Despite advising the Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Sizing John at 10/1, the four days proved frustrating to say the least for followers of the One Jump Ahead Festival Update. Contributors Declan Phelan (Apple's Jade), Denis O'Regan (Tully East) and Graham Wylie (Yorkhill) came up trumps and, while I pinpointed 5 winners during the week, there were a lot of selections who ran well for minimum reward. The likes of Singlefarmpayment, Gold Present, Monalee and Gardefort all finished second at decent prices, plus Next Destination, Verdana Blue, Mall Dini and Winter Escape ran well but just failed to reach the placings (some bookmakers paid out on fourth and fifth in their respective races). It was one of those weeks. Thank you to those clients who have emailed - some evidently had a better week than yours truly. Thank you also to those who backed Brio Conti (8/1) at Kempton yesterday. He was an impressive and welcome winner and confirmed Paul Nicholls' view that he is a well handicapped young hurdler.
In terms of performances at the Festival, I was very impressed with Defi Du Seuil in the Triumph Hurdle on Friday. Philip Hobbs' ex-French gelding made it six out of six over timber with a faultless display. Confidently ridden by Richard Johnson, he toyed with the likes of Mega Fortune and had the prize in safe keeping a long way from home. He looks a tremendous prospect and arguably one of the most exciting horses his trainer has handler.
Yorkhill had impressed in his two starts over fences earlier in the season but he was a different proposition in the JLT Novice Chase on Thursday. Jumping much more fluenty, his victory was sealed with a magnificent leap at the second last. Idling on the run-in, the winning margin grossly flattered the runner-up Top Notch. Not surprisingly, Ruby Walsh views him as a future Gold Cup contender. If he learns to settle, one couldn't disagree because there is no disputing his talent. Yorkhill possesses a huge engine.
The Gold Cup itself was a compelling spectacle with the winner Sizing John having too much speed for his opponents. Placed in the Supreme and Arkle in the past, Jessica Harrington's gelding has improved since stepped up in trip and he appeared to have Djakadam's measure when that horse made a mistake at the second last. Granted luck, he should be back to defend his crown next year. While Native River ran well in third, it proved to be a disappointing week for Colin Tizzard considering the publicity his string received on the lead up to the meeting. Cue Card fell at the same fence (third last) which claimed him last year as well, but he seemed to be struggling at the time.
I had doubts regarding the track for Buveur D'Air but they proved well wide of the mark with Nicky Henderson's gelding producing a terrific performance in the Champion Hurdle. It may not have been a vintage renewal but he won it with great authority and is clearly a top-class hurdler. He coped with the drying conditions very well and had his rivals in bother before the home turn.
Altior may not have been at his brilliant best but he was still good enough to claim his second Festival win in the Arkle Trophy. Kim Bailey and David Bass are adamant Charbel would have gone close had he not come down at the penultimate fence. It is impossible to say what would have happened. Cloudy Dream justified his place in the field finishing second. Malcolm Jefferson's grey jumped and travelled well but couldn't quite match the winner's finishing kick. There is talk of him heading to Aintree but I would be inclined t leave him off until Ayr and head to Scotland for the Future Champions' Novices' Chase - he would take some stopping there. However, his owner Trevor Hemmings is always keen to have runners at Liverpool so I suspect he will turn up there next.
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