Pictures: Jack Williams

Hunter Chase Evening, Cheltenham Racecourse, Friday May 4 2018

Race 1 – The Brian Babbage Memorial Open Hunters’ Steeplechase

Monsieur Gibraltar ran out an impressive winner of the opener on Hunter Chase Evening under Mr Lorcan Williams, who in the process recorded his first win at the course on his first ride.

Trained by Mrs Rose Loxton, the 7-year-old favourite defied top weight, even with the jockeys claim, to score by 15 lengths at the line.

Loughaderra Prince and Brave Jaq set a decent pace, with the 2016 winner Sam Cavallaro up with the pace, instead of his usual position of at the rear of the pack. The pace was a quick one that soon found a couple of rivals wanting, with Azure Glamour slow at the ditch down the back, and who promptly received reminders from jockey Mr James King. Guiting Power was also asked to pick his ideas up by Mr Simon Morgan.

The pace quickened at the top of the hill as the field went towards 4 out, with Champione the first to cry enough, tailing off as the field began to head towards the fence. Old Pride blundered at it, whilst Mr Sawyer began to beat a retreat as the field freewheeled towards 3 out.

Mr Lorcan Williams pulled Monsieur Gibraltar wide at 3 out to get a good sighter at the fence, and to avoid any possible incident that may have accorded. Dido and Extreme Appeal were also making eyecatching progress as the field headed down the hill.

Loughaderra Prince took up the running from Brave Jaq, his early exertions taking their toll on him as he dropped back. Sadma followed into second, closely shadowed on the outside by Monsieur Gibraltar and Sam Cavallaro behind them. Off the bend and into the home straight, Monsieur Gibraltar cruised alongside the leader and jumped two out level with them. As soon as they had landed, Lorcan asked him to go on towards the last, of which he duly obliged, and flew the last. He effortlessly drew away from his rivals in the style of a very good horse, winning barely extended by 15 lengths from Loughaderra Prince and Sam Cavallaro.

Race 2 – The Connnolly’s Red Mills Intermediate Point-To-Point Championship Final Hunters’ Chase

It was a case of history repeating itself in the second at Cheltenham, with last years winning connections of owner Miss A.M.Reed, Trainer Richard J.Bandey and jockey Mr Martin McIntyre once again gracing Cheltenham’s winners enclosure, this time with the 50/1 shot Fortune Bound, having scored last year with Woodfleet.

Blazing Tom missed the break as the tapes went up, but they needn’t have worried as there was hardly any pace at all, only a calm one set by the leaders, with the eventual winner amongst the leaders, but always travelling well, as was evident at the ditch when seemingly being restrained back by the jockey to conserve stamina for what is a punishing finish.

One horse that was running in snatches was the favourite Duhallow Tornado, jockey Mr Tom Strawson having to pull him wide to get a sight at his fences and to issue a few reminders as the race went on. Following Mama joined him at the 11th in running in snatches, both receiving reminders. Further reminders were administered at the 13th to Following Mama, with Blazing Tom blundering his way through the 13th.

Duhallow Tornado made a mistake going down the back, with Strawson getting further animated aboard him, and leaving favourite backers concerned. By the top of the hill, Mahler’s Spirit was starting to tail off, and just after 4 out Fortune Bound went on, attempting to run the sting out of his rivals, with Thegirlfrommilan giving chase.

At 3 out, Fortune Bound held an 8 length advantage over Thegirlfrommilan, with Kalabaloo giving further chase. Over the last it appeared Fortune Bound had done enough, but he started to wander, with Thegirlfrommilan flying home from Kalabaloo, but Fortune Bound was always on top at the finish. The somewhat disappointing favourite Duhallow Tornado stayed on for fourth, suggesting that a further step up in trip is what he requires. Perhaps he will be entered for the 4 mile contest at next year’s meeting?

Race 3 – The Hunt Staff Benefit Society Open Hunters’ Chase

Foxcub and Miss Emma Yardley won a dramatic renewal of the Hunt Staff Benefit Society Open Hunters’ Chase.

