Trainer Henry Daly appears to have plenty to look forward to in 2022 with Hillcrest who continued his progression through the ranks after taking a step up in class in his stride with a front-running success in the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle (2m 4.5f) at Cheltenham today.
After following up his winning debut over hurdles at Aintree with a facile success at Wetherby 28 days ago, the giant-framed seven year old made it three from three for the campaign with another stylish display in the Listed contest.
Although challenged by 7-5 favourite I Am Maximus over the last the 3-1 second favourite, who was sporting the colours of the late Trevor Hemmings, found plenty again after the last before pulling clear to score by two lengths under Richard Patrick.
Daly said: “I genuinely don’t know how big he is. My measuring stick goes to 18 hands and it won’t go over him. He is very tall. He is enormous. When he arrived in the yard which was three years ago he weighed 693kg.
“He is a very big horse but has obviously got some talent. I don’t think he has had a race today. He has had a plod around there and won as he liked. He jumped well and did it really nicely. I don’t know what more you want the horse to do.
“He is fun to watch jumping. When we started working him he showed very little. He just gallops. He is not a quick horse. I felt watching the race he was rather brutalising the race. He was tearing the others apart.
“He doesn’t need to make the running. If another horse wanted to make the running it would be no problem as he has got a great mind on him.”
Despite being introduced at 16-1 for the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle and 25-1 for the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle by Paddy Power at The Festival in March, the Shropshire handler claimed an outing at the meeting was not set in stone.
He added: “I suppose typically they (connections) would rather go to Aintree and run around there but I honestly don’t know (regarding The Festival).
“Because of Covid he never ran the first year he was with me as he was ready to run and racing got stopped. So we missed a year but that has probably done him no harm.
“He is a big raw horse. We had an option of the Challow but I wanted it for my own benefit just to see what he was like on an undulating track for obvious reasons and it was the obvious race for him.
“I think he will get further but he is not too bad at that trip. He was brought for Trevor (Hemmings) with Trevor in mind. Think of what a chaser looks like and it is him.”
Gary Moore saw his decision to take a chance and run Full Back vindicated with a game success in the New Four Eighty Restaurant At Cheltenham Festival Handicap Chase (3m 2.5f).
Having finished down the field in the Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury in November, the seven year old gelding bounced back to winning ways with a tenacious display under Jamie Moore.
Racing prominently throughout the extended three and a quarter mile contest the well supported 9-2 Joint-Favourite found plenty when it mattered most to defeat The Wolf by two and a quarter lengths.
The winning trainer said: “I thought he ran very well (in the Ladbrokes Trophy). He made a few careless mistakes. I think the slower ground has helped him jump a lot better today.
“I was debating whether the take him out or not. We left Sussex and it was beautiful sunshine and we thought we would take a chance on the ground.
“When we got to Lambourn it was raining and I rang the owner (Ashley Head) he said let’s see what it is like when we got here. Thank God we ran though.
“It is good to get his head in front after a pretty dull end to last season. The races he won were only small fields and not very competitive. I was worried about his mark.
“He will be entered in that (Ultima Handicap Chase) but I don’t think he is quite up to that. It will be different at The Festival.”