There was some good action on Thursday with Ribble Valley producing a smart performance on his return to action at Carlisle. Nicky Richards' charge hadn't been seen since pulling too hard before finishing second in the Grade 2 Kennel Gate Novices' Hurdle at Ascot in December. The Westerner gelding subsequently underwent a wind operation and reappeared in an intermediate hurdle at the Cumbrian track. Given a confident ride by Brian Hughes, the seven year old sauntered into the lead after the second last and only had to be nudged out to win by five and a half lengths. The Grade 1 Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle (28th November) next month is expected to be his next port of call and that will reveal whether the lightly raced gelding can develop into a top-class hurdler. There is no doubt he is a horse with a big engine and is held in the highest regard at Greystoke.
Dan Skelton's novice chasers have been in fine form during the Autumn with Shan Blue and Flegmatik scoring last week. That trend continued when Protektorat made all to win the two miles beginners chase by seven lengths. Despite having tendency to jump to his left on occasions, the ex-French gelding produced a terrific round of fencing before galloping his rivals into the ground. The five year old was rated 143 over hurdles and will almost certainly surpass that mark over the larger obstacles. The Grade 2 novice chase at Cheltenham's November meeting (15th November) could be next and it will take a fair sort to peg him back.
There were also a couple of noteworthy performances in the two divisions of the two miles three maiden hurdle. Threeunderthrufive won a bumper at Chepstow in January and Paul Nicholls' youngster made an excellent start to his jumping career with a five and a half lengths win in the first division. Still raw, his jumping was novicey on occasions but there is no mistaking his ability. The Shantou gelding will come into his own over fences eventually. The second division was won in even more convincing fashion by the unbeaten Bear Ghylls. A wide margin bumper winner at Warwick last season (runner-up won since), he raced keenly early on and was taken wide by Matt Griffiths. However, it didn't prevent him from staying on strongly after the second last (mistake at the final flight). A four and a half lengths winner, trainer Nicky Martin has a serious prospect on her hands. Having been impressed with his bumper win, I am kicking myself for not including the five year old in the Top 40 Prospects of OJA.
Otherwise, it was a good day for One Jump Ahead with 7 winners on Thursday, namely Gaston Phebus (11/1), Ribble Valley (8/15), Threeunderthrufive (7/4), Ajero (3/1), Wynn House (8/13), Eritage (7/4) and Indigo Breeze (4/7). The last named was one of Jonathan Neesom's English Pointers. An 25 lengths winner of his sole point at Alnwick in March, the four year old subsequently joined Gordon Elliott and was all the rage for his Rules debut in a bumper at Thurles. Owned by Ger Costelloe (Rebecca Curtis' former partner), he was ridden by Jamie Codd and was pushed clear for a seven and a half lengths win. It will be interesting to see if the gelded son of Martaline is kept to bumpers this term.
Don't forget, PDF versions of One Jump Ahead are still available to buy via the Publications section of the site. With Cheltenham set to stage their first meetings on Friday and Saturday closely followed by Aintree on Sunday, it is the ideal time to order a copy, if you haven't already done so.
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