at (5/2). At Taunton, there was a double for Paul Nicholls with Clic Work and High Secret. Nicky Henderson had a winner with Percy Street. The Harry Fry team have been going really well Fry's Air Horse One was on the mark in the Novice hurdle. At Lingfield, there was a treble for Adam Kirby on board Emenem, Krazy Paving and Dandy Flame. Adam Kirby continues to bang in the winners. At Newcastle, Franny Norton and Jeremy Noseda combined for a winner with Ettu. At Dundalk , Rock In Peace followed up on his recent victory in the one mile rated conditions race. Rock In Peace stuck at it well for Ger Lyons and Colin Keane.
Saturday, we start at Cheltenham where it was festival trials day.I will start with big race the Betbright Cotswold chase. This was probably one of the great horses , however had a conclusion almost too sad for words.The race saw Thistlecrack put his unbeaten record over fences on the line. The race itself was run at a strong pace with Smad Place setting a good gallop tracked by Many Clouds. Thistlecrack was mid division, the jumping of Smad Place and Many Clouds was superb . The two horses really putting it to Thistlecrack. Smad Place dropped away two out , it was left to Many Clouds and Thistlecrack to have a ding dong up the Cheltenham hill. Thistlecrack led after the last with Tom Scudamore not really using his stick. Many Clouds was in no mood to be denied and nailed Thistlecrack right on the line. This was as good as a spectacle as you will ever see showing everything we love about this sport. As everyone knows life can be fickle and cruel, as Many Clouds was getting the acclaim of the Cheltenham stands. The bravest of brave warriors Many Clouds collapsed on the Cheltenham turf and could not be saved despite all efforts. This was gut wrenching for all who witnessed it. Many Clouds as a horse had many qualities , one which stood out was his courage which was so brilliantly illustrated in this race. Many Clouds of course had lots of ability winning a Hennessy Gold Cup , an Aintree Grand National and this race twice. The difference between following jump horses and flat horses is illustrated here. A horse like Many Clouds has lots of fans, his fans have built a bond with Many Clouds they feel they know the horse, they follow him through it all it is in fact an emotional attachment. When a incident like this occurs it is shattering due to the emotional investment, which in many cases will be far greater then any financial investment on Many Clouds ever embarked on. I have had that bond myself with Klairon Davis, Danoli,Florida Pearl, Moscow Flyer, Istabraq, Kauto Star and of course Jezki. On the flat the time to build that bond generally does not exist. Oliver Sherwood spoke incredibly after what must have been an almost unbearable loss. Go well Many Clouds you will never be forgotten.
As for the fall out of the actual race, there is now a chink in the armour of Thistlecrack, to be fair Thistlecrack has run his best race over fences to date here. I will return to this subject in another blog. The triumph hurdle trial was noncompetitive, however Defi Du Seuill made it five wins out of five over hurdles. Defi Du Seuill wherever he turns up at Cheltenham will be hard to beat. Royal Vacation who won the Grade one Kauto Star Novice chase over Christmas went off 12/1 here for the novices handicap chase, it mattered not as he won again. This race was filled with attrition and was run at a lunatics gallop. The two mile four furlong handicap chase was the same gallop wise. As Foxxtail Hill played catch me if you can the field couldn't. Saphir Du Rheu ran on for second , Shantou Flyer ran an odd race in fourth. In truth not many got into this. The Clarence house switched from Ascot last week, saw Un De Sceaux get another win on the board. Un De Sceaux was five lengths too goo for the returning Uxizandre who ran a cracker. I am not sure what happens for Un De Sceaux now if he was my horse I would supplement him for the Champion hurdle leaving all options open. I know its a bit left field , this horse has won lots of races over hurdles in an open year it could just fall right for Un De Sceaux. The cross country race witnessed a boil over as Urgent De Greagaine a 50/1 shot beat Cantlow by three lengths. Urgent De Greagaine and Cantlow were well clear of the rest of the field with Cantlow 21 lengths clear of the third horse. Urgent De Greagaine and Cantlow are serious contenders for glory in March.
