Lovely clear blue skies and sunny conditions greeted race goers today with the official ground Going as Good (Good to Soft in places). Will St Patrick bring more luck to the Irish this week?
1.30 JLT Novices Chase (Grade 1): Distance 2m 4f: 16 Fences: 9R NR King’s Odyssey
Drama unfolded when a standing start resulted in Zabana not even beginning the race but unseating its jockey instead. Davy Russell had his back to the starter at a ninety degree angle, and was making a turn when the race got underway. Outlander was severely impeded as well but did manage to get going. The early back markers were Three Musketeers and As De Mee with Bristol De Mai and Black Hercules meeting the first hurdle ahead of the field. With twelve to go Bristol De Mai led Mount Gunnery followed by Black Hercules on the inside, Outlander, Garde La Victoire, L’Ami Serge and the two back markers. Loose horse Zabana ran across the front of the field going into the back straight but didn’t cause too much trouble mercifully. Three fences later Three Musketeers at the back began to show signs of improvement in the race, whilst Black Hercules joined Bristol De Mai at the front. Garde La Victoire and Outlander were fallers four from home. The running order going into the next fence was Bristol De Mai, Black Hercules, L’Ami Serge, Three Musketeers, As De Mee and Mount Gunnery. L’Ami Serge who was travelling wide cut across Black Hercules at the second last hurdle due to a tendency of jumping toward the left. With L’Ami Serge now on the rails Black Hercules had the space to accelerate toward the last flight unhindered by the remainder of the field. At the finish Black Hercules a 4-1 joint favourite took victory by three lengths over the other 4-1 joint favourite Bristol De Mai. A length behind in third place came L’Ami Serge at 8-1 odds. Black Hercules gave jockey Ruby Walsh his fiftieth Cheltenham Festival winner.
2.10 Pertemps Network Final (Listed Handicap Hurdle): Distance 3m: 12 Fences: 24R
Flintham made most of the early running and had a six length advantage at one point over Rolling Maul. With nine fences to go Western Warrior made a bad mistake and was last but one in the field with only Box Office behind. The front two remained the same with four to go as If In Doubt picked up on the outside and the field began to reduce Flintham’s leading margin. Mall Dini was going better two from home as Flintham looked vulnerable and under pressure. At the finish Mall Dini at 14-1 odds had a ¾ length winning margin over 14-1 Arpege D’Alene, only a head in front of 10-1 If In Doubt. One and a half lengths behind Taglietelle at 14-1 came in fourth.
2.50 Ryanair Chase (Grade 1): Distance 2m 5f: 17 Fences: 15R
At the first fence Vautour held the sixth or seventh spot whilst Captain Conan and Oscar Rock were the back markers. With fourteen jumps to go Dynaste, Oscar Rock and Champagne West were at the rear of the field as Village Vic and Road To Riches strode out in front. Vautour travelling nicely on the inside was third followed by Smashing, Al Ferof, Josses Hill and Gilgamboa. The head of the field remained much the same and by eight from home Valseur Lido was beginning to make headway and was placed around eighth. With four jumps remaining Vibrato Valtat fell and Vautour had a half length advantage over Road To Riches at the front followed by Al Ferof, Village Vic and Valseur Lido. At the final turn two from home Vautour accelerated gaining a three length lead over Road To Riches with Al Ferof and Valseur Lido behind. With every stride Vautour’s pace increased and he was a worthy evens favourite winner by six lengths ahead of Valseur Lido at 11-1 just half a length ahead of Road To Riches the 7-2 2F.
3.30 Ryanair World Hurdle: Distance 3m: Fences 12: 12R NR Un Temps Pour Tout
With nine to go the running order was Cole Harden, Kilcooley, Martello Tower, Bobs Worth, Saphir Du Rheu, At Fishers Cross, Whisper, Alpha Des Obeaux, Thistlecrack, Knockara Beau, Aux Ptits Soins and Lieutenant Colonel the back marker. Two fences later and Thistleback had moved into fourth place having powered through the field. Three from home and third placed Kilcooley and Lieutenant Colonel both made mistakes, recovered but fell from any contention. At this point Cole Harden had a ¾ length advantage over Thistleback and at the second last fence both horses jumped together alongside Alpha Des Obeaux. Thistleback then surged toward the final flight and the finishing post unchallenged and secured victory by seven lengths as evens favourite. Alpha Des Obeaux at 8-1 was second and twenty two lengths behind Bobs Worth at 33-1 rolled in third.
4.10 Merribelle Stable Plate (Grade 3 Handicap CHS): Distance 2m 4f 166y: Fences: 22R NR Tenor Nivernais and La Vaticane
The standing start in this race went much better than in the first. Sadly NiceOneFrankie suffered a fatal accident during the race.
Winner: Empire Of Dirt 16-1 by four lengths over Second: Tango Du Juilley at 33-1 by 1 ¼ lengths over Third: Kings Palace 11-1. A further 2 ½ lengths behind in Fourth: Full Shift at 7-1.
4.50 Trull House Stud Mares’ Novice Hurdle (Grade 2): Distance 2m 179 y: Fences unknown: 16R NR Tara Flow
Winner: Limini 8-11F by 4 ½ lengths over Second: Dusky Legend 50-1 by 2 ½ lengths over Third: Bloody Mary 7-1 just a half length in front of Robins Reef at 25-1.
5.30 Kim Muir Challenge Cup Handicap Chase (Amateur Riders): Distance 3m 2f: Fences unknown: 22R NR Your Busy and Waldorf Salad
Winner: Cause Of Causes 9-2 2F by a massive 12 lengths over Second: A Good Skin at 14-1 just half a length ahead of Third: SilverGrove 16-1. Five lengths behind in Fourth: Knock House at 16-1.