i was at a soggy Trials Day at Cheltenham today. It was a chance to look forward to the Festival – just over six weeks away, but also to look back.
We paid respect to Richard Woollacott, a trainer seemingly with every reason to look forward but who tragically succombed to the dark cloud of depression earlier this week. We remembered the valiant Many Clouds, who beat Thistlecrack in the Cotswold Chase this day last year, in what was probably the race of the season. Both horses paid for their supreme efforts, There was horror across the racecourse as news came through that Many Clouds had collapsed soon after the line, and Thistlecrack has never been the same horse since. Incidentally it was disappointing not to be able to enjoy the new Many Clouds short film which previewed at the Course after racing. Watching in the Centaur, the poor sound quality meant we didn’t stay long. Something to look forward to online I suspect.
Important to look back and respect. But if horse racing is about nothing else, it is about looking forward, Any Festival winners today? Maybe Mister Whitaker for the novice handicap chase on the Tuesday? Maybe Santini – though more likely it seems in the RSA next year. According to the market it will be Apple’s Shakira in the Triumph Hurdle, but I don’t know. She has won three small field races on soft ground, and while she is brilliantly bred (sister to Apple’s Jade), gets the mare’s allowance and clearly stays every yard of the trip the Triumph will be an entirely different test.
Doubt it will be Agrapart – a horse who I remember with a scowl when he rallied to beat that ‘dodgepot’ L’Ami Serge on New Year’s Day 2017. Top owners Simon Munir and Isaac Suede must be fed up with Agrapart as they had the second to him again in the consistent Wholestone.
Doubt it will be Frodon, who looked very impressive in running right away from the field under top weight in the 2m4f handicap, but I’ll argue he beat a load of non stayers and other exposed horses. Finally I also doubt it will be Definitely Red, a good winner of the Cotswold. I backed him and American but fancied the runner up who looked all over the winner coming down the hill, only for Definitely Red to run past him in a matter of strides. An admirable horse, well handled by Brian Ellison but a Gold Cup winner?
Two final thoughts. Brilliant to see two female jockeys winning big races at Cheltenham. Both Lizzie Kelly and Bryony Frost are good jockeys full stop – male or female. They get horses running for them and can continue to do well. Frost in particular seems to have that something about her and riding the Nicholls horses, can go much further.
And one thing I definitely got right today – Bristol De Mai will only ever win in bottomless going on a flat track. Otherwise no chance in top company. He could end up winning a series of Betfair Chases and nothing else. Also avoid Finian’s Oscar. Colin Tizzard seems to have turned him into a real rogue.
We’ll be back for the big week soon Cheltenham. Can’t wait!