Even before the race had started there was incident, with Bally River Boy jinking and unseating Miss Ally Stirling after leaving the walkway from the parade ring. He then proceeded to do an entire lap of Cheltenham Racecourse before being caught, and despite Ally remounting, the horse had been withdrawn.

Light Flicker made a sketchy jump at the first down the back on the final circuit, Mr Simon George doing well to keep the partnership. He and a group of 4 others went clear heading to 5 out at the top of the hill, with Minella Friend and Kit Barry dropping out. Foxcub had also been given reminders going away from the fence.

At 4 out it was a mistake too far for Light Flicker as he fell, and in the process he hampered Stoleaway, who was travelling well, causing him to unseat jockey Mr Alex Edwards. Heading to 3 out Foxcub had closed in to Findlay’s Friend, who had been left in front after the incident at the previous fence. At both the second last and last fences, Foxcub did jump out to the right, which gave Findlay’s Friend a chance to challenge, but he was always being held by the winner, and in the process fended off Kit Barry, who had stayed on after being outpaced at the top of the hill.

Race 4 – The Timico Mixed Open Gold Cup Final Huners’ Chase

Barel Of Laughs retained his title in imposing fashion from jockey Mr Alex Edwards and trainer Philip Rowley.

The 12 year old had missed the Lady Dudley Cup at Chaddesley Corbett, a race he won enroute to success in the same race last year, to be in as prime condition as possible for the defence of his title.

Sent off the 1/2F, he brought some excellent form into the race, as he was two places ahead of the Rose Loxton trained Caid Du Berlais when third at the Cheltenham Festival in the Foxhunter’s Chase. Caid Du Berlais has then gone on subsequently win the Champion Hunters’ Chase at the Punchestown Festival in impressive fashion.

Sentimental Journey was the first to depart, having made a mistake at the 12th. He was brought wide by jockey Mr Nathan Rahman, and due to a slipped saddle he was pulled up, in what can only be seen as a huge disappointment for connections.

The favourite was always jumping well, whereas a few of his rivals were lagging in that department, notably Abricot De L’Oasis, who all but fell four out and unshipped Mr Frederick Henderson, just as he had asked for a big one from the horse.

Coming down the hill however it appeared that all was not going as the punters had planned, as Barel Of Laughs was 3 lengths down turning in and being asked some serious questions, whilst Asockastar looked likely to spring a 50/1 upset in the race. 2 out, Barel Of Laughs was closing in on the leader, whilst The Wealerdealer, 2nd to Barel Of Laughs in last year’s renewal, jinked left after jumping the fence, sending Will Biddick out the side door. Having bridged the gap, Barel Of Laughs produced another excellent jump to take the lead, and stayed on strongly up the Cheltenham hill, powering away to win in command by 7 lengths from Asockastar, with over 20 lengths to the third horse Pentiffic.

Race 5 – The Visit Mares Open Hunters’ Chase

Popaway took the Visit Mares Open Hunters’ Chase, having been a previous winner of the race in 2016 and third last year.

Always prominent, jockey Miss Immy Robinson had her nicely positioned just off the pace, enabling her to get a good sight at her fences.

Maybe Plenty was a bit squiffy at some of her fences, with at least twice the jockey Miss Katy Lyons resorting to “hailing a cab”, a term used when the rider has one hand on the reins and the other forced off them and in the air above the head, as if they were calling a taxi, to maintain the partnership.

Approaching the top turn, Mr Bradley Gibbs aboard last years winner Frelia was starting to send out distress signals, as she had quickly lost her place. And at four out the towel was thrown in by Bradley, and he pulled her up, which was a huge disappointment given her recent form and how she had won this corresponding race last year by 51 lengths.

Four out also took away the chances of a horse and rider, as it had done earlier in the day, when Roseyroo blundered and sent Mr Darren Andrews out the side door, with no hope of staying on.

At the head of affairs, Teeton Power and Popaway knuckled down to fight it out entering the straight. Having gone clear after 2 out, Popaway went and winged the last to career up the Cheltenham hill. She stayed on strongly to win by 12 lengths to Teeton Power, Queen Olivia And Dabinett Moon.

