The new season at Cheltenham Racecourse started on Friday, October 27, day one of The Showcase with a cracking seven-race card.
The official going was Good, Good to Soft in places (watered).
2.00pm Ballymore Novices' Hurdle, 2m 5f
Favourite backers got off to the perfect start when Brillare Momento (Martin Keighley/Aidan Coleman, Evens Fav) landed the opening Ballymore Novices' Hurdle in impressive fashion.
The six-year-old mare was scoring for the second time at the Home of Jump racing, having taken the Listed TBA Mares' Novices' Hurdle at The April Meeting last season. Prominent throughout, she survived a blunder three out and stayed on strongly after the last to score by a length and a half from Treackle Tart (Charlie Longsdon/Johnny Burke, 12/1) with Jabulani (Nigel Twiston-Davies/Sam Twiston-Davies, 16/1) another eight lengths back in third.
Winning trainer Martin Keighley, who is based locally to Cheltenham at Luckley, said: "Having the first winner of the season at Cheltenham takes a bit of pressure off.
"We think the world of this mare. She won a Listed race here last season and I think she will keep improving.
"It's a bit of extra pressure when you are running a nice horse and you're not 100 per cent sure if they are fit enough for their first run back but I was pretty sure she was 90 per cent fit. She will come on for the run and has done the job well today.
"She probably just idled a bit in front but Aidan was delighted with her. She pulled away again when the second horse came to her and had her ears pricked going over the line. She is very tough and I think she could be quite smart.
"There is such a good programme for mares now with lots of Listed races. If she can keep improving, it would be great if she could come back in March for the David Nicholson (the G1 OLBG Mares' Hurdle)."
Aidan Coleman added: "The owners enjoy it and Brillare Momento is a lovely mare to have. I would enjoy her if I owned her because she has a nice future and will be one hell of a broodmare as well. Hopefully, she will leave her stamp on the game in one way or another.
"She likes it here and when she won the Listed race in April, the form of that is very strong. She got beat at Newton Abbot afterwards and we were somewhat disappointed, but the winner of that race has come out since and been very impressive.
"I rode her in a racecourse gallop a couple of weeks ago at Chepstow. She will come on for that today. She was a bit rusty at a few of her jumps and I think she will sharpen up for the run."
Brillare Momento (centre, blue & yellow silks) on her way to success in the Ballymore Novices' Hurdle (David Davies/EMPICS Sport)
2.35pm squareintheair.com Novices' Chase 2m
North Hill Harvey (Dan Skelton/Harry Skelton, 100/30) made the perfect start to his chasing career when taking the two-mile squareintheair.com Novices' Chase.
The six-year-old, who landed the G3 Stan James Greatwood Handicap Hurdle at Cheltenham last season, soon took up the lead in the two-mile contest. After being headed by Sceau Royal (Alan King/Daryl Jacob, 11/8 Fav) after the last, North Hill Harvey rallied gamely to regain the lead and score by a neck.
Successful trainer Dan Skelton said: "Harry gave North Hill Harvey a sensible ride. He really had hold of him on the downhill fences - the first down the back and third last - and they were his only unusual jumps out of a great round.
"I knew what I got wrong last year. He was always a horse who was going to be better over a fence. To be honest, jumping the last we had a horse upsides who was Champion Hurdle material last year and I thought we were going to get outsped. We won in receipt of weight, so fair play to the runner-up.
"I am delighted with that and it is great to see him back doing what he does. We will come back here for the Racing Post Arkle Trial next month and then see where the season leads us.
"If you are a fan of his, you will get to see him a lot more this season. I kept him too quiet last year and paid the price for it at The Festival. He was like a firework ready to go off and if you watch him in the County Hurdle, he was like a rhino charging everywhere and doing too much. We won't make that mistake again."
North Hill Harvey (right), winner of the squareintheair.com Novices' Chase (David Davies/EMPICS Sport)
3.10pm Brandon Hill Capital Handicap Hurdle 2m 5f
Welsh trainer Tim Vaughan, who began training in 2005, finally saddled his first winner at Cheltenham when Master Dancer (Richard Johnson, 10st 12lb, 12/1) took the Brandon Hill Capital Handicap Hurdle.
Held up in the 21-strong field, Master Dancer made strong headway to move into a challenging position at the last flight and stayed on well to score by 10 lengths from Vivas (Charlie Longsdon/Johnny Burke, 11st 1lb, 11/1) with another length back to Kk Lexion (Tom George/Mr Noel George, 11st 5lb, 14/1) in third.
A delighted Tim Vaughan said: "Knowing my record at Cheltenham, this was a surprise! It has got to the point where everyone winds me up about it and I just think 'well I can't do anymore as I am trying my best.'
"It has been long overdue and I am delighted for the staff because it is not just me that people wind up. It is brilliant for everyone.
