Day two of The Showcase, Cheltenham’s opening meeting of the season, on Saturday, October 27, produced terrific finishes and some exciting performances from horses to follow over the coming months.
The going was changed from Good to Good to Soft after the third race. Reports for all seven contests can be found below.
2.00pm £60,000 ‘Matchbook Betting Exchange’ Handicap Chase 3m 1f
Rebecca Curtis is dreaming of Aintree with Relentless Dreamer (10st 3lb) after the nine-year-old came out on top in a thrilling finish with Cogry, winner of this race 12 months ago.
West Approach (9/1, Colin Tizzard/Richard Johnson, 10st 12lb) led the 16 runners for much of the contest with a bold display of jumping, but was headed at the second last by Cogry and Relentless Dreamer.
7/1 co-favourite Cogry (Nigel Twiston-Davies/Sam Twiston-Davies, 10st 4lb) took up the running with a good jump at the final fence, but was joined soon after by 16/1 chance Relentless Dreamer, who prevailed by a neck under Adam Wedge following a tremendous battle up the run-in.
West Approach took third, 11 lengths in arrears, with another four and a half lengths back to Calett Mad (7/1 co-fav, Nigel Twiston-Davies/Daryl Jacob, 10st 11lb).
Rebecca Curtis, based in West Wales, said: “It’s great to be back here and it’s so nice for Nigel Morris, who is one of my best owners. I am delighted for him to have a winner here too.
“Relentless Dreamer had some good form in some decent handicaps but, after bringing him back in the summer, his bits of work over the past few weeks suggested that he had improved.
“The one race I would love to see him in is the Randox Health Grand National. We wouldn’t want the handicapper to put him up too much in the weights but I think Aintree would really suit him. Hopefully, if we can get him up to that rating, it would be a thrill to get him there.
“There is a similar race for him at The November Meeting (the G3 BetVictor Handicap Chase) and the plan was to come here and go for that if he ran well today, so that is what we will do.”
Adam Wedge added: “Going down to the last, there wasn’t a stride and I just sat – I thought it could have lost me the race. But Relentless Dreamer has stuck his head out and is very game.
“I kept looking and the winning post seemed to be further away than ever. You can’t fault the horse – he is fantastic.”
2.35pm £40,000 Masterson Holdings Hurdle 2m 87yds
John McConnell sent out Go Another One to finish second in the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle on day one of The Showcase and the County Meath trainer gained a first Cheltenham winner with Pearl Of The West (5/1), who made all of the running under Sean Bowen.
The only filly in the six-strong field produced an assured round of hurdling to comfortably see off the challenge of Redicean (100/30, Alan King/Wayne Hutchinson), who was conceding 15lb to the winner, and prevail by three and a quarter lengths.
John McConnell said: “I am delighted for Pearl Of The West, who has been running consistently all year. We thought that we would come here to have a go at the big boys and she did us proud.
“She jumps really well out in front and stays very well. She was a good filly on the Flat, so she has plenty of ability and has taken to the jumping game really well.
“This was the plan – I had this race in mind for about eight weeks. Sean suggested the OLBG Mares’ Hurdle here in March, but it’s a long way off. We will give her a break now and come back for something in the spring.”
Sean Bowen remarked: “John said that Pearl Of The West was tough and gallops, so I should make every yard if I can.
“She jumped and travelled super – we managed to kick on up the hill and get a little breather before we bowled down the hill. She has winged the last and galloped to the line.”
3.10pm £60,000 Randox Health Handicap Chase 1m 7f 199y
Modus (11st 9lb) had been highly tried during his first season over fences, including when finishing eighth in the G1 JLT Novices’ Chase in March, and the 4/1 shot made a winning handicap chase debut for Paul Nicholls when getting up on the line in a thrilling finish.
Foxtail Hill (Nigel Twiston-Davies/Sam Twiston-Davies, 11st 1lb), sent off the 3/1 favourite to follow up his victory in the same race 12 months ago, cut out the running until being headed by Modus and 20/1 outsider Duke Of Navan (Nicky Richards/Ryan Day, 11st 4lb) at the penultimate fence.
Duke Of Navan came to challenge after the last and looked to have the measure of his rival halfway up the hill, only for Modus to rally strongly under Barry Geraghty for a head verdict as the first two finished nine lengths clear of Foxtail Hill.
Paul Nicholls commented: “Modus did well early on last season but then lost his way. Barry gave him a great ride and he jumped well today, although he probably wants a bit further.
“He got a bit tight at the last but galloped all the way to the line and the runner-up is a good horse.
