The Home of Jump Racing, Cheltenham Racecourse, today staged its now traditional New Year's Day fixture on Tuesday, January 1, with 26,720 racegoers attending.
Midnight Shadow emerged as a candidate for honours at The Festival™ presented by Magnersin March after winning the £50,000 G2 Dornan Engineering Relkeel Hurdle in good style.
Aso and Lostintranslation, successful in the £75,000 G2 Download the BetBright App Handicap Chase and the £35,000 G2 BetBright Dipper Novices' Chase respectfully, are also on target for the The Festival™ presented by Magners between March 12 and 15.
The going was good to soft, good in places.
Race reports for all seven races are below.
12.15pm £25,000 Ballymore Novices' Hurdle (Listed) 2m 4f 56y
The Nicky Henderson-trained I Can't Explain, who started the 5/6 favourite, came into the race unbeaten. Held up towards the rear of the seven runners by Nico de Boinville, the six-year-old made some progress approaching two out where 12/1 chance Jarveys Plate went to the front.
Trained locally by Fergal O'Brien and owned by the Chris Coley-led partnership, the Yes No Wait Sorries, the Paddy Brennan-ridden Jarveys Plate appreciated the step up in trip from two miles and gradually drew clear.
Jarveys Plate increased his advantage after the last and won easily by 13 lengths from I Can't Explain who snatched second close home from Anemoi (Harry Whittington/Gavin Sheehan, 9/2).
"That is a good way to blow a horse's mark (handicap), I know that. We always thought he was good and today he proved it when stepping up in trip. I was not surprised with his performance - he is very good. It was a competitive race, with horses trained by top trainers. I don't mind what price they are, as longs as they win."
O'Brien, who trains near Guiting Power in Gloucestershire, reported:
Chris Coley has put a lot into the sport, he loves Cheltenham and is local - living half-a-mile or so from here. It is great to come here for him. Paddy was a bit negative about coming here today, but he has dug me out of a hole to be fair. I am delighted with the victory. I was not confident, but hopeful. The favourite had looked very impressive at Sandown and we were here to pick up the pieces. We could not envisage Jarveys Plate doing it the way he did. He is a lovely horse - anybody rides him at home - my eldest daughter Fern rides him quite a bit and my brother David too. He is just a lovely horse to do anything with - he is so straightforward and he is very easy to train - we are very lucky to have him. Paddy has made the horse - we ran Jarveys Plate over two miles previously. He was the one to say stick him at two miles. When Jarveys Plate got beat at Hereford, I wanted to go straight up in trip and he said calm down and we came here over two miles and finished second. It was all part of the horse's learning process. To win today is fantastic. Paddy is thinking that we could bring the horse back here for Festival Trials Day (Saturday, January 26), but it is a very tough sport and we will get him home and enjoy today. We will have a good night out tonight - Chris likes to celebrate. We will make plans for Jarveys Plate in the week."
12.50pm £25,000 Join The BetBright Racing Club Handicap Chase 3m 2f 70y
Henderson enjoyed better luck with the gambled-on Beware The Bear, the top-weight, made nearly all the running under Jeremiah McGrath.
The 7/2 shot, seen as high as 9/1 earlier today, set a decent pace out front and was joined by Perfect Candidate (Fergal O'Brien/Paddy Brennan, 16/1) from the 14th to the 17th fence, but the winner then shook the challenger off.
Nine-year-old Beware The Bear, carrying 12st 1lb and wearing blinkers for the first time, was clear at the last but idled in the run to the line and Shanroe Santos (Lucy Wadham/Daryl Jacob, 10/1) got within five lengths. There was another eight lengths to the third of the nine runners, Perfect Candidate.
The winning jockey remarked:
"The first-time blinkers have been a massive asset. We always knew the ability was there - we just needed to eke something more out of him. Thankfully, the blinkers have worked today. He was just stargazing into the stands after the last, and I had probably gone quick enough, but thankfully he had enough class and energy to last up the hill. He is a very big horse - about 17.2 - but he does not shorten very well. I know the horse very well, which is a big help, and he has scope. I was confident of a big run today."
1.25pm £35,000 BetBright Dipper Novices' Chase (Grade 2) 2m 4f 166y
3/1 chance Lostintranslation, trained by Colin Tizzard and ridden by Robbie Power, rallied to deny Defi Du Seuil (Philip Hobbs/Barry Geraghty), the 5/2 second favourite, in the closing stages by one and a quarter lengths.
Seven-year-old Lostintranslation led until two out when 2017 JCB Triumph Hurdle winner Defi Du Seuil went to the front and looked all over the winner before the picture changed again halfway up the run-in.
