Grade One honours for We Have A Dream at Chepstow
We Have A Dream had an extra gear just when he needed it, to put to bed the Grade One Coral Future Champions Finale Juvenile Hurdle at Chepstow.
On heavy ground, a field of five went to post for a race won by horses like Broadsword, High Knowl, Mysilv, Jair du Cochet, Walk On, Bristol De Mai and Defi Du Seuil.
The grey Mercenaire took the field along with Sussex Ranger through the early stages, with We Have A Dream settled third.
Racing down the back, the front two continued to set a decent pace in the conditions, with Mercenaire holding the narrow lead turning for home, with We Have A Dream on their coattails, along with the Irish filly Famous Milly.
Three out Sussex Ranger went on but Mercenaire fought back, with We Have A Dream moving strongly between the pair as they raced to the last as Famous Milly dropped away.
At the final flight We Have A Dream joined Sussex Ranger and the pair settled down for a terrific scrap, with Daryl Jacob squeezing more out of the former who edged into a decisive lead, with the pair well clear of Mercenaire, while Famous Milly came down at the last to leave Staff College to come home fourth.
The Nicky Henderson trained winner was making it three from three since joining Seven Barrows from France.
Raz De Maree becomes oldest Welsh National winner
Raz De Maree and Alfie Spinner, both 13 year-olds, served up a treat in deep winter ground, with the former becoming the oldest ever winner of the Coral Welsh Grand National at Chepstow.
Twenty went to post for this rescheduled race, contested on heavy ground and with fences omitted.
At the off, with two circuits to race, it was Raz De Maree, Vintage Clouds, Ask The Weatherman and Buckhorn Timothy who were among the leaders charging into the first turn.
At the first fence, Chase The Spud, Wild West Wind and Vintage Clouds disputed the lead, where former winner Emperor’s Choice took a crashing fall.
With three fences negotiated, Wild West Wind held the overall led with Vintage Clouds, Ask The Weatherman and Chase The Spud.
On The Road was a faller at the fifth fence and as the remaining 18 turned into the straight, there were a bunch of horses contesting the lead, including the grey Vintage Clouds, Ask The Weatherman, Chase The Spud and Wild West Wind.
With a circuit to race, that quartet continued to set the pace with Beware The Bear and Alfie Spinner on their heels, while O’Faolains Boy was pulled up.
Ask The Weatherman started to drop back, while Vicente, towards the back, came down.
Wild West Wind was the next to crash out, bringing down Firebird Flyer.
Up front, Alfie Spinner went on from Chase The Spud, with Pobbles Bay, Final Nudge, Rathlin Rose and Bishops Road closing. Vintage Clouds meanwhile dropped away.
Turning for home, Alfie Spinner, Bishops Road, Rathlin Rose, Final Nudge went on, with Raz De Maree staying on.
Racing to the second last, Alfie Spinner was challenged by Raz De Maree who went on under James Bowen.
A good jump at the last saw former Cork National winner keep up his momentum – and he needed to as Alfie Spinner gallantly kept on all the way to the line in a battle of veterans.
Third came Final Nudge with Silsol staying on for fourth.
Trained by Gavin Cromwell, Raz De Maree, second in the race last year, became just the second Irish-trained winner.
Summerville Boy seizes Tolworth Hurdle glory
Summerville Boy showed plenty of stamina to overcome a last flight error and win the Grade One 32Red Tolworth Novices’ Hurdle at Sandown Park.
Another UK Grade One, another woefully small field of five to contest this one.
As the quintet were sent on their way, it was Mont Des Avaloirs who took the field long.
With two to jump, Mont Des Avaloirs had his rivals under pressure, but he was far from fluent and lost momentum just when he needed a good jump.
Summerville Boy went on, chased by Kalashnikov, but it was his turn to blunder at the last.
However, Noel Fehily kept Summerville Boy going and as hard as Kalashnikov tried, he could not breach the gap on the climb to the finish.
The Tom George trained six year-old Sumerville Boy, passed the post about three lengths clear, despite Fehily having lost an iron in that final flight mistake; Mont Des Avaloirs was a distant third.
Buywise and Aspell leave it late in Veteran’s Final
There was a thrilling finish to the 32Red Veteran’s Handicap Chase Final as Buywise came with a late flourish to deny Pete The Feat back-to-back victories in the race at Sandown Park.
Fourteen horses went to post on a day which had already been dominated by veterans Raz De Maree and Alfie Spinner in the Welsh National.
