SPLASH HEADLINES SUM UP NEILD'S JOY
The highs, lows and might-bes of Jump racing have been brought together this weekend during an early-winter feast of action.
A dance of delight by racehorse owner John Neild, following the victory of his Splash Of Ginge in yesterday's BetVictor Gold Cup at Cheltenham, conveyed the euphoria, while the reverse came in news of another side-lining injury for legendary jockey Ruby Walsh. Faugheen's return to racing today after nearly two years off, and The New One's attempt to carry top-weight through the testing going in the Unibet Greatwood Handicap Hurdle at Cheltenham, encapsulates the unmissable appeal that some horses provide.
Neild's unashamed joy at Splash Of Ginge's victory is a gift for Sunday newspaper columnists, for they have only to report his actions to convey his happiness, a contrast to the flickering smile - let's call it business-like - offered by some owners to their big-race winners.
Marcus Armytage of The Sunday Telegraph, writes: "It was the victory jig and celebrations of Splash Of Ginge's owner John Neild and his Liverpudlian cohorts after the nine-year-old had sloshed though the mud to beat Starchitect by a hard fought neck at 25/1 that said: This is Jump racing, and not the Flat."
'Splash 'N Grab' is The Sun's headline above a report on the race by Steve Jones, who writes: "The Cheltenham rain was nearly as relentless as the way Splash Of Ginge galloped through the mud to give Nigel Twiston-Davies a fourth win in the race." Jones quotes Twiston-Davies saying: "When Ginge won the Betfair Hurdle, John's bar bill was £17,000." That was generous, and many reports of the race pick up on Neild's willingness to give young jockey Tom Bellamy the chance to ride the horse, who became just his sixth winner of the season.
The Daily Star Sunday and Sunday Express reports are written by Jason Heavey, who refers to Neild dedicating the big win to another young rider, Ryan Hatch, who has ridden Splash Of Ginge in races but is now sidelined with a neck injury. Heavey quotes Neild saying: "This is for Ryan - he has had a year from hell." Alastair Down's reflections in the Racing Post inform readers that Neild took Hatch onto the winner's podium. "It was one of the most caring, quick-thinking and impressive post-race gestures it has been my pleasure to see," writes Down.
On the theme of thinking of others, The Mail On Sunday dedicates half a page to memories of jockey Bryony Frost, undoubtedly the unexpected star of the early months of the Jump season. 'I owe it all to Nosey', Frost tells Marcus Townend, as she reveals the lessons she learned from early riding sorties on a pet donkey.
The Racing Post front-page is dominated by acknowledgement of Faugheen's return to action following a near two-year lay-off - he runs in today's Unibet Morgiana Hurdle at Punchestown - but, as all the papers report, Ruby Walsh will not be holding his reins. 'Walsh dealt the cruellest of blows as he breaks leg on eve of hurdling giant's return' is the Racing Post's summary of Walsh's injury - incurred yesterday at Punchestown - and on page 3 it lists the breaks, dislocations, fractures and organ removal suffered by the great jockey since 1999.
This chart of horror suggests Walsh does not experience pain like other mortals, accepting bone snaps as we do minor bumps or bruises. Yet it also provides an insight to the addictive high that riding big-race winners provides.
Greg Wood, writing in The Observer, quotes A P McCoy, a close friend of Walsh. Wood writes: "He's devastated," McCoy said. "He's had a few bad falls in the past. He's the best jockey I've ever seen and tougher than anyone I've ever seen." That's some tribute from the man who took toughness and quick returns from injury to another level.
SLATE LOOKS TO BRING THE HOUSE DOWN AT CHELTENHAM
Dorset trainer Colin Tizzard is hopeful of a big run from Slate House in the G2 Sky Bet Supreme Trial Novices' Hurdle (3.30pm) today on the final day of the 2017 November Meeting at Cheltenham.
Bought for £260,000 after winning an Irish point-to-point at Tattersalls Farm by 10 lengths, the five-year-old son of Presenting made a striking debut at The Showcase Meeting at Prestbury Park last month registering a commanding three and a quarter-lengths victory over course and distance.
Tizzard, who has already tasted success at this year's November Meeting following Finian's Oscar's victory in the Steel Plate And Sections Novices' Chase on Friday, said: "Slate House is like a lot of ours in that he tightened up for his victory at Cheltenham last month. That was a nice performance and he really benefited from the outing.
