It was great to be back at Cheltenham Racecourse for the start of the journey that ends with the Festival in March. Friday was a little overcast at times but this great racecourse was bathed in glorious sunshine on the Saturday. The going was good (good to firm in places) on both days. Overall. the quality of runners at The Showcase was better than last year and there were some really impressive performances.
None more so than Clerk’s Choice who put up a striking performance in the Class 2 Hurdle for 4 year olds on Saturday when beating Grade 1 winners and Orsippus. Whilst the former and Royal Mix duelled out in front, Clerk’s Choice was cruising in behind only to sweep through two out to win going away. Lots of time and racing to go before the Festival but you’d have to think there was a possibility he will turn up in the Champion Hurdle. Bookies quote him at 33/1 for that race. He’s also quoted at 16/1 by Stan James for the Supreme Novices which is a bit tight as he’s not eligible to run! MC Banks who trains a small string in Bedfordshire also owns this exciting prospect.
In the Handicap Chase, Edgbriar came back with a win after a 189 day break but his jockey Dominic Elsworth had been off for even longer having been knocked unconscious at Ffos Las in August last year. The combination may well attempt to follow up in the Paddy Power Gold Cup on Saturday 13 November and could turn into a Ryanair prospect if he continues his upward curve.
Chicago Grey and Russian War provided a back to back double for Gordon Elliott and Paul Carberry but in terms of March the more relevant performance was from Kilmurry in the 2 mile Novice Chase. Colin Tizzard’s 5 year old impressed with his enthusiasm and could well turn into an Arkle contender for which bookies offer 20/1 generally. He may appear in the Novices Chase on the Sunday of the Open Meeting.
Finally, two previous Cheltenham Festival 2008 winners were in action in the last few days. Champion Hurdle winner Katchit reappeared at Kempton on Sunday and Celestial Halo winner of the Triumph tried fences for the first time at Exeter today. Neither covered themselves in glory with Katchit a well beaten 2nd and Celestial Halo falling.