As these popular chasers were sent on their way it was perennial front-runner Loose Chips who led with Theatrical Star, but at the first Vino Griego unseated his rider.
Loose Chips soon established a clear advantage despite the antics of the loose horse, with Cloudy Too in second, Gas Line Boy, No Duffer and Benbens.
Loose Chips took the Pond Fence with a five length lead from Cloudy Too and Gas Line Boy and took the field up in front of the stands and set off on the final circuit, with the loose horse still causing problems.
At the first down the back, Fox Appeal fell towards the rear, while Third Intention started to lose touch.
Up front, Loose Chips still bowled along as he reached the Railway Fences, with Cloudy Too, Gas Line Boy and Pete The Feat closer, followed by Buywise.
Three out it was Loose Chips but he was joined by last year’s winner Pete The Feat and Cloudy Too, with Buywise beginning to close.
Pete the Feat, fourteen years-old, took the initiative and cleared the last in front, but Buywise and Leighton Aspell had been biding their time and played their hand on the flat to deny their gallant rival with a late burst of speed to win by a couple of lengths.
Back in third there was another cracking battle, with Gas Line Boy inching out Cloudy Too, the pair ahead of the game Loose Chips and Houblon Des Obeaux.
The Evan Williams trained Buywise, eleven now, has often run well in defeat, making this £100,000 prize all the more sweet.
Next Destination on top at Naas
Next Destination showed good acceleration to put the race to bed as he completed a hat-trick of victories over timber in the Grade One Lawlor’s Of Naas Novice Hurdle.
Eight went to post for this 2 ½ mile contest on soft to heavy ground.
Jetz went into the early lead from Cracking Smart and Moyross, although Next Destination soon moved into second.
Racing down the straight for the first time, Jetz led from Next Destination and Blow By Blow, with the field bunched.
The order remained similar as Jetz took the fourth from home from Cracking Smart and Next Destination, with Moyross next and five lengths covering all eight.
Turning for home, Next Destination loomed up to Jetz, with Blow By Blow and Cracking Smart on their heels.
Next Destination went on heading to the last, opening up a three length lead with a fine turn of foot, with Cracking Smart giving chase.
The advantage was whittled away on the run-in, but Next Destination had enough in hand to get home by a length from Cracking Smart, with the previously once-raced Dec Des Genievres running a super race for third, ahead of Jetz.
The Willie Mullins trained Next Destination is now three from three over hurdles.
Progressive Vinnie Lewis scores in Sussex National
The improving Vinnie Lewis ran out an impressive winner of the At The Races Sussex National Handicap Chase at Plumpton.
Eleven set out for this gruelling test of stamina, over 3 ½ miles, on heavy ground.
The race got under way with Coolking and Leo Luna were soon to the fore, with the latter setting a strong gallop which quickly strung the field out.
Leo Luna continued a length in front of Coolking and Vinnie Lewis, with Big Meadow and Henri Parry Morgan next, as the pace dropped heading into the home straight for the first of three occasions.
With eight fences cleared, the field began to bunch behind Leo Luna and Coolking.
Coolking went on approaching the home turn once again, with Leo Luna second and then Vinnie Lewis and Big Meadow, with ten in touch and only Bindon Mill adrift with one circuit to race.
Racing downhill, Coolking was a couple of lengths clear at the fifth last, while in behind Frank N Fair had crept into contention.
Four out, Coolking dropped away quickly, leaving Vinnie Lewis and Leo Luna in front.
Vinnie Lewis kicked on and went clear turning for home, with Shanro Santos seven lengths adrift in second but giving chase, with Frank N Fair and Leo Luna next.
At the last, Vinnie Lewis was clear and a good jump sealed victory for Harry Bannister on he Harry Whittington seven year old.
At the line Vinnie Lewis was about five lengths clear of Shanro Santos, with Frank N Fair taking third, ahead of Leo Luna.
Thistlecrack ruled out for the season through injury
Thistlecrack will miss the Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup and the rest of the season, assistant trainer Kim Tizzard told At The Races.
The 10-year-old looked a potential superstar when winning the 2016 King George VI Chase but a tendon injury sustained last February saw him miss the 2017 Gold Cup and kept him out of action until December.
A lacklustre return over hurdles was followed by a fourth-place finish on his return to Kempton in the King George, but Colin Tizzard’s inmate is now set for another prolonged spell on the sidelines.
Kim Tizzard told At The Races: “He was a little bit stiff behind after the King George and he’s been off and had X-rays and bone scans – it’s gutting.