"I was a worried when we were headed as we all know what Defi Du Seuil has done before, but Lostintranslation definitely looks like a stayer now. He is a beautiful, big old-fashioned chaser and I am sure we will be going up in distance with him now. I was amazed when he got beat at Newbury. He did everything right and then got beat by La Bague Au Roi. The next time out he made a hell of a mistake, but was good and accurate today. He had to get in tight and was good. He has learnt and improved. The RSA (over three miles at The Festival™ presented by Magners in March) is a long way off although we are in the New Year now. To come back and stay on again today shows Lostintranslation is a stayer. This horse could be our next good one. We have been blessed in the last few years with Cue Card, Thistlecrack and Native River. This one is right in the groove already - he is not there yet, but he is as good as they were at this stage."
Robbie Power, who is based in Ireland, commented: "Lostintranslation is just a very, very good horse. It was not ideal having to make the running, but he jumped super. I would have loved something to take me a long a bit quicker as he is a bit idle in front.
"Barry (Geraghty on Defi Du Seuil) was a bit quicker than me at the second last, but I knew going to the last if I got a good jump, I would get back at him. It was a good performance in a good race - all four of the very good runners could have won. He is still learning and a big baby - he has not had that much racing. Today was his ideal trip and, if there had been something there towing him along at a better gallop, it would have suited him better. He would have a chance in the JLT (at The Festival™ presented by Magnersin March) as it is over the same course and distance, while there is also the RSA to consider too. I think he is best on good ground. I came here today thinking he was the one to beat. I was a bit gutted when La Bague Au Roi beat us first time at Newbury, but in hindsight I shouldn't have been - she is a very good mare and we had to give her seven pounds, so she was a tough nut to crack."
2.00pm £75,000 Download the BetBright App Handicap Chase (Grade 3) 2m 4f 166y
Top-weight Aso, carrying 11st 12lb, took over the lead from the front-running Foxtail Hill at the eighth fence in the most valuable race of the day, the Download the BetBright App Handicap Chase.
The 3/1 favourite never really looked in danger after that, though the runner-up Happy Diva (Kerry Lee/Richard Patrick, 8/1) made some ground in the closing stages to be beaten two lengths.
Trainer Venetia Williams, who trains in Herefordshire, summed up the victory: "It was a superb performance by Aso. They went a really good gallop to begin with.
"What we learned from his run at Newbury is that he is as happy out in front as he is in behind. In fact today he actually grabbed hold of the bridle a bit more when he got to the front down the back straight. I would say we could look at going for the Ryanair (G1 at The Festival™ presented by Magners in March) again. I talked with the owners about possible races for him and quite a bit of the conversation had to be shelved until after today. There are other races and in a week or two we will be making entries for back here in March."
Charlie Deutsch, enjoying his fourth victory in his last six rides, added: "Aso was very impressive today. I just thought I would let him stride on down the back straight.
"He wasn't really taking me from the start, but down the back straight he really grabbed hold of the bridle. His jumping was very good - spot on. Just coming to the line, he was having a look around at the crowd. He was always likes to have a look around, but has luckily held on. I always thought a lot of this horse - I have a soft spot for him. It doesn't get better than this. I love this horse to bits and Venetia is an amazing trainer. The horses are in good form and it is just brilliant."
2.35pm £25,000 Simplify Horse Racing Selections With BetFinder At BetBright Handicap Hurdle 2m 7f 213y
The grey Au Ptits Soins, successful in the Coral Cup at The Festival™ presented by Magners in 2015 for trainer Paul Nicholls, returned to winning form at Cheltenham today. The 5/1 favourite, still owned by John Hales, is now trained by Nicholls' former assistant Harry Skelton.
Partnered by Harry Skelton, the nine-year-old led between the last two hurdles and galloped on strongly to win by seven lengths from De Name Evades Me (Fergal O'Brien/Paddy Brennan, 11/2) with a short-head to the third The Eaglehaslanded (Paul Nicholls/Brendan Powell 12/1).
Then winning rider, celebrating his 130th winner of the season, said: "The horse has obviously had a lot of problems. John, Pat and Lisa have been awfully patient with him.
"It has been a whole big team effort and Bridget (Andrews - his girlfriend) who rides him every day told me he would win today. I have got to thank her as she does everything with him. It is brilliant. Paul Nicholls did very well with Au Ptits Soins. We were sent the horse and have had to be patient for this day when everything came right. John and Lisa (Hales) had him back at their place and Au Ptits Soins did quite a bit on the water treadmill. The Hales family are fantastic supporters of the game and have been family friends for a long time. We are very happy to give them a good winner at Cheltenham."
John Hales commented:
"It has taken a long time, but that was Aux Ptits Soins' best performance since he won the Coral Cup. He has been a fragile horse, difficult to train and now he is really back. I hope I have convinced the trainer to have a crack at the Stayers' Hurdle (G1 at The Festival™ presented by Magnersin March). The horse has still got the class."