"Nathaniel (Barnett), who works closely with me on the bloodstock side of things, runs this syndicate and it is great to get a winner for him. Dicky (Johnson) has been with us for a long, long time and if I was ever going to have one here, it is great that he is on board.
"Master Dancer has been a great buy. We paid 17,000 for him and that is his fifth win for us across both codes."
Richard Johnson added: "Master Dancer won over two miles on the Flat the other day when they took their time on him and he seemed to really enjoy it.
"Tim said to take your time and let him enjoy it. We thought there would be a pretty strong gallop on and there was, which really suited him.
"I knew two out that I was picking up and making a bit of ground, but you are never quite sure what they are going to do in front of you. Given the gallop we went, I would have been surprised if they would have been able to pick up and go a lot quicker.
"The end was probably a bit exaggerated as a lot of the horses were tiring from the last and he has kept going up the hill.
"It is fantastic for Tim because it is the first winner he has ever had here. His horses are in great form and it is lovely for him to come here and have a winner because it is a special experience to have one at Cheltenham.
"We have had lots of success over the last few years. He has put every bit of effort into it and I would not think you will find a more enthusiastic trainer stroke person in racing. He is getting the rewards for all the hard work they put in."
The field round the bend in the Brandon Hill Capital Handicap Hurdle (David Davies/EMPICS Sport)
3.45pm Ryman Stationery Cheltenham Business Club Novices' Chase 3m ½f
Black Corton (Paul Nicholls/Bryony Frost, 5/2) landed his fifth novices' chase of the season when successful in the Ryman Stationery Cheltenham Business Club Novices' Hurdle.
The six-year-old's task was made considerably easier when leader Sizing Tennessee (Colin Tizzard/Bryan Cooper, 7/1) came down when still travelling well two fences from home. Black Corton was left clear to finish 10 lengths ahead of Fagan (Gordon Elliott IRE/Davy Russell, 13/8 Fav).
Paul Nicholls said: "When Black Corton won at Newton Abbot the other day, he was quite well in and only had 10st 8lb. Today he had 11st 8lb and was eight pounds worse off with Sizing Tennessee.
"It would have been close because, although the other horse sadly fell, the one thing Black Corton does is gallop all the way to the line. It would have been interesting.
"He just keeps improving and Bryony gives him a great ride. Bryony has faith in him and she listens.
"He has won 10 races for the owners now from not too many runs. He is not the biggest in the world, but he runs and jumps and never knows when he is beat. I did not think we would beat Fagan today but there we are.
"There is a very valuable three-mile novices' chase at Exeter in about 10 days and, if the ground stays decent, he will head there.
"Once the really good horses come out and there is cut in the ground, he will be having a holiday until the spring. Good ground is important to him."
Bryony Frost commented: "We have struck a chord with Black Corton, but a horse like that is easy to ride. He gives everything to you, he jumps and when you ask him, he is brave.
"I needed the pace to be strong because we stay and we are fit. OK we had top-weight, but when the little horse wants to go, you let him roll on, keep the pace strong and pray to god we get up the hill.
"He is definitely tough and we will never know what would have happened [if Sizing Tennessee had not fallen]. We still had the last to jump and the hill, which is a long way in horseracing.
"I first sat on him at Worcester and we did not know what to expect. He was a little bit 'ooo' over the Worcester fences but is now jumping around Cheltenham and doing it the way he does. It is unbelievable.
"The team I am riding for and the opportunities I am getting is just dreams."
Black Corton & Bryony Frost on their way to success in the Ryman Stationery Novices' Chase (David Davies/EMPICS Sport)
4.20pm Joel Dommett Here On 6th April Amateur Riders' Handicap Chase 3m 1f
What Happens Now (Donald McCain/Mr Derek O'Connor, 11st 10lb, 8/1) won his fourth race of the season when taking the Joel Dommett Here On 6th April Amateur Riders' Handicap Chase by nine lengths.
The winner was ridden prominently and drew clear from three out to record a decisive victory from Indian Castle (Ian Williams/Mr Sam Waley-Cohen, 12st 1lb, 9/2).
Donald McCain said: "He has been running real well all summer around the summer tracks. We thought he would be suited to a bigger track, so I did say to Derek a few weeks ago that we are coming here and see if you can ride him.
"We backed off him after his last run so, although he has been busy, he came here fresh. Did I think he would like that? No, but I thought he had a serious chance.
"Derek, Jamie Codd, Barry O'Neill etc are so experienced and are professionals in all but name. Derek is as good as any of them and you can see going through the race what a professional he is.
"The nice thing is that we bought What Happens Now off Derek and his brother. I had to twist his arm a bit to get him back on it but he isn't getting any more money out of me!
"The horse could run again. We haven't been killing them with work at home and they have been thriving at the races. I am sure he will have a break mid-winter but we will get him home and see."
Derek O'Connor added: "Donald said the horse was in great form and he travelled brilliantly, although he missed one fence on the way round.
