Recent novices’ hurdle winner Castle Robin (13/2) continued his upward profile with a comfortable victory on his handicap debut in the opening contest of The November Meeting, the Markel Insurance Conditional Jockeys' Handicap Hurdle.
The Charlie Longsdon-trained five-year-old had made all the running when recording a first success under rules at Carlisle on 22 October and was once again towards the head of affairs, tracking the leaders for much of the two-mile, five-furlong contest.
2/1 favourite Induno, Silent Assistant (11/1) and Castle Robin quickened away from the rest of the field after the penultimate flight and all three looked to hold chances jumping the last.
Castle Robin headed Silent Assistant soon afterwards and stayed on well up the run-in to score by a length and a half as jockey Paul O’Brien secured a first Cheltenham success.
Paul O’Brien said: “The race went pretty much exactly as I hoped it would beforehand. We just wanted to get a good position. In my head I just thought I might be able to travel to two out and save a bit for up the hill and it could not have worked better.
“I was happy enough turning in, we got a good jump at the last and I just sent him for home. He was idle enough up the hill and pricked his ears a little bit, but hey, he was always doing enough. He stuck it out really well.
“The ground is on the slow side of good, with bits of soft ground, it is beautiful ground.
“It means an awful lot [to ride a first winner at Cheltenham]. It is hard to put it into words.”
Charlie Longsdon said: “Castle Robin is still a novice, he only won his first race three weeks ago at Carlisle, when he got given a mark of 119. He won quite nicely that day, and we were well clear of the third horse if I remember rightly. I hoped that 119 was a nice-looking mark. It won’t be nice after this race, but it was a good opportunity today.
“He had his ears pricked in the last 100 yards as well, so I would like to hope he had a little bit in hand. The handicapper will have his say, but hopefully we can still find another nice handicap with him, or something going forward. I have not made any real plans for him yet, but we will see how it goes.
“He is crying out [for a fence] — he’s going to be a lovely three-mile chaser in time. Hurdles should be just the starter for chasing. He should be a far better chaser than hurdler. If he can carry on like this, he’s had two wins this season, he’s a nice youngster for the future.
“He wants a little bit of juice in the ground. He didn’t jump brilliantly the first day at Warwick, which was on the quicker side, so he probably wants the easier side — soft, good to soft, is perfect.”
Paying tribute to the jockey, Paul O’Brien, he added: “I think it was [Paul’s first Cheltenham winner]. He said: 'I’m almost crying' and was quite emotional, so I think it was his first winner here. Good on him, he deserves it, he rides very well and has been riding a lot of our horses. He still claims 3lb, but I think he’s almost finished that. He’s a good boy, he puts his two pence in on the yard as well and always puts the hours in, so getting results like today are well deserved.”
1.15pm Markel Insurance Conditional Jockeys' Handicap Hurdle 2m 5f
1 Castle Robin – Charlie Longsdon 5-11-07 Paul O’Brien 13/2
2 Silent Assistant – Emma Lavelle 6-11-05 Ben Jones 11/1
3 Steal A March – Nicky Henderson 5-11-03 Jack Tudor 8/1
4 Induno – David Pipe 6-10-11 Fergus Gillard (6) 15/8F
Time: 5m 18.08s
Distances: 1½, 1¼, 1½
Tote Win: £7.60 Places: £2.10 £2.80 £2 Ex: £89.70 Trifecta: £596