BOLGER ORDERS ANOTHER CROSS-COUNTRY WINNER
Josies Orders (10st 11lb) justified favouritism at 2/1 to win the Glenfarclas Cross Country Handicap Chase for a second time - the Enda Bolger-trained 10-year-old also won this race in 2015.
Three years ago the jockey was Nina Carberry, but since her retirement at the end of last season Mark Walsh has come in for the ride. The pair beat 7/1 chance The Fact Of The Matter (10st), trained by Jamie Snowden, by three-quarters of a length.
Bolger, winning this race for the eighth time, said: "That was great. He really knows it around here - he cuts the corners well - and we decided to jump him out handy and take the short cuts. I thought for one minute coming to the last we were cooked, but he's a great stayer and pulls out well, and I think the nice ground helped him as well.
"I just have to thank [owner] J P McManus for giving me these good horses. These races are getting very competitive now and so there are better horses in them. We have a good bunch of horses and have a good system at home that keeps them fresh and keeps them keen - the same with humans.
"We'll look to come back here in December and for The Festival. At The Festival we will be at level weights, but he's a good, tough, genuine horse. Mark really switches on to this horse and he'll ride him."
JOSIE IS JUST WHAT THE PUNTERS ORDERED
The well-supported Josies Orders justified 2/1 favouritism with a game success in the Glenfarclas Cross Country Handicap Chase.
Ridden by Mark Walsh and trained by Enda Bolger, the 10-year-old son of Milan was prominent throughout the extended three mile and six-furlong event and despite being headed narrowly after the final obstacle, the gelding responded willingly to Walsh's urgings to score by three-quarters of a length. Jamie Snowden's 7/1 shot Fact Of The Matter finished second.
Josies Orders won this event in 2015, when partnered by Nina Carberry and today's winning rider Walsh believed ground conditions were important in today's renewal.
He said: "Without the blinkers, he won't travel and he won't jump. Even though I was in front long enough today, I got down to the last and his ears pricked so I had to keep the revs up because he is the sort of horse who will take things for granted.
"He really likes good ground and that was an important factor for him today.
"Gavin's [Sheehan, riding Fact Of The Matter] horse was upsides me jumping the last and pushed me along but I was always going to win.
"This lad was pulling up going to the last with his ears pricked but, when Gavin went by me, he had something to aim at.
"In fairness, he stuck his head down and galloped all the way to the line.
"It's an absolute joy to ride for Enda in these races, all I have to do is steer and enjoy myself.
"Enda has these horses so well-schooled and they love it, which is the main thing because, if you don't love jumping those banks, you will win nothing."
3.00pm Glenfarclas Cross Country Handicap Chase 3m 6f 37y
1 Josies Orders (J P McManus) Enda Bolger IRE 10-10-11 Mark Walsh 2/1F
2 Fact Of The Matter (The Sandylini Racing Partnership) Jamie Snowden 8-10-00 Gavin Sheehan 7/1
3 Jarob (Chris Jones) Gearoid O'Loughlin IRE 11-10-01 Mark Enright 12/1
Distances: ¾, ¾
Tote Win: £2.70 Places: £1.90 £3.70 Exacta: £16.90
Josies Orders (right)
NATIONAL HERO TIGER ROLL FOURTH
Trainer Gordon Elliott expressed delight with Tiger Roll after the eight-year-old finished fourth in the Glenfarclas Cross-Country Handicap Chase.
It was the gelding's first start since his memorable victory in April's Randox Health Grand National, in which he carried Davy Russell to victory in the colours of Gigginstown House Stud. Today he was held up for much of the race, crept into contention on the final circuit, but, carrying top-weight, could not reach the leaders in the home straight.
Victory went to the Enda Bolger-trained Josie's Order (2/1f), who beat Fact Of The Matter (7/1) and Jarob (12/1) by three-quarters of a length and the same. Game Tiger Roll (11/4) was beaten a further four lengths.
Tiger Roll's trainer, Gordon Elliott, said: "It was lovely - Keith [Donoghue] thought he was a bit rusty early on and had a couple of blows, but Tiger is obviously getting a bit cuter at home. I loved the way he galloped from the third-last to the line, and I'm looking forward to coming back here and running off level weights in December and March [in further Glenfarclas Cross-Country Chases].
