The weather may have been inclement but it was good to be racing at Carlisle once again on Monday and, in particular, to see champion elect Brian Hughes ride a four timer which took the Irishman's seasonal tally to 150. The former champion has been fantastic form all season and has been heavily supported by Donald McCain, who himself has enoyed a terrific campaign - the Cheshire based handler sent out a treble himself at the Cumbrian track. The high-class hurdler Ribble Valley was due to make his chasing debut but was withdrawn due to a bruised foot. I was disappointed with Zabeel Champion's effort in the two miles handicap hurdle. Rated 103 on the level for Mark Johnston, he changed hands for 185,000gns in September and having won and finished second over timber at Leicester, the Poet's Voice gelding was seemingly well treated off 116. Jonjo O'Neill's charge attempted to make all but never looked comfortable on the inner track and was coming under pressure when blundering at the last. Beaten six and a half lengths in fourth, he will be more at home on a big galloping track but has something to prove now.
During the afternoon, I spoke to Dan Skelton's assistant Tom Messenger and he reported that the stable's smart mare Elle Est Belle runs in the Listed Sidney Banks Memorial Novice Hurdle at Huntingdon on Thursday in preference to the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury 48 hours later due to the ground. Two miles on a drying surface isn't considered a stiff enough test for the daughter of Fame And Glory.
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