It was disappointing to see The Big Breakaway beaten on his second start over fences at Exeter. Dropping back in trip having won over three miles on his chasing bow at Cheltenham last month, Colin Tizzard's gelding was contesting the same two miles three novice chase which Defi Du Seuil had beaten Topofthegame and Black Op in 2018. Robbie Power's mount attempted to make all but it was clear from a very early stage that things weren't going to plan. The Getaway gelding didn't jump with the same fluency as he had previously and his jockey never looked happy. The trip almost certainly didn't play to his strengths as he couldn't match the speed of the winner Bold Plan after the last, but I will be surprised if he is racing on a right-handed track again anytime soon. It was his first run going this way round and I don't think it suited him. Admittedly, the winner is a useful horse who won a valuable handicap hurdle over this trip at Haydock last season, plus he was receiving eight pounds from The Big Breakaway. However, I don't think the runner-up ran within a stone of his best form. It will be interesting to see where he runs next but I am hoping it won't be in either the Kauto Star or Reynoldstown Novice Chases at Kempton and Ascot respectively. Don't forget, Santini raced right handed for the first time in the Kauto Star Novice Chase and was off the bridle virtually from the outset and yet he went close to win the RSA Chase a few months later.
Ironically, Evan Williams had been enduring a lean spell but the Welshman bounced back with a high profile double on Friday. Star Gate made it two out of two over hurdles winning the Grade 2 Winter Novices' Hurdle at Sandown in impressive fashion. Bought for £140,000 having won a point-to-point for Colin Bowe, the Imperial Monarch gelding won on his Rules debut at Chepstow in November when beating Everglow. Upped in class, he readily accounted for two rivals at the Esher track pulling clear on the run-in to score by eight and a half lengths. He looks another exciting prospect for the Ruckers who have been such tremendous supporters of Evan and jump racing as a whole.
Indeed, it was a very good day for Declan Phelan's Irish Pointers article with both Orby's Legend (9/2) and Star Gate (5/4) winning.
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