“He ran a screamer. He jumped really well and we were getting excited that the old Thistlecrack was still there.
“We were going for the Gold Cup – we’re gutted. Hopefully he’ll have his box rest and come back next season.
“We’re gutted for the team, the owners, everyone. We’ve still got a horse, at the end of the day.”
Death Duty ruled out for the season
Highly-rated novice chaser Death Duty has suffered an injury to a hind joint and will miss the rest of the season.
Gordon Elliott’s seven-year-old, owned by Gigginstown House Stud, won his first three starts over fences, including the Grade One Drinmore Novice Chase at Fairyhouse, but fell on his last outing at Leopardstown over Christmas.
Death Duty sustained the problem during the Racing Post Novice Chase, with Gigginstown racing manager Eddie O’Leary suggesting the problem may have occurred before his final-fence fall.
“Unfortunately he’ll be out for the season,” O’Leary told Press Association Sport.
“I’d say it probably happened earlier than the fall because it is a problem with a hind joint.
“Hopefully he’ll be back next season.”
Un Temps Pour Tout to miss Cheltenham
Un Temps Pour Tout will not be given the chance to win at the Cheltenham Festival for a third consecutive year.
The nine-year-old, trained by David Pipe, has not been seen since he claimed back-to-back renewals of the Ultima Handicap Chase at the Festival last March.
His trainer told www.davidpipe.com: “Sadly, we will be without one of the Pond House standard bearers this year as dual Festival hero Un Temps Pour Tout will not be bidding it to make three in a row this time around.”
Pipe continued: “His second consecutive victory in last season’s Ultima handicap chase under top weight took a long time for him to get over.
“We were aiming to bring him back for the spring but have decided to give him more time and look forward to a full campaign with him next season.”
Ruby Walsh on track for February return
Ruby Walsh expects to return to action next month as he continues to recover from a broken leg.
The star jockey has been sidelined since November 18 when he fell from Let’s Dance in a race at Punchestown.
Walsh is making good progress, though, and should be back in plenty of time before the Cheltenham Festival.
He told Racing UK: “I’d say it’s looking mid to late February (for a return to action) – that would be the plan.
“The physio is going well and the doctors are happy with the bone.
“It’s essentially 12 weeks for the bone to heal and then how many ever weeks it takes you to get right.
“Seven and a half (weeks) done, seven and a half to go.”
Nick Peacock pays tribute to retired Arctic Fire
Owner Nick Peacock has paid tribute to Arctic Fire after the top-class hurdler was retired.
The Willie Mullins-trained nine-year-old won five of his 19 starts over jumps including the 2015 Hatton’s Grace Hurdle at Fairyhouse and the County Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival last March.
He also chased home esteemed stable companion Faugheen in the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham and the Punchestown Champion Hurdle two years ago and was placed behind another illustrious former Closutton inmate, Hurricane Fly, in a Ryanair Hurdle and an Irish Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown.
Despite achieving a rating pushing 170 at his peak, Peacock feels injuries prevented his charge reaching his full potential.
He said: “He’s been a wonderful horse and it’s just a shame his career was curtailed by injury.
“He gave us our second win in the County Hurdle after Wicklow Brave, who won it a couple of years earlier.
“He won a Grade One in the Hatton’s Grace and if Faugheen wasn’t there, he’d have won a Champion Hurdle.
“He’d also have won an Aintree Hurdle (in 2015) if he hadn’t fallen at the last. I think that was the start of his woes as he was down on the ground for 10 or 12 minutes, the screens were up and we feared the worst. I suppose you could say everything he did after that was a bonus.
“I don’t think we ever really saw the best of him, to be honest.
“We’ll find him a nice home now for his retirement.”
Despite Arctic Fire hanging up his racing shoes, Peacock believes he could still have a lively outsider for this year’s Unibet Champion Hurdle in the aforementioned Wicklow Brave.
A runway winner of the County Hurdle in 2015, the nine-year-old was not disgraced in finishing seventh in last season’s Champion Hurdle after blowing the start.
He went on to claim a surprise victory in the Punchestown Champion Hurdle under the trainer’s son, Patrick Mullins, beating the three-time Champion Hurdle runner-up My Tent Or Yours.
Wicklow Brave has not been seen in competitive action since finishing down the field in the Melbourne Cup for the second time in November, but has been pencilled in for a return to the Cotswolds.
Peacock added: “He had a nice holiday after the Melbourne Cup, but he’s back in work now and hopefully we might get him back for Cheltenham.