The Neptune investment novice hurdle saw Wholestone get a third Cheltenham win of the season. There were a number of hurdles taken out here which suited Wholestone who charges up the Cheltenham hill all the time. I am hoping Wholestone runs in the Albert Bartlett, where he would have an outstanding chance in my view. Wholestone was advised to our members 1pt each way at (5/1). The Cleeve hurdle saw Unowhatimeanharry back in action, he made it eight wins in a row. This was an excellent performance from Unowhatimeanharry who gave runner up Cole Harden 8 pounds and a beating . The novice West approach ran well in third advertising the form of Wholestone (who has beaten him a lot this season). As for Unowhatimeanharry his credentials for the stayers hurdle are really strong. In my view the only horse who can stop him is Jezki and they may avoid each other.The concluding two mile handicap hurdle saw William H Bonney gun down his opponents for Alan King and Wayne Hutchinson.
At Doncaster , it was Sky Bet chase day. Constantine Bay took the Grade 2 River Don Novice hurdle over three miles. This was one of the best finishes you will ever see as Constantine Bay and No Hassle Hoff battled it out neck and neck for the guts of two furlongs. Constantine Bay just got up late on by a head, giving No Hassle Hoff seven pounds. Constantine Bay will go to the Albert Bartlett with a chance now. It may take Constantine Bay a while to recover from this race however. The Lightning Novice Chase is always a good race it went this year to Forest Bihan in good style. Vroum Vroum Mag went over to Doncaster for the Grade two mares hurdle.It should have been very easy on ratings, it was anything but however. Vroum Vroum Mag struggled all race and took an age to go back Midnight Jazz to scramble home by a head. Willie Mullins said it was possible Vroum Vroum Mag was coming down with a bug. The Sky Bet chase itself went to Ziga Boy who was winning this race for the second year in a row. The truth is Ziga Boy got into a great rhythm up front and the rest could not lay a glove on him. Ziga Boy won by a length in the end from Looking Well , however it was fourteen lengths back to Another Hero in third. At Uttoxeter, the feature race the handicap hurdle went to Le Rocher who toughed it out to win by a length from Tintern Thistle. At Lingfield, Josephine Gordon and Hollie Doyle were on the mark on board Abatement and Auric Goldfinger. At Kempton, there was a treble for George Baker on board Whaleweigh Station, In The Spotlight and Marquee Club.
At Naas, there was a decent card. The Grade 3 Limestone Lad hurdle saw Ivan Grozny and Supasundae who both looked to keep their good form going. They had no answers for the smart Sutton Place who took this in the style of a very good horse for Gordon Elliott giving Supasundae five pounds and a seven length beating. The Grade 3 Woodlands Park Novice Chase saw Anibale Fly redeem himself for a poor run at Kempton on 26-12-16. Anibale Fly got the better of A Genie In Abottle in a tremendous battle by 3 parts of a length. Haymount looked a non stayer back in the field. A Genie In Abottle would look to have very strong credentials for the four mile at Cheltenham. Charlie Stout got the better of Lagostovegas late on to take the handicap hurdle over two miles. Lagostovegas was advised to our members 1pt each way at (4/1)
Sunday, we start at Leopardstown where I was in attendance. Melon made his long awaited debut over hurdles. Melon was really impressive beating Broken Soul by 10 lengths. Melon was very good with the race being run at a strong pace. I do think Melon has it do if he goes with one run to Cheltenham. Melon does look a good horse. The Two Miles Four Furlongs novice hurdle went in great style to Let's Dance who won by 6 lengths from Kemboy who ran well also. Kemboy was advised to our members 1pt each way at (8/1).The Irish Arkle was next up.Some Plan won an incident packed Irish Arkle , he was the only finisher. Royal Caviar looked like he might win it when crashing out at the last , however jumping is the name of the game. Some Plan was advised to our members 3pts win at (10/3). Petit Mouchoir made all to grab Irish Champion Hurdle glory winning by a length from Footpad who ran a cracker in second.Nichols Canyon fell at the last when beaten, even in a open year I cannot see any of these winning at Cheltenham. Footpad could run well at a big price.The Two Mile handicap saw Jack Kennedy at his brilliant best on board Elusive Ivy as he got the horse up to deny Powersbomb by a head. Elusive Ivy was advised to our members 1pt each way at (7/1). The bumper went in very impressive style to Debuchet under Patrick Mullins.
At Fontwell, Noel Fehily and Neil Mulholland combined for a winner with Solighoster. The Moore's combined with Not Another Muddle to win the Novice hurdle. At Sedgefield, there were doubles for Brian Ellison and Henry Brooke with Volvalien and Bordeaux Bill. There was also a double for Brian Hughes on board Special Catch and Theatre Act.