Five things that we learnt from Cheltenham’s Showcase meeting

Sun 29 Oct 2017

Jason Kiely reflects on the action that unfolded at Cheltenham on Friday and Saturday

By Jason Kiely

Henderson wants rain for his “big boys”:

2017 Cheltenham Festival - Ladies Day - Cheltenham Racecourse

Nicky Henderson got his Cheltenham campaign off to a good start, courtesy of Thomas Campbell landing some big bets in the Pertemps Network series qualifier under a cool ride by Nico de Boinville.

Henderson, a general 1-2 to retain his champion trainer crown, was pleased with the way the five-year old stepped up to three miles but stressed that some of his team could need their comeback runs oer the coming weeks. “I think these horses are needing runs, I know they are,” he said. “This weekend was going to tell us a lot and we had no luck yesterday (Friday) but maybe now we are off and running.”

He suggests rain will hold the key to early-season plans for some of his stars. “They are coming along, we just need some rain for those big boys,” he said. “We are a little bit behind, but they are in great form. Might Bite is going to Sandown. I’m not going to the Betfair Chase with him - that’s the wrong place for his head. . . and mine!

"I think the Fighting Fifth will be a good place to start Buveur D’Air off and maybe My Tent Or Yours here [Cheltenham] for the International.”

Keep Keighley in mind at Cheltenham:

It is always worth following Martin Keighley’s runners at Prestbury Park. The trainer is located just miles away from the course at Condicote Stables and boasts a fantastic course record.

Since 2002 he has had 18 winners and 42 more placed horses from a total of 160 runners at the track.

On Friday, Keighley enjoyed a first and last race double (at odds of Evens and 33-1). Those successes were cheered home enthusiastically by Keighley’s two young sons - Freddie and Harry.

Another star for Tizzard:

Have we seen another potential Colin Tizzard superstar? Finian’s Oscar was last season’s star novice for the trainer, notching up an impressive Grade One double, and this season the future is bright for Slate House.

It was agent Tom Malone who began the hype when purchasing Slate House for £260,000 at a Cheltenham sale in the spring saying: "Slate House is a machine, there's no two ways about it. The two most impressive performances in point-to-points this autumn were Finian's Oscar and Slate House. I hope this one [Slate House] will be the same."

Well supported, Slate House jumped perfectly when making all the running to win Friday’s maiden hurdle with the greatest of ease under Robbie Power. Tizzard was impressed and suggested that a return to Cheltenham in November could be on the cards.

Cogry sorts out jumping issues:

Cogry’s form figures were littered with letters last season when he failed to complete in four successive runs last season (three of those at Cheltenham) but the eight-year old is a smart stayer and seems to be back on track.

Caught just before the line when a neck second to Vicente in last season’s Scottish Grand National, Nigel Twiston-Davies is looking to those big handicaps again this season.

The trainer said: “He’s a special horse and Sam got a good tune out of him today. We will have to look at all those Nationals again. Certainly the Scottish National and he will have to improve a bit to get into the big one [Aintree], but we would love to have a go”.

It could be the Ladbrokes Trophy (formerly Hennessy) at Newbury where we see him next for which he is a general 25-1. Foxtail Hill and Calett Mad also won to give Twiston-Davies a superb treble.

Record crowds flock to Cheltenham:

Cheltenham’s Showcase meeting marks the return of many big players and this year it certainly didn’t disappoint. A record crowd was recorded on both days with more than 31,000 attending the Cotswolds course.

Clerk of the Course Simon Claisse and his team provided excellent track conditions as always and they were rewarded with competitive fields. Punters had a profitable meeting as a few well-backed horses came out on top.

Tim Vaughan and his team at Pant Wilkin stables will alway cherish it as Master Dancer gave them a first Cheltenham success after 152 previous defeats.

So will Harry Stock, who partnered Bobby Emerald to victory. It gave the young conditional jockey the 13th winner of his career and his first success at Prestbury Park.

Cheltenham’s next meeting will be The November Meeting between the 17th-19th of next month and will feature the BetVictor Gold Cup.

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