"He is a beautiful creature and we were really excited about him going into the race. After that performance, we were equally excited and surprised about how he won.
"We paid a few quid for him and he needed to prove that he was as good as the price we paid for him, but we thought he was.
"I think he will prove tough to beat. I'm very confident of a big run. It will take a good one to beat him."
Tizzard is also represented by Fox Norton, who heads the betting for the G2 Shloer Chase (2.25pm).
A head second to Special Tiara in the G1 Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase at this year's Festival, the seven-year-old son of Lando subsequently landed the G1 JLT Melling Chase at Aintree and the G1 Boylesports Champion Chase at the Punchestown Festival, and bids to win this two-mile event for the second year in succession.
Tizzard's assistant, his son Joe, said on Racing UK: "He is a strong-staying two-miler.
"He is quick enough but two miles around Punchstown on good ground was as short as you need. He is in good nick.
"We took him to Wincanton to work because we wanted to get him out and let him know he was on a day out. It lit him right up and he has been brilliant at home this week.
"He's ready to run a huge race."
A CHELTENHAM LOVE AFFAIR
Cheltenham specialist The New One is having his 13th start at Prestbury Park this afternoon in the £100,000 Unibet Greatwood Handicap Hurdle, where he will have to shoulder top-weight of 11st 12lb under champion jockey Richard Johnson if he is to record his seventh victory at the Home of Jump Racing.
The Nigel Twiston-Davies-trained gelding's first outing at Cheltenham came on his second career start when he lined up in the High Sheriff Of Gloucestershire's Junior Bumper on New Year's Day in 2012. The New One had made a successful debut in a Warwick bumper and was sent off the 11/2 second-favourite behind the John Ferguson-trained Trespasser. Ridden by the trainer's son, Sam, who has partnered the gelding in 29 of his 32 career starts to date but is injured today, he was always handy and was driven out in the final furlong to record a length-and-three-quarter length success. As a dual bumper winner, The New One was allowed to take his chance in the Weatherbys Champion Bumper at The Festival in 2012 and finished an honourable sixth behind Champagne Fever, who went on to win the Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle at The Festival the following year. The New One progressed to win the Aintree Champion Bumper the next month.
More success followed the following season when The New One was sent over hurdles. A win at Cheltenham in October 2012 was sandwiched in-between victories at Newton Abbot and Warwick but he tasted his first defeat over the smaller obstacles when beaten a neck on heavy ground by At Fisher's Cross at Cheltenham in January, 2013. With the benefit of hindsight, this turned out to be a very good performance indeed as At Fisher's Cross went on to win the Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival the same year. Third-placed Coneygree stepped up to take the 2015 Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup at The Festival, while fourth-placed Whisper triumphed at the 2014 Coral Cup at The Festival.
The New One's next start at Prestbury Park was in the Grade One Ballymore Novices' Hurdle, his first and only success at The Festival to date. Willie Mullins' unbeaten hurdler Pont Alexandre was sent off the 6/4 favourite but The New One, returned at 7/2, stormed up the Cheltenham hill to record a famous four length victory. The New One's Cheltenham appearances have been limited to the Grade Two Unibet International Hurdle and the Grade One Unibet Champion Hurdle ever since. His record in the two races could not be more different though. The son of King's Theatre won the Unibet International Hurdle in 2013, 2014 and 2016, but he has not been able to better his third place in the 2014 Stan James Champion Hurdle (behind Jezki), finishing 5th in 2015 (behind Faugheen), 4th in 2016 (behind Annie Power) and 5th again this year behind Buveur D'Air. This afternoon marks The New One's first start in handicap company at Cheltenham and the sponsor Unibet makes him an 11/1 shot to win at Prestbury Park for the seventh time. The admirable nine-year-old, owned by Sarah Such and Gino Paletta, has been victorious 19 times in total and has only finished out of the first three six times. His overall Cheltenham record means he is sure to have his supporters this afternoon.