"He gave over a stone to the winner and nearly two stone to the next pair, so the races to come are tailor-made for him, and the race in March is his Gold Cup.
"It's great to get him out and people love to see these horses - we're just delighted he's back in one piece and has run so well. You never know until you run them [after Aintree] but the way he galloped was great to see.
"It's more important to come back here and try to win at The Festival than it is to go back to Aintree. We all know how hard it is to win two Grand Nationals, but to win at four Cheltenham Festivals would be a dream come true."
Keith Donoghue, who rode Tiger Roll, said: "That was a good start back, as we knew he hadn't done much. The main aim is March. He was giving the winner 15lb and the second and third nearly two stone. Off level weights next time, we will improve a lot.
"He had a good blow after the Canal Turn [after fence 28] but when he came onto the racecourse proper, he saw the hill and came alive. He really galloped to the line and I wasn't too hard on him. He will be fine."
Lucy Snowden, whose husband, Jamie, trained runner-up Fact Of The Matter, said: "That was brilliant. I thought he was going to win it and was just in front after the last, but the winner fought back. He stays and is a great jumper, despite a fall last time, and when he schooled here he handled the fences. We thought he might enjoy it, and put cheekpieces on to make sure he had a good look at the jumps. Jamie will have to decide whether to come back for more races off level weights."
Jarob's fine run paid a compliment to fledgling trainer Georoid O'Loughlin from County Meath. He said: "That was his first attempt at this type of racing and he loved it, but I worked for Enda Bolger for two years and had an idea of what was required. I've had my licence for three months and this was my seventh runner from just two horses.
"I've got six at home, all owned by Chris Jones - I'm his private trainer. I am really pleased with this run from Jarob, the only dampener being that it's a handicap and he only had 10st 1lb, so we would be up against it here in March. Nonetheless, we want to give Chris a runner or two at The Festival, and he could improve for the experience. He hadn't run over that trip, but handled it and jumped well."
More from race 4 - Steel Plate & Sections Novices' Chase
OLD ON COUNT MERIBEL
Former trainer Jim Old, now an assistant trainer at Nigel Twiston-Davies' Grange Hill Farm near Guiting Power in Gloucestershire, was responsible for preparing Count Meribel to win the £25,000 Steel Plate And Sections Novices' Chase over two and a half miles: "I bought Count Meribel at Tattersalls (as a yearling for 3,500 guineas), which seems a long time ago now.
"The first time he ever jumped, he looked special. He made a wonderful shape and loved it.
"He was very weak and backward, but throughout his form has been exceptionally good. Even everything that beat him in his novice hurdles that first season turned out to be decent.
"He was much stronger last season and won his first three. Then we just got beaten here at December meeting by Kilbricken Storm, who won G1 Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle at the end of the season (at The Festival™ presented by Magners), and we were giving him 3lb.
"We made a balls of him after that, as we ran him at Warwick and he came back coughing. That was the only bad race he had ever run.
"When he got over that, we went to Ascot in a five-runner race and they crawled. It turned into a sprint and that didn't suit.
"We decided to skip Cheltenham and wait for better ground at Aintree, but it rained all day and was the worst ground you could have ever run in. He just couldn't cope with it and was pulled up. We now know that he prefers this sort of ground. It is beautiful out there.
"He is a serious lepper and jumped amazingly first time out Carlisle. It was a great sit from Mark Grant at the second last today. I actually thought he might get back up and he did - fair play.
"Myself and Nige have not got any doubts about him getting the trip in the RSA Chase. He probably wants it in the class of race. We will work back from that and have him spot on for it. We will pick our races between now and then very carefully."
Count Meribel is priced at 33/1 with BetVictor for the RSA and JLT Novices' Chase in March.
The most betting interest for tomorrow's feature race, the £160,000 BetVictor Gold Cup, have been Kalondra, 13/2 from 7/1, and Benatar 10/1 from 12/1. BeVictor is going six places (1/5th odds) for their race.