Dan Skelton explained:
"The horse is fragile, but with the greatest respect for what we have done, Paul (Nicholls) won the Coral Cup with him on his UK debut. I was so lucky to be there and learn from Paul and to get this horse and Al Ferof from John when I started training. Maybe they were not at their best when I got them or had problems, but John has always been a great supporter of my dad's showjumping and my training from when I started. It has been a great team effort to get the horse back and it is humbling - it makes it easy when you have horses like that. John, Pat and Lisa have also spent a lot of time with the horse."
Bridget Andrews added:
"I actually ride Aux Ptits Soins every day. When he came back to us last year, he went lame two days before he was going to run. We were just praying this season that we would get him to the track. He came out of his first run back so well and I said to Dan he could be a New Year's Day winner. I am so glad he has won today. He is a great old horse and great for the Hales. John always says he could win a Stayers' Hurdle. I didn't sit on him until he came to us, but he has definitely still got all his ability. He is probably getting a bit slower but has bolted up today."
3.10pm £50,000 Dornan Engineering Relkeel Hurdle (Grade 2) 2m 4f 56y
Northern challenger Midnight Shadow, trained by Sue Smith in Yorkshire and ridden by Danny Cook, caused a slight surprise when winning this G2 hurdle at 8/1 from 6/4 favourite Wholestone (Nigel Twiston-Davies/Daryl Jacob), who was attempting to capture the race for the second year running.
The winning margin was two and a quarter lengths, with Red Guard (Paul Nicholls/Bryony Frost, 7/2) another half-length back in third.
Wholestone disputed the running with Clyne (Evan Williams/Adam Wedge, 9/2) for much of race and then Old Guard harried him, before Midnight Shadow challenged at the last and went away.
"Midnight Shadow is a great jumper and has improved all the whole time we have had him, from his bumpers, novice hurdles and handicaps. He is still improving. He has got a big engine. He is a little bit bull-headed at home and we don't have a horse in the yard that can work with him. He has had to do a lot of things a little bit on his own, but he has come here and won. He is tough and brave. I don't know where he would go later in the season. He belongs to Cyril and Aafke Clarke. Cyril always wanted to go for the Champion Hurdle, but I don't think the Champion Hurdle is on the agenda because of the trip. They are away in Spain and we will discuss what to do with him when they return. We are going to have to sit down because obviously with his rating we have to sift through and see where we can go next."
"Luckily, I had enough horse to push my way up there (on the inside). He was travelling well everywhere and I was just getting there a bit soon jumping two out. I took him back and rode him with loads of confidence. Turning in, I just made sure I had my position going to the last. After the last, I opened him up and he really picked up well. He won the Scottish Champion Hurdle last year as a four-year-old. We always thought a lot of him and it is good for him to prove us all right. He is a fair horse now and is still only a baby. We have schooled him over fences and he jumped beautifully. He is a horse to look forward to for the future. Next season I think there will be lots of races for him when he goes chasing. This season, we will pick our races. It was a good performance today and he has so many gears. Maybe now he has won at Cheltenham, he will have an entry for the Stayers' Hurdle."
Midnight Shadow left - Wholestone right
3.50pm £25,000 EBF Stallions & Cheltenham Pony Club NH Flat Race (Listed) 1m 5f 209y
The final race of the day went to newcomer Glory And Fortune (Tom Lacey/Richard Johnson), a 7/2 chance, who put daylight between himself and nine rivals in the final furlong.
Cheltenham Racecourse is situated in Prestbury on the northern outskirts of the historic spa town of Cheltenham. The Home of Jump Racing, Cheltenham Racecourse is the venue for the world's pre-eminent Jump meeting. The Festival™ presented by Magners, which happens in March over four days every year, next takes place from Tuesday, March 12, to Friday, March 15, 2019 inclusive and tickets are on sale. Set against the beautiful backdrop of the Cotswolds, Cheltenham Racecourse is a stunning natural arena and offers the highest-quality action throughout the Jump season.
About The Jockey Club
Cheltenham is part of The Jockey Club which stages thrilling sporting occasions including The Randox Health Grand National, The Festival™ presented by Magners and The Investec Derby. Millions of people every year enjoy the special experiences The Jockey Club offers through racing, music, food and entertainment. Governed by Royal Charter, every penny made goes back into British Racing to help the sport thrive. The Jockey Club was founded in 1750 and today is the largest commercial group in Britain's second-biggest spectator sport, operating 15 racecourses nationwide, The National Stud, Jockey Club Estates, Jockey Club Catering, Jockey Club Live and the charity, Racing Welfare. For more information, visit www.thejockeyclub.co.uk
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