“In the year we’re in, if everything went right, I think he could be there or thereabouts in the Champion Hurdle.
“When you look at the form of Buveur D’Air and My Tent Or Yours, if he (Wicklow Brave) runs up to his best he wouldn’t be miles behind them.”
Just 38 entries received for Cheltenham Gold Cup
Just 38 entries have been received for the Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup on Friday, March 16.
The three and a quarter mile showpiece, which carries record prize money of £625,000 in 2018, has attracted a joint record high of 18 trained in Ireland.
Reigning Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup hero, eight-year-old Sizing John (Jessica Harrington IRE), and the talented Might Bite (Nicky Henderson), winner of last year’s RSA Chase at The Festival, are the star names among the entries following contrasting displays over Christmas.
However, racing fans are urged to be patient rather than get caught in the hype for clashes which seldom materialise these days, as horses get injured beforehand or head for other targets, such has been the dilution of once “Championship” races at this meeting.
Indeed, Sizing John fluffed his lines in the Leopardstown Christmas Chase won by Road To Respect (Noel Meade IRE), finishing down the field in seventh, while Might Bite overcame Double Shuffle (Tom George) by a length in the 32Red King George VI Chase at Kempton Park.
Sizing John is bidding to become the first horse to win back-to-back Cheltenham Gold Cups since Best Mate (2002, 2003 & 2004).
Coney Island (Eddie Harty IRE) missed the Christmas action in favour of a three-runner graduation chase at Ascot on December 23, having not raced for just shy of a year, and justified the decision with an impressive nine-length victory over Adrien Du Pont.
The lightly-raced seven-year-old had three starts over fences in his novice season before injury intervened, headlined by a decisive victory over Anibale Fly (Tony Martin IRE) in the Drinmore Novices’ Chase over two and a half miles at Fairyhouse in December, 2016.
Arguably, his best performance came later that month over a half a mile further when going down by a half-length to Our Duke (Jessica Harrington IRE) in the Neville Hotels Novice Chase at Leopardstown.
Trainer Eddie Harty said: “I was delighted with Coney Island at Ascot. He has come out of it fit and well, and is ready to go again.
“He has been entered for the Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup and the Ryanair Chase, and will also have entries in the Irish Gold Cup on February 4 and the Ascot Chase a fortnight later.
“We will go for one of those two and then make a decision about which race to aim for at Cheltenham after that.
“I think the Gold Cup picture looks as much as it did before Christmas. Might Bite did nothing wrong, Sizing John did, but that might have been down to the proximity of his prep race, and nothing else really came to the fore. My fella has shortened up in the betting after Ascot, but it was only a graduation chase. Touch wood and all being well, we will be able to decide where we are going after his prep run.
“I don’t have any concerns about his stamina, but it would have been stupid not to put him in the Gold Cup and the Ryanair as we are still nine weeks out from Cheltenham and can finalise plans nearer the time.”
As well as Might Bite, Nicky Henderson, seeking his third Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup success after Long Run (2011) and Bobs Worth (2013) also has entered Whisper, beaten a nose by his stable companion in the 2017 RSA Chase at The Festival and an excellent neck second in the Ladbrokes Trophy when giving a stone to Total Recall(Willie Mullins IRE) at Newbury in early December.
Irish-trained horses have won three of the last four runnings of the Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup and Ireland’s hand is strengthened further by a team of five from the stable of Willie Mullins.
Mullins, who has saddled the runner-up on five occasions, could call upon Djakadam, second in both 2015 and 2016 and fourth when favourite in 2017, Total Recall, Killultagh Vic, Bachasson and Acapella Bourgeois.
Noel Meade has a strong hand, thanks to recent victor Road To Respect, who was successful in handicap company at The Festival last year, and the progressive Disko, while Gordon Elliott’s three entries include Outlander.
The home challenge features last year’s second and third, Minella Rocco (Jonjo O’Neill) and Native River (Colin Tizzard). The latter is yet to race this season but is being aimed at the race, while Native River’s stablemate Cue Card, a dual winner at The Festival but a faller in the last two Cheltenham Gold Cups, is also engaged.
Coneygree (Mark Bradstock), who in 2015 became the first novice since Captain Christy in 1974 to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup, has recently had a wind operation following two disappointing efforts this season. Kauto Star (2007 & 2009) is the only horse to have regained the Cheltenham Gold Cup crown.
Nigel Twiston-Davies, victorious with Imperial Commander in 2010, is responsible for impressive Betfair Chase hero Bristol De Mai and runaway Becher Handicap Chase victor Blaklion.