“Modus is beginning to relax and improve. That will have done him good and we might go a bit further with him now. There are lots of options and we will find somewhere for him.”
Barry Geraghty said: “I thought I was beaten until the last 50 yards – I missed the last a little bit, which didn’t help, but Modus really battled.
“I knew that he would stay because he won the Lanzarote Hurdle over two miles and five furlongs, but his jumping was better today. He was very long at the third-last and caught the last as he hasn’t mastered the technique perfectly yet, but he battled well.
“He is growing up, he’s not as keen as he was so he is probably finishing his races better. He was very good over fences last season at Kempton but then he wasn’t as good at Cheltenham and Aintree afterwards.
“That was a nice handicap, but he has won by a head, so I think he will be going the handicap route this season. It’s a nice prize and a good race to win.”
3.45pm £25,000 Pertemps Network Handicap Hurdle 2m 7f 208y
A return to the smaller obstacles did the trick for 16/1 chance The Mighty Don (Nick Gifford/Leighton Aspell, 11st 7lb), who unseated on his chase debut at Fontwell earlier this month, as the six-year-old got up to collar Sykes (Nicky Martin/Matt Griffiths, 11st 11lb) in the final strides.
Sykes (22/1) made a bold bid from the front and looked to have his 19 rivals in trouble turning for home before rallying after the last, only to be worn down on the line by The Mighty Don, who led on the post for a short-head success.
The first two home finished three and a quarter lengths clear of the staying-on Dawn Raider (10/1, Pat Kelly IRE/ Barry Geraghty, 11st), with 11/2 favourite Theclockisticking (Stuart Edmunds/Ciaran Gethings, 11st 10lb) back in fourth.
Sussex-based Nick Gifford said: “We made a bit of a mess with The Mighty Don going chasing last time and this wasn’t the plan. The owners love coming here and I saw this race – he ran in the Final last year [ninth] but the ground went against him.
“I thought that we could give him a confidence booster and then go back chasing – if we are lucky enough to be there or thereabouts today, then we have qualified for the Final again.
“I will see what Leighton says but I think that we will go back chasing again. We have done plenty of schooling since Fontwell and he jumps gun barrel straight at home. He did exactly the same thing when we went hurdling with him – he was diving right at Lingfield.
“He seems to have a default setting when he is a bit fresh and a bit buzzy. He has raced left-handed here and it was not a problem, so I hope that we have got it out of the way.
“Nothing went right last year and I thought that the rain might have scuppered our chances today. Leighton went wide looking for the better ground and I am delighted with the way the horse has toughed it out.”
Leighton Aspell added: “The other horse looked stronger from the last until halfway up the run-in and it was only the last 10 strides that I felt I was getting on top.
“It’s very satisfying. I have been on the losing end enough times but, to get a nice ride around Cheltenham on a Saturday is very nice.”
4.20pm £15,000 Randox Health Novices' Hurdle 2m 7f 208y
Dinons (Gordon Elliott IRE/Richard Johnson) gained a fifth consecutive win over hurdles with an impressive display. The 4/6 favourite cruised clear of his five rivals approaching the last and was eased in the closing stages to come home 14 lengths clear of De Name Evades Me (9/2, Fergal O’Brien/Paddy Brennan).
Gordon Elliott said: “Cheltenham is a lucky place for me and we thought that Dinons was our best chance of the two days. He was going to win when he fell at Bellewstown in July and has won five races now.
“He’s a big, honest, galloping horse and a chaser in the making. We might have a look at bringing him back over the UK for another novice hurdle over the coming months.”
4.55pm £25,000 ‘Move Over To Matchbook’ Novices’ Chase 2m 3f 166y
Elliott and Johnson completed a double as versatile five-year-old Cubomania (100/30) recorded a seventh victory in the space of 10 months for his trainer.
6/4 favourite Monbeg Legend (Nicky Henderson/Nico de Boinville) led for much of the contest but was headed just after the second last following a good jump by Cubomania, who was ridden out to score by two and three-quarter lengths.
5.30pm £15,000 The Jockey Club Ownership Syndicate Standard Open Bumper 2m 87y
Local trainer Fergal O’Brien captured the closing bumper for a second year in succession as 5/2 favourite Strong Glance (Alain Cawley) gamely beat Master Debonair (8/1, Colin Tizzard/Harry Cobden).
Several horses look to hold chances entering the straight until the first two home went clear to fight out the finish up the hill, with Strong Glance finding extra near the line to prevail by half a length. Breaking Waves (7/2, Noel Williams/Wayne Hutchinson) came home third, a further length and three-quarters in arrears.