Paul Nicholls and Dan Skelton dominated the third and final day of Cheltenam's November meeting with five winners between them. The champion trainer's hat-trick comprised of Threeunderthrufive, Yala Enki and Timeforatune - the last named one of the Bromley's Best Buys section in One Jump Ahead. An expensive purchase (£175,000) out of Brian Eckley's yard, the five year old has won three out of three in bumpers and is set to go hurdling now.
Nube Negra was an emphatic winner of the Shloer Chase with last season's Champion Chase runner-up staying on strongly after the last to win by half a dozen lengths. The race couldn't have worked out much better with the seven year old sat off the pace set by Politologue. His task was made easier by the fact Put The Kettle On failed to fire and was never travelling under Aidan Coleman. Previously unbeaten at the track, the mare may not have enjoyed the fast ground. The winner moved smoothly into contention coming down the hill and always had the front running grey in his sights. Rouge Vif, who was having his first run for Paul Nicholls, raced keenly and was a spent force before the hometurn. Produced after the second last, Nube Negra readily put the race to bed. Best fresh, I suspect he won't have too many more races between now and March as he bids to go one better in the race which matters the most. It was a fine start to his season but it will be a different ball game when facing the likes of Energemene and Shishkin.
The Skelton's completed a famous double shortly afterwards when West Cork proved well treated off 134 in the Greatwood Hurdle. Making his handicap debut and returning from an absence of 631 days, the lightly raced seven year old jumped well and travelled powerfully. Produced to lead between the final two flight, he produced a bold leap at the last and then fended off the determined challenge of Adagio, who ran a terrific race under top weight, to prevail by three parts of a length. It was a superb training performance by Team Skelton. Following North Hill Harvey's victory in 2016, it was their second success in the prestigious event.
A big thank you to owner Mike Newbould who pointed me in the right direction for Update readers. I spoke to the North Yorkshire based patron earlier in the week and he said West Cork had worked all over Protektorat last Saturday morning. Confidence was therefore high, especially after the handicapper dropped the Midnight Legend gelding five pounds during his spell on the sidelines. It was a terrific result for subscribers.
It was therefore an excellent day for the November Update which could have been even better had Oscar Elite kept his feet at the third last in the staying novices' chase which opened the card on Sunday. Colin Tizzard's gelding, who had finished runner-up in the Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle in March, was going well when Brendan Powell asked for a big jump. It is easy to say with hindsight but there was no need to ask for such a jump because he appeared to have the two main rivals covered, plus he was in receipt of eight pounds from the pair. Can you imagine one of the top Irish jockeys making their move so soon? Three out at Cheltenham is still a fair way from home.
As regards the selections on Saturday, Magistrato looked one paced when only finishing fourth in the Grade 2 juvenile hurdle. Harry Cobden enjoyed a dream run on inside at the second last and looked set to put the race to bed rounding the home turn. However, the ex-French gelding couldn't match the speed of the Flat racer Knight Salute. On this evidence, he is going to need much softer ground if he is to mix it at the highest level in three year old hurdles.
Predictably, Third Time Lucki outclassed his rivals in the Grade 2 novice chase protecting his unbeaten record over the larger obstacles in the process. Inclined to race keenly once again, he hit the front a long way from home - nothing was good enough to lead him for longer. Driven out for a four and three quarters of a length win, he could be steered towards the Grade 1 Henry VIII Novices' Chase at Sandown early next month, provided the ground isn't too slow. He needs to learn to relax in his races though if he is going to trouble the very best Irish two mile novices. His jumping is superb though.
Stablemate Protektorat came within three parts of a length of winning the Paddy Power Gold Cup. Racing off a mark of 154 and a weight of 11st 12lb, the Grade 1 winning novice chaser jumped well bar one mistake but still had plenty to do after the third last. Staying on strongly in the homestraight, he was closing on the winner Midnight Shadow with every stride and would have been in front in another twenty yards. It was a big performance under such a welter burden. Fair play to Harvey and Sue Smith who have endured a fairly lean twelve months but have produced two significant winners at Prestbury Park during that time. Vintage Clouds was a Festival winner in March and Midnight Shadow was recording his third course win following victories in the Grade 2 Relkeel Hurdle and Dipper Novices' Chase. The eight year old overcame a mistake at the last and managed to hang on. Both Dostal Phil and Galahad Quest ran well in fourth and fifth respectively and the pair will be of interest in the Caspian Caviar Chase at the track next month - both horses will be suited by the more stamina sapping New course, which the two and a half miles contest is run on.
Thank you to those clients who emailed on Sunday, it is much appreciated. West Cork made the meeting. Aside from this weekend's action, there is plenty more in the Update to keep tabs on, including a couple of runners on Monday. I will be back to update the Diary early week - there are a number of the Top 40 declared/entered to run over the next few days, we just need some rain.
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