PIPE ENJOYS A MOMENT
Trainer David Pipe was delighted with What A Moment after the 11/1 shot landed the Markel Insurance Amateur Riders' Handicap Chase for the second successive year at Cheltenham this afternoon.
The seven-year-old was clearly enjoying himself sitting handy for jockey Richard Harding and the pair skipped from fence to fence with some bold jumping.
What A Moment's supporters had to endure a nervous few moments on the run-in as the field began to close rapidly (the first six home finished within two and quarter lengths of each other) but Harding managed to galvanise his mount as the finishing line approached, eventually passing the post half a length clear of runner-up Sugar Baron.
Pipe was wreathed in smiles after his fourth victory in the race, following What A Moment's victory last year and Swing Bill's two winning efforts in 2011 and 2012.
"We've got a good track record in this race," said the trainer.
"Obviously he won this race last year off a mark of 127 but he'd been running before coming here then. We thought we'd take a chance this time around and come here fresh - he runs well fresh.
"His profile is a bit in and out - sometimes he's a bit better fresh. He ran well in the four miler here at The Festival last year (the JT McNamara National Hunt Chase) but he didn't get the trip. He was travelling really well coming down the hill then but petered out.
"He travelled really well again today and Richard almost got there too soon. The horse took him there though and has given him a great ride. It wasn't great to watch live on the run-in then as they were closing pretty fast!
"It's great to have runners and winners at Cheltenham. He might not want it too soft so we'll see where we go next. The way he travelled though, I might drop him back in trip. He's done well for his owners (Bryan Drew and Steve Roper) and hopefully there's more to come."
WHAT A WIN FOR HARDING
Jockey Richard Harding rode the David Pipe-trained What A Moment to victory in the opening race of The November Meeting for the second year in a row.
What A Moment, a seven-year-old by Milan, was in front a long way from the finish and looked as though he might be caught by the chasing pack. However, he held on and beat second-placed Sugar Baron by half a length at odds of 11/1 in the Markel Insurance Amateur Riders' Handicap Chase.
Harding said: "He probably jumped too well and travelled too well, so we got into the race way too early, but when a horse is jumping so well it is hard to give away the ground and then make it up. He was always going easy.
"He turned in in front, pricked his ears and pulled himself up. He jumped the last like a buck. I knew they were coming up behind me, but he was just idling - that's the type of horse he is. He just galloped to the line.
"I won this race on him last year and then his form dipped. I thought if he returned to the sort of form he was in for this race again, he had a chance, even though he was five pounds higher than last year. Maybe something like three miles two furlongs at The Festival where they would go faster and he wouldn't get into the race as early would suit him."
12.40pm Markel Insurance Amateur Riders' Handicap Chase
1 WHAT A MOMENT (Bryan Drew & Steve Roper) David Pipe 7-11-10 Mr Richard Harding 11/1
2 Sugar Baron (Anthony Speelman) Nicky Henderson 7-11-09 Mr Hugo Hunt (3) 15/2
3 Pickamix (Racing Ventures 2014) Charlie Mann 6-11-08 Mr Roger Quinlan 9/1
5/1 Fav Dueling Banjos (8th)
Distances: ½, sh
Tote Win: £13.30 Places: £4.60; £3.10; £3.00 Exacta: £113.70
SUGAR CONTINUES BARON RUN
Jockey Hugo Hunt was pleased with the performance of Nicky Henderson's top-weight Sugar Baron (15/2) who stayed on well to finish second in the first race of The November Meeting 2017, the Markel Insurance Amateur Riders' Handicap Chase.
Always well positioned, the seven-year-old son of Presenting kept on tenaciously up the hill but could not reel in the half-length winner What A Moment (11/1), trained by David Pipe and ridden by Richard Harding.
Hunt said: "He's given me a serious spin there. He was always travelling well and he kept on really well - he's a lovely horse."
Roger Quinlan got a great tune out of Charlie Mann's fast-finishing Pickamix (9/1), who was a short-head back in third.
Quinlan commented: "He didn't really go that well on the ground early on so I had to give him time to find his rhythm. He stayed on really well in the home straight and flew home."
JOCKEYS ON GROUND
The jockeys who rode in the first race of The November Meeting 2017, the Markel Insurance Amateur Riders' Handicap Chase, gave their opinions on the ground.
Mr Richard Harding, aboard the half-length winner What A Moment said: "It's quite dead slow ground out there."
Mr Hugo Hunt, rider of the second-placed Sugar Baron, commented: "I've got no real complaints about the ground but it's on the soft side.
Mr Roger Quinlan, jockey of third-placed Pickamix, said: "It's quite tacky ground, very dead and slow."
Mr Sam Waley-Cohen, partnering Indian Castle (6th), remarked: "It's on the softer side."
Mr Derek O'Connor, jockey of What Happens Now (7th), described the ground as: "Soft."
Mr Joshua Newman, jockey of Regal Flow (9th), commented: "It's a little bit tacky."
Mr Jake Bament, rider of Lamb Or Cod (11th), said: "It's soft ground."
Mr James King, partnering Mont Royale (P/U), remarked: "It's quite dead out there. It rode on the slow side of soft."
Mr Will Biddick, partnering Solstice Son (P/U), remarked: "It's soft ground."