The two miles three novices' chase at Exeter was the highlight of the day on Friday and it saw a return to form by the 2017 Triumph Hurdle winner Defi Du Seuil. Philip Hobbs' charge produced an indifferent round of jumping on his fencing bow at Cheltenham last month when finishing a well beaten last of five. Stepping up in trip, the five year old was a different proposition on this occasion, showing too much pace for his rivals before scoring by three and a half lengths. Both Defi Du Seuil and stablemate Jerrysback ran poorly on their first start over fences at Cheltenham's November but the pair have bounced back with a vengeance since.
Runner-up Topofthegame ran a remarkable race in second having forfeited at least twenty lengths at the start having shied at the tape. Given time to get back into the contest, Harry Cobden's mount had every chance in the home straight but couldn't match the winner's turn of foot. Suited by longer trips, the former Irish pointer looks an RSA Chase contender and will be hard to beat next time. Grade 1 winning novice hurdler Black Op was beaten around four lengths in third but he showed more than enough to suggest he will take high rank over fences this term. Unfortunately, Noel Fehily was unable to take the ride (had a fall at Wincanton yesterday), which meant Sam Twiston-Davies took over the reins for the first time. I think he would have been much closer with Fehily on.
It was a strange day at Sandown - only six of the fourteen who lined up in the two and a half miles novices' handicap chase, while Ffos Las scorer and favourite Truckin Away was an early casualty in the Grade 2 Winter Novices' Hurdle. The former event was won by David Pipe's Warthog, who galloped his rivals into the ground on his chasing debut. The grey produced some spectacular leaps down the backstraight and could be called the winner a long way from home with all the carnage in behind. Alan King has a strong team of mares and Alsa Mix made it three out of three since joining the Barbury Castle team having won her only Irish point-to-point. A workmanlike winner on her hurdles bow at Exeter last month, she handled the desperate conditions very well and also appreciated this longer trip.
Overall, it was another good day for followers of the Talking Trainers section of One Jump Ahead with Alsa Mix (12/1), Champagne Well (6/4), Defi Du Seuil (9/1) and Warthog (16/1) all scoring on Friday.
I am working at Aintree tomorrow and looking forward to the Becher and Grand Sefton Chases over the National fences. Their are six Irish raiders in the former event, including a couple trained by Gordon Elliott. Ireland haven't won the race since 2009. Half of the field (18 runners) are making their seasonal reappearances. The ground is bound to be testing, a comment which applies applies to conditions at Chepstow and Sandown. Winter has well and truly arrived. I will update the Diary early next week. Enjoy the weekend.
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