"He was actually so well he was travelling too keen with me but, after he hit that fence, he was a lovely ride and settled well. He won easy and probably by too far for a handicap!
"Donald had faith that he would stay well and that his handicap mark was quite lenient. We made use of it with his jumping and he relished it.
"I think the top tier riders like Jamie Codd, Nina Carberry, Will Biddick and myself are fortunate that we get on the better horses because we have the experience and trainers come to us. That's all it is. We are riding the best horses in the race and are very fortunate to be riding them."
What Happens Now on his way to success in the Joel Dommett Here On 6th April Amateur Riders' Handicap Chase (David Davies/EMPICS Sport)
4.55pm Foundation Developments Ltd Maiden Hurdle 2m ½f
Slate House (Colin Tizzard/Robbie Power, 5/4 Fav) made a faultless start to his career under Rules when making all the running for a decisive success in the Foundation Developments Ltd Maiden Hurdle.
The winner was sold for £260,000 at the Tattersalls Ireland Sale at The Festival in March, having won an Irish point-to-point impressively. He had little difficulty winning today as he made all to score by three and a quarter lengths from Dans Le Vent (Jamie Snowden/Gavin Sheehan, 9/4).
A very pleased Colin Tizzard said: "I am delighted. It wasn't an easy task as there was some good form in that race and Slate House has done it nicely. All the hype we have had, for him to come out and do that is a lovely start.
"This horse has got everything and where he ends up is anyone's guess. He is beautiful looking, well-bred and, although he has the speed for two miles, I am sure one day he will be a three miler.
"The owners are shouting now but they were a bit quiet early on! The pressure is on them as well because they have put their money down. We are all under pressure on this job and it is brilliant when it comes off.
"I haven't thought that far ahead [next race]. You know we want him here in March and we will work back from there I would say. He will be out again in three or four weeks - there's no reason not to."
Robbie Power added: "Slate House has an awful a lot of raw ability. I know he is a five-year-old and had a run in a point-to-point, but for a horse to go out and make all around Cheltenham on his first run on the racecourse was impressive.
"I never felt in trouble at any stage and when I went down to the last and asked for a big one, he obliged. The further up the hill he has gone, the more he has picked up. He will learn a lot and has a lot to learn, but he has a lot of raw ability.
"I was only hacking round and I would have been happier if something put a bit of pressure on him earlier to bring us to gear quicker.
"He was having a good look [at his hurdles] but wasn't going to do anything stupid. When I wanted him at the last, he knew what to do."
Slate House (Robbie Power) takes the Foundation Developments Ltd Maiden Hurdle (David Davies/EMPICS Sport)
5.30pm Experience The Theatre At The Festival Conditional Jockeys' Handicap Hurdle 2m ½f
Bobble Emerald (Martin Keighley/Harry Stock (7), 10st 11lb, 33/1) bought up a 67/1 double for trainer Martin Keighley when taking the concluding Experience The Theatre At The Festival Conditional Jockeys' Handicap Hurdle.
The winner made all the running and his only anxious moment was when he was carried across to the stands' side by a loose horse after the last, which caused him to cross the runner-up Man Of Plenty (Sophie Leech/Sean Houlihan, 10st 10lb, 11/2 Jt Fav).
Martin Keighley said: "Bobble Emerald is a very genuine horse. He won a couple last season and was third here when Sam Twiston-Davies rode him, and he only got caught on the run in that day.
"I thought the handicapper had had his say because although he won well last time, he went up 10 pounds. Harry Stock is my conditional and we get that extra three pounds. He is a really good lad.
"Bobble Emerald is a proper two miler and travels away well. I think the loose horse has helped us.
"The loose horse caused the interference so I can't see why there would be problem in the stewards' room.
"I am delighted for the owners because they have been big supporters of the yard for years. It's special having winners here and, because it is our local track, we get lots of support."
Harry Stock, celebrating his first success at Cheltenham, said: "Bobble Emerald stays further but isn't a slow horse and has kept galloping. I went a good, honest clip as he loves having it his own way out in front.
"I just let him pop away and he is so quick over his hurdles even though he can get in tight. I started to press on down the hill as I knew he would stay home. He has done it very well.
"This is what dreams are made of. It is my second ride here and I only live local, so all the family are here. It's brilliant.
"The loose horse come up my inside and cut across me. I kept riding forward and, if you look, when the other horse has come to me, Bobble Emerald has pricked his ears and picked up again. At the finish, he is going away.
"Martin is a local trainer and all his horses seem to love Cheltenham. We have had some nice runners today and they have all run well."
Bobble Emerald and Harry Stock take the concluding Experience The Theatre At The Festival Conditional Jockeys' Handicap Hurdle (David Davies/EMPICS Sport)
The Showcase continues tomorrow, Saturday, October 28, with a seven-race card running from 2.00pm to 5.30pm.