It was disappointing to see My Drogo fall at the second last on his chasing debut at Cheltenham on Friday. The Grade 1 winning novice hurdler had jumped well and was seemingly in control when landing too steeply at the penultimate fence. Thankfully, he appeared to be fine afterwards and lives to fight another day. It was frustrating nevertheless.
A few minutes earlier, another of the Top 40 Prospects in One Jump Ahead, Black Poppy, could only finish third in the two miles maiden hurdle at Worcester. Kerry Lee's gelding had fallen at the second last on his hurdles debut at Bangor last month. Well supported beforehand, there were no excuses as the Kayf Tara gelding was in the firing line throughout and appeared to be travelling strongly after the second last. He failed to quicken thereafter keeping on at the one pace. Beaten nearly five lengths, it would be no surprise to see him step up in trip next time.
I must confess I found the racing overall on the opening day of Cheltenham's November meeting somewhat underwhelming with the exception of the two and a half miles novice chase and the two miles handicap chase. It was the Gary Moore trained Editeur Du Gite who won the latter contest with a terrific round of jumping before showing a resolute attitude on the run-in. The seven year old won the Red Rum Chase at Aintree in the spring and was eight pounds higher but it didn't prevent him from bagging another decent prize. Drying ground is the key to him and it is likely he will back at the track in March for the Grand Annual Chase.
Paul Nicholls' Gelino Bello ran a cracker in the Grade 2 novice hurdle over two miles five. The Saint Des Saints gelding had impressed on his hurdles bow at Aintree in October and he was ready for this step up in class. His jumping was first class and he held every chance between the final couple of furlongs. However, he found the Charles Byrnes trained Blazing Khal too strong on the run-in. The winner possessed that bit more know how and that proved the difference. The Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle is likely to be on his agenda, while the Nicholls runner will come into his own over fences next season and beyond. Gelino Bello is a fine long-term prospect who is very much a three miles chaser in the making. I suspect the result will be a familiar theme this campaign with the home trained runners playing second fiddle to the overseas raiders at the home of National Hunt racing.
I elected not to make any selections in the November Update for Friday's card at Cheltenham and that decision was vinndicated. The last race - an eighteen runner handicap hurdle - was dominated by outsiders with a 33/1 winner from a 50/1 runner-up. No wonder bookmakers want more of these races on terrestrial TV.
I am working for Racing TV at Wetherby on Saturday and will therefore update the Diary on Sunday. Fingers crossed we got all the bad luck out of the way on Friday.
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