Mark Howard Publications Ltd

Day two of the Festival

16-March-2022 19:25
in General
by Admin

While there were some terrific performances on the track, not least from Sir Gerhard in the opening Ballymore Novices' Hurdle, I can't remember a day at the Cheltenham Festival I have enjoyed less than the second day of this year's meeting. Admittedly, my selections in the Update were as good as the weather, but the fact Bravemansgame was withdrawn - quite rightly - from the Brown Advisory Novices' Chase and Shishkin was in trouble after a couple of fences in the Queen Mother Champion Chase, meant the whole afternoon was a huge anti-climax. The heavy rain throughout the afternoon spoilt things and the clerk of the course's decision to water even though rain was forecast wasn't the wisest move.

That aside, Sir Gerhard produced a superb effort to win the Ballymore NH despite the fact he raced too keenly. Paul Townend's mount still had too much speed for his rivals and took over after the second last. Pushed out for a three and a half lengths win, he is a top-class horse and connections now face a tough decision whether to remain over timber next season and go down the Champion Hurdle route or go over fences and aim at the Arkle Trophy. He will be a threat whichever route he takes. Three Stripe Life ran a personal best in second and appreciated the step up in distance. Davy Russell gave his mount every chance but was beaten by a better horse. Thankfully, Journey With Me got to his feet after a tired fall at the last when beaten. Similar to Capodanno in the Brown Advisory, he ran in the wrong race at the meeting.

I was very disappointed with the two selections in the Coral Cup, especially Saint Felicien. The rain was expected to suit the ex-French gelding but Robbie Power's mount was in trouble soon after the fourth last. Pulled up soon afterwards, his connections reported the ground was too soft. Drop The Anchor finished fourteenth of the fifteen finishers - he was struggling halfway down the backstraight. His trainer reported that the eight year old 'possibly didn't see out the 2m 5f trip in the soft ground.' He wouldn't have won over any trip.

Energumene was a deserved win of the Champion Chase making the most of a golden opportunity following the departures of stablemate Chacun Pour Soi and Shishkin. Runner-up behind the latter in the Clarence House Chase at Ascot last time, he was given a more patient ride by Paul Townend on this occasion and, while the race fell apart and failed to live up to the billing, he outclassed those opponents who stayed on their feet. The eight year old provided Willie Mullins with his first win in the two mile showpiece.

The bumper had an air of inevitability after what had happened earlier in the afternoon. American Mike ran a cracker in second but had the misfortune to bump into an exceptional winner. Jamie Codd kept him to the outside and went to the front approaching the home straight. Patrick Mullins followed him through on Facile Vega and had the superior turn of foot winning by nearly four lengths. Needless to say, the pair are very good indeed.

The weather is due to be much brighter on Thursday and Friday but the damage has been done and it is likely to be sticky and holding on day three at least. Paul Nicholls has already withdrawn Saint Calvados and Simply The Betts from the Ryanair and Plate respectively. The champion trainer will be frustrated this evening - I know how he feels - but he has made the right decision in the long run. Bravemansgame will take some stopping at Aintree and that is one of the reason's why he has been multiple champion.


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