Congratulations to Jonjo O'Neill and everyone at Jackdaws Castle, plus owner Trevor Hemmings following Cloth Cap's easy win in the Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury on Saturday. The eight year old hadn't been in the winners enclosure since scoring at Catterick a couple of years ago but had run well in the Scottish National. Given an aggressive front running ride by Tom Scudamore, he jumped boldly and seem suited by the change of tactics as he crossed the line ten lengths clear of Aye Right. The Grand National is his ultimate goal next spring and, having won here off 136, he has virtually secured his place in the line up at Aintree.
It was a good weekend for the Top 40 Prospects in One Jump Ahead with 4 winners from 6 runners at Fairyhouse's two day fixture. Envoi Allen extended his winning run to eleven races and made it two out of two over fences when coasting to a bloodless success in the Grade 1 Drinmore Novice Chase. Jack Kennedy's mount jumped brilliantly before powering away after the penultimate fence. A trip to Punchestown in January is his next port of call before heading to the Cheltenham Festival for the Marsh Novices' Chase. He remains the hottest property in National Hunt racing at present.
I was delighted with the victory of Zanahiyr in the Grade 3 juvenile hurdle. In a race which has been won by ill-fated subsequent Grade 1 winners Our Conor and Espoir D'Allen, Gordon Elliott's gelding took a step forward from his win at Ballinrobe by destroying three previous winners by upwards of fourteen lengths. Always going well, he took charge on the approach to the second last and sauntered clear. He is a hugely exciting prospect who threatens to be even better on a sounder surface. He looks very much Triumph Hurdle material and well done to those clients who took the 50/1 and 33/1 on offer earlier this Autumn. Longer-term, the Nathaniel gelding could be a threat in one of the big staying handicaps on the Flat.
Keskonrisk looked another high quality novice in the making when gaining a last gasp win in the second division of the maiden hurdle on Saturday. An expensive purchase out of Timmy Hyde's yard earlier in the spring, he was having his first run for Joseph O'Brien in the two miles event. The No Risk At All gelding jumped neatly and arrived at the second last travelling strongly. Slightly short of room going to the final flight, he allowed the runner-up Indigo Breeze first run but quickened up smartly to lead close home. Better ground will suit in future and it would be no surprise to see him contesting Graded company sooner rather than later. He can only improve and is very much one to follow.
Leading owners Rich and Susannah Ricci were on the mark on Saturday courtesy of Monkfish and Hook Up and both made striking impressions. The former looked a natural on his fencing bow and looks a prime candidate for the RSA Chase in March. A previous Festival winner, he jumped impeccably and only had to be nudged out to win readily. Graded company will be next and it will take a fair novice to beat him. The latter was highly tried last season contesting a Grade 3 plus the Triumph Hurdle and has always been held in high regard. Another by No Risk At All, she made all the running under Paul Townend and was always in control. Pulling clear after the penultimate flight, she won eased down by a dozen lengths and is yet another high-class filly lodging at Closutton.
Please check out my latest article on sportinglife.com and looking back at the weekend's action.
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