The New One - Cheltenham Record
01 January 2012: 1st of 15 - High Sheriff Of Gloucestershire's Junior Bumper
14 March 2012: 6th of 20 - Weatherbys Champion Bumper
19 October 2012: 1st of 9 - Ballymore Novices' Hurdle
26 January 2013: 2nd of 5 - Ballymore Novices' Hurdle
13 March 2013: 1st of 8 - Ballymore Novices' Hurdle
14 December 2013: 1st of 7 - Unibet International Hurdle
11 March 2014: 3rd of 9 - Unibet Champion Hurdle
13 December 2014: 1st of 8 - Unibet International Hurdle
10 March 2015: 5th of 8 - Unibet Champion Hurdle
15 March 2016: 4th of 12 - Unibet Champion Hurdle
10 December 2016: 1st of 6 - Unibet International Hurdle
14 March 2017: 5th of 11 - Unibet Champion Hurdle
PUNTERS HOPING FOR ETERNAL RETURN TO FORM FROM NIETZSCHE
The big betting race on the final day of The November Meeting at Cheltenham, The November Meeting Sunday, is the Unibet Greatwood Handicap Hurdle (3.00pm) and the gamble of the morning has been on Brian Ellison's Nietzsche.
The four-year-old was third behind another of today's rivals, Flying Tiger, in last season's Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle at The Festival and should strip fitter for having two runs on the level in recent weeks. Race sponsor Unibet has cut the gelding to 9/1 (from 11/1), while Sky Bet has also been forced to take evasive action and go 8/1 (from 14/1).
Unibet has also cut The New One into 10/1 (from 16/1) for the same race following support from his legion of followers.
Despite several non-runners in the opening Velcourt Conditional Jockeys' Handicap Hurdle (1.15pm), there has been solid support for Melrose Boy, and the favourite has consolidated his position at the head of the market with Unibet (7/4 from 11/4). Sky Bet reports good each-way support for Atlantic Grey, and the four-year-old is now 10/1 (from 18/1) to give BetVictor Gold Cup-winning trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies with another Cheltenham winner following Splash Of Ginge's victory yesterday.
Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase runner-up Fox Norton (8/11) is the red-hot favourite for the Shloer Chase (2.25pm), but Unibet reports interesting money for Vaniteux, who is now a 14/1 shot (from 18/1).
Sky Bet sponsor the Supreme Trial Novices' Hurdle (3.30pm) and the Leeds-based firm has seen interest in the Dan Skelton-trained Bedrock (9/1 from 11/1), while the same organisation reports decent support for Air Navigator (5/1 from 13/2) in the closing High Sheriff Of Gloucestershire's Bumper (4.00pm).
1.15pm: The Velcourt Conditional Jockeys' Handicap Hurdle - 7/4 (from 11/4) Melrose Boy (Unibet); 10/1 (from 18/1) Atlantic Grey (Sky Bet)
2.25pm: The Shloer Chase - 14/1 (from 18/1) Vaniteux (Unibet)
3.00pm: The Unibet Greatwood Handicap Hurdle - 8/1 (from 14/1) Nietzsche (Sky Bet); 9/1 (from 11/1) Nietzsche (Unibet); 10/1 (from 16/1) The New One (Unibet)
3.30pm: The Sky Bet Supreme Trial Novices' Hurdle - 9/1 (from 11/1) Bedrock (Sky Bet)
4.00pm: The High Sheriff of Gloucestershire's Bumper - 5/1 (from 13/2) Air Navigator (Sky Bet)
LATEST NON-RUNNERS AT 12.40pm
1.15pm Velcourt Conditional Jockeys' Handicap Hurdle
5 BLACK IVORY (Self Certificate, Ringworm)
12 TEMPURAN (Going)
13 UNDEFINED BEAUTY (IRE) (Going)
19 SUNNYTAHLIATEIGAN (IRE) (Going)
23 SAMSON (Going)
1.50pm Racing Post Arkle Trophy Trial Novices' Chase
2 CAPITAINE (FR) (Going)
2.25pm Shloer Chase
2 SIR VALENTINO (FR) (Going)
3.00pm Unibet Greatwood Handicap Hurdle
8 FLYING TIGER (IRE) (Going
10 AMOUR DE NUIT (IRE) (Going)
15 TOP OTHE RA (IRE) (Travel)
4.00pm High Sheriff Of Gloucestershire's Standard Open NHF Race
6 MOUNT BATUR (IRE) (Self Certificate, Not Eaten Up)
8 ROCKERY GARDEN (IRE) (Vet's Certificate, Sore)