As the flat season fizzled out with cards at Doncaster and Newbury, culminating in the RP Trophy being won by Rivet for William Haggas, Cheltenham held another decent card as the jumps really begins to get going. Rivet looks a very nice horse indeed however, and taking out his Newmarket run looks a Classic contender whether this be the Guineas or the Derby. Yucatan was clearly well fancied by the ‘lads’ and looks to have beaten a string horse into second very comfortably. Anyway, on to Cheltenham… After all it’s only five months till March!
3 00 SCEAU ROYAL (A King) 9/2, C2 4YO Hurdle, 2M, Good
This was an impressive return to form for Alan King’s 4YO. A peripheral factor for much of the race as Daryl Jacob kept him running smoothly out the back. It was only late on when Jacob hustled him forwards a couple out that he quickly took over the running of the race, all still on the bridle. He jumped the last nicely and the race was put to bed in a matter of strides, streaking clear by 10L plus. Connections were quick not to go overboard and will hope this early season form doesn’t fizzle out in a repeat of last season. The Wincanton Hurdle seems the next step, as Ascot may come too soon next weekend. The race was a decent one, and not any better than that – we must be careful not to read too far into it, as there won’t be many graded horses coming from it for sure.
3 30 FOX NORTON (N Mulholland) 5/2, C2 HC Chase, 2M, Good
In what was probably the race of the day over the jumps, the market spoke very strongly of Fox Norton, as he was punted in from 6/1 to an SP of 5/2. He had a strong novice chasing campaign amongst top company and his class duly told at Cheltenham. He went ahead at the top of the hill and never looked back, stretching the field out quickly as his rivals struggled to keep tabs. The 6YO was a bit weary heading to the line, but we can forgive him doe to the burning pace deployed through the early stages up front. He was undoubtedly incredibly well treated off a mark of 146 and Mulholland stated afterwards that that is likely to be it for HCap’s, as the Shloer Chase looks the immediate target. It was a valuable day for Mulholland’s yard and Noel Fehily as Shantou Village brought up a double for the team.