Former Champion Hurdle winner Faugheen made a successful return to action in the Morgiana Hurdle at Punchestown. The nine year old had been sidelined since January last year but showed in the Grade 1 event he retains plenty of ability with a brilliant display. A sixteen lengths winner, he now heads the ante-post markets for the Champion Hurdle once again and will presumably head to Kempton on Boxing Day as he bids to win the Christmas Hurdle for a third time.
Fox Norton was the star of the show on the third day of Cheltenham's November meeting winning his second consecutive Shloer Chase by eight lengths. Bryan Cooper's mount readily swept past Champion Chase winner Special Tiara before the home turn and never looked in danger thereafter. The Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown early next month is likely to be his next target. A top-class chaser, the King George at Kempton could still enter calculations if the same owner's Gold Cup winner Sizing John fluffs his lines in the Betfair Chase at Haydock next Saturday. Cloudy Dream was no mtach for the winner but he ran well in second on ground he didn't enjoy and over a trip shy of his best. He remains a promising young chaser who is likely to be aimed at the Gold Cup next March.
It was a disappointiing day for Nicky Henderson with both River Wylde and Dame De Compagnie failing to handle the testing conditions - the pair were in trouble at the top of the hill. The same comments probably also applies to the supposedly well handicapped Jenkins. He, too, was struggling a long way from home. It was a day to forget for the champion trainer.
There were a couple of winners in the Update, including Melrose Boy who won the opening conditional jockey's handicap hurdle for Harry Fry. Indeed, Paul Nicholls' former assistant was winning the race for the third year on the trot with a horse making his handicap debut. He certainly looked ahead of the assessor. I thought the fourth Lip Service ran well on his first outing for Fergal O'Brien. Slowly away, he wasn't given the most positive or rides before staying on at the death. There is more mileage in his rating, too.
Declan Phelan's Irish Pointers continue to churm out the winner with two more this afternoon. Slate House won the Grade 2 novice hurdle at Cheltenham and looks a fine long-term prospect. While he doing his stuff over the minimum trip at present, I suspect he will end up contesting the Neptune Novices' Hurdle in March. Rapid Escape made it two from two in bumper this Autumn when winning easily at Punchestown. Lisa O'Neill always looked in control aboard Gordon Elliott's gelding and he wasn't hard pressed to win by four lengths. He will make a useful novice hurdler when the time comes.
I am heading to London tomorrow a Racing UK jumps preview programme on Tuesday. I will therefore be back to update the Diary later in the week.
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