Credit where it’s due, those at the BHA behind the introduction of the Veterans Series which culminated in the fourth running of the final at Sandown on Saturday deserve a pat on the back.
At a meeting which had rather struggled for identity in recent years it has proved an ideal accompaniment to the Tolworth Hurdle, which itself has also had a welcome resurgence. The past four Tolworth winners before Saturday had all gone to win at the highest level with the first two from 2018 - Somerville Boy and Kalashnikov - filling those exact same places in the Supreme Novices at the Festival last season.
Runners in novice Grade One races such as the Tolworth and the Challow, run at Newbury over Christmas, can realistically expect to have their best days ahead of them but as a result have not imprinted themselves as much on the public’s consciousness as all of those who competed in the Veterans final.
The runners in the Veterans Chase had a combined age of 199
With 120 wins and over £2.4m in prize money they had between them competed in nearly every major staying chase.
As such, it was appropriate that the winner, Houblon Des Obeaux, had run in a Gold Cup, two Grand Nationals along with Welsh, Midland and London versions as well as winning a Denman Chase and finishing runner-up in a Hennessey.
The best sight was Buywise getting up after his crashing fall at the last when still in with a chance of repeating last year’s success but he was the only one to part company with his rider and whilst a few pulled up in the straight all of the field made it to the Railway fences on the final circuit proving that against their own age group they can produce a competitive spectacle.
Whilst Cheltenham discussions still featured on the day as regards the Tolworth form and the return of Laurina, it was also refreshing that the Veterans provided a centre piece that could be discussed in its own right and any temptation to add a Veterans race at the Festival should be strongly resisted.
Many roads lead to Cheltenham but there are plenty more paths that can be successfully trodden as the career records of the field of old horses illustrate perfectly.
Tuesday’s selections start with:
Sets a fair standard and with the long-travelling David Pipe’s Queens Cave in the field the price will hopefully hold up. Peter’s Cousin is not entirely straight forward but Queens Cave is quite a nervy sort as well and it remains to be seen how she will cope with such a long journey and overnight stay.
Placed here over hurdles off a similar mark and should be fitter than when reappearing off a nine-month absence at Market Rasen last time.
There are enough winning chasers in his pedigree to suggest the switch to fences should not be a negative and he is lightly enough raced down the years for there to be improvement if he can stand racing.
Venetia Williams horses are flying at present and Frenchy Du Large, in receipt of weight, can go one better than his promising debut second in a Warwick bumper - the form of which was franked by third place Arkyn comfortably winning at Lingfield.
Returns to the track for the first time since finishing runner-up in a maiden and some of his old form makes him look reasonably treated. While he was below-par at Wolverhampton last time he looks over the odds on the balance of his overall all-weather efforts at this trip.