Race 6 – The Cheltenham Club Open Hunters’ Chase

Excitable Island and Miss Gina Andrews took the Cheltenham Club Open Hunters’ Chase, after a Stewards Enquiry and subsequent objection by the Clerk Of The Scales disqualified the original first past the post combination of Battle Dust and Mr Alex Edwards.

A decent pace was set by Hard Station, a sensible decision given the four mile distance of the race. Heading out onto the final circuit, the tempo was increased by the leader. Heading over the 18th, Battle Dust jumped it cleanly, but the motions of the jockey suggested that the saddle had slipped. It became more noticeable at the next, with Alex shifting his body weight to the left to attempt to maintain the partnership.

At the 20th, the leader Hard Station crashed out, barely getting halfway up and giving the jockey Mr Martin McIntyre no chance of staying on. Approaching the 22nd, some on the inside of the course and in the stands noticed the rear of Battle Dust’s saddle flapping, as if it was loose. Shortly after the fence, a cloth fell off and rolled under the rail. Around 15 strides later, just around the corner and approaching 4 out, it appears that the weightcloth fell off the horse, with the saddlecloth slipping back towards the hind quarters of Battle Dust. Further incident and dismay came for the jockey, when just over 4 out he lost his whip, so had to resort to hands and heels for the rest of the race.

Mon Parrain and Miss Page Fuller had been left in front after the departure of Hard Station, and pressed on ahead of Excitable Island and Battle Dust coming to 3 out.

Turning in, Page shook up Mon Parrain to go 3 lengths up, with commentator Martyn Harris noting that the weightcloth may not have been present on Battle Dust, and that we would all find out later if so.

Mon Parrain was joined by Excitable Island and Battle Dust at 2 out. Heading to the last, and just as he was about to jump the fence, the number cloth of Battle Dust fell off, leaving just the saddle under the jockey. He and Excitable Island drew away from a spent Mon Parrain, with the former staying on stoutly to be first passed the post.

It was evident though that Alex knew his fate, and what would be happening post race, as he cut a dejected figure as he rode Battle Dust off the course onto the run up to the walkway, and also when entering the winner’s enclosure. Trainer Philip Rowley stated that “some idiot” didn’t do it up properly, perhaps noting to himself, although this is disputed. Alex weighed in 12lbs light, having weighed in at 11-1 instead of 11-13, and after an objection by the Clerk Of The Scales, he was disqualified from first place, with Excitable Island and Miss Gina Andrews promoted to winner from second place.

Race 7 – The GX Landrovers Open Hunters’ Chase

Mr Mercurial was successful again at Cheltenham’s Hunter Chase Evening when winning the GX Landrovers Open Hunters’ Chase.

Successful in the The Connnolly’s Red Mills Intermediate Point-To-Point Championship Final Hunters’ Chase in 2015, he scored by 6 lengths from last year’s winner Full Trottle for trainer Sheila Crow and jockey Mr Henry Crow.

Henry had settled the winner in the rear of the field during the 2m 4f contest, with Creepy and Miss Claire Hardwick setting a decent pace alongside Full Trottle and Mr Sam Lee with Ni Sin E Mo Ainm and Distime bringing up the rear. However, the latter duo started to tail off going to the top of the hill with 6 furlongs to run, where also Creepy lost his place rapidly and was pulled up, his early exertions taking a toll.

Coming down the hill it became clear that Mr Mercurial, switched on the outside by Henry, was making extremely eye catching progress from the rear. Approaching two out, the former Fergal O’Brien trained Silver Roque and previous David Pipe inmate Shotavodka has gone two lengths up, and looked to have the race between them. Mr Mercurial and Full Trottle had other plans though, and rallied to join them at the last, all 4 jumping it as one in a thrilling finish to the finale.

Mr Mercurial was driven clear by Henry Crow, staying on stoutly up the Cheltenham hill to score by half a dozen lengths from Full Trottle, with Silver Roque a further half length behind. Shotavodka faded into 5th near the finish, with Crazy Jack flying home for 4th, ridden coincidently by the winning jockey’s brother Gillan Crow.