The County Cork trainer Michael Winters has yet to saddle a jumps winner in Britain but that may be about to change as he sends over the fascinating Chatham Street Lad (1.50) for a tilt at the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup. The horse is seen as a specialist at his local track, with four wins there, and Cork is very different to Cheltenham, but he had so much in hand when he scored there last month that it is hard to believe he will not get involved.
From the family of the Hennessy winner Broadheath, he is a rapidly improving chaser who makes plenty of appeal at 14-1. He should be well suited by being settled behind the likely fast pace.
Coole Cody will have a good go at following up his Paddy Power success but will surely not get the soft lead he enjoyed then, while the New Course is more of a test. Saint Sonnet is interesting, having been fancied for last month’s race. That was his first run since March and this young horse could do better now.
2.05 Doncaster Ofalltheginjoints would be the clear pick, but for the poor form of the Tizzard yard. That leaves a small but competitive field with Hurricane Harvey preferred, because the step up in trip and softer ground should help.
2.25 Cheltenham Having won Friday’s cross-country, Meath trainer John McConnell can follow up with Make Good, who has shown masses of progress over hurdles this autumn. This is a dramatic step up in distance but he looks likely to cope.
2.40 Doncaster Any Gordon Elliott raider must be respected but Glorious Zoff showed a few weak points when beaten at odds-on at Sedgefield. Monmiral must give weight to all but looks up to it on the strength of his Exeter win. Unlike Glorious Zoff, he might be better going left.
3.00 Cheltenham It’s finding-out time for Goshen, who looks short enough for this first race against older hurdlers, in a contest which has fallen to a four-year-old just once since 2012. The percentage play is to oppose him, for all his promise. Sceau Royal is loving his return to hurdles this season and is narrowly preferred to the likeable Ballyandy.
Chris Cook’s Saturday racing tips
Doncaster 11.50 L’Incorrigible 12.20 Duke Of Navan
12.55 Native Fighter 1.30 Wheesht (nb) 2.05 Hurricane Harvey
2.40 Monmiral 3.15 Jersey Bean
Cheltenham 12.05 Adagio 12.40 Chantry House 1.15 Zanza
1.50 Chatham Street Lad (nap) 2.25 Make Good 3.00 Sceau Royal
Hereford 12.12 One For You 12.47 Brigadier Bob 1.22 Kapga De Lily
1.57 Le Patriote 2.32 No Comment 3.07 Black Centaur 3.42 Roger Rarebit
Newcastle 1.45 Jen’s Fella 2.20 Australis 2.55 Myseven
3.30 Navajo Spring 4.00 Mobaadel 4.30 Eton College 5.00 Suwaan
Wolverhampton 4.15 Dragons Will Rise 4.45 Kingson 5.15 Lleyton
5.45 Daheer 6.15 Pivotal Decision 6.45 Donny Marlow
7.15 One Night Stand 7.45 Friendly Advice 8.15 Eternal Blush
3.15 Doncaster Blinkers really seem to have helped Jersey Bean, who earned a 10lb rise by beating 17 rivals last time. Even so, Oliver Sherwood’s runner is still half a stone below his peak rating from last year and a lot of his rivals here have questions to answer.
3.35 Cheltenham With the Paul Webber team in rare form, getting three wins from their last six runners, Indefatigable is easy to like as she returns to the scene of her Festival success in the Martin Pipe. She was not harshly punished by the handicapper for that and this mares’ handicap looks within her grasp. CC
Crowds return to Cheltenham as Fisher lands a big one
Nicky Henderson was on the punters’ side of the fence here on Friday and enjoying every moment as around 2,000 racegoers returned to the home of jumping. “I’m playing as an owner rather than a trainer today, so I can’t be in there [the winner’s enclosure],” he said. “It’s lovely. It’s never a hollow feeling winning at Cheltenham, but it’s a lot better than the last one.”
A few hundred socially distanced spectators greeted Mister Fisher, Henderson’s winner of the Peterborough Chase, with polite applause rather than a hearty cheer, which is likely to be the norm until the Festival in March and beyond. But some other Cheltenham traditions were back, as the track took what Ian Renton, its managing director, called “a really important step” in the sport’s recovery from the huge losses inflicted by the coronavirus pandemic.
“It’s fantastic them to be able to come on course and enjoy the experience first-hand,” Renton said. “Things remain so much in the balance. We’ve seen the ups-and-downs of what’s happening with Covid at the moment, and we remain totally in the hands of the government.”
Privately, Cheltenham’s executives strongly suspect that the roll-out of coronavirus vaccines and a possible easing of restrictions will come too late to get more than a few thousand people into the track for the Festival. But there is now real hope that an up-and-coming chaser like Mister Fisher will be greeted by a proper crowd here at some point in his career.
The crowd were treated to several close finishes on Friday, none more so than in the Glenfarclas Cross-Country Handicap as Defi Des Carres tied up in the final strides and was touched off on the line by Some Neck, from John McConnell’s stable in Ireland.
It took a very strong ride to get him there, and jockey Ben Harvey was banned for 11 days and fined £400 for using his whip “above the permitted level from the last fence” on his first ride in Britain. Gina Andrews, meanwhile, was reported to be conscious and talking after a heavy fall from Haafapiece at the final flight in the Catesby Handicap Hurdle. GW