We enjoyed a Red Letter Day on Saturday with a valuable treble at Doncaster capped by the brilliant victory of Frodon and Sam Twiston-Davies in the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup at Cheltenham.
I was thrilled to see Sam enjoying a big race winner so soon after his comeback from an injury that forced him to miss almost two months. I know he found it incredibly frustrating watching from the sidelines while we had winner after winner. Given half a chance he would have been back much sooner but the doctors rightly felt that you cannot take any chances when you have damaged your spleen. So once Sam recovered he worked out regularly in the gym to the point that he was super fit when he was finally given the green light to return.
Winning on Frodon will have boosted his confidence. He gave the horse a lovely ride, delivering him at the right time going to the final fence where they gained ground in the air before staying on well to hold Aso by one and a half lengths. Frodon was making up for his previous start at Cheltenham where he was going every bit as well as the winner Taquin Du Seuil until he winded himself when belting the fourth last fence at the top of the hill. He has already achieved so much for a four year old, and though he is still improving I am not in a hurry to make any plans for him as he has had a busy time over the past couple of months.
Cliffs of Dover, a legend of a horse, continued on an upward curve in the Grade 2 Summit Juvenile Hurdle at Doncaster with his sixth win from seven starts over hurdles. His rate of progress since joining us in the summer with a mark of 64 on the flat has astounded me.
One thing is for sure. I know I can have him in better form than on Saturday as we’d been easy on him in the past month after running him six times over the previous six weeks. Cliffs of Dover is an amazing horse. All we expected when he joined us was that he might with a bit of luck win a little race at Newton Abbot in August. Just look at him now with a lofty rating of 140! It is a wonderful story and I’m sure there is more to come.
He was bucking and squeaking when we turned him out in his paddock on Sunday morning with Present Man and a couple of others, so full of himself you wouldn’t have known he’d had a race. Cliffs of Dover will have a proper break now. We will just keep him ticking over before aiming him at the Adonis Hurdle at Kempton ahead of the Triumph Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival.
Present Man is a different horse this season, winning for the third time over fences in the Grade 2 Novice Chase at Doncaster. Maybe he just needed time to mature and while he is a bit quirky he found plenty when challenged over the last couple of fences to win with something to spare. He was another who shot round the paddock on Sunday morning without a care in the world. As he looks as though he wants to go right-handed I might run him in the Kauto Star Novices’ Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day which is sure to cut up if Thistlecrack goes for it.
All Set To Go was another of ours to shine on Saturday at Doncaster on a great day for Team Ditcheat. He has plenty of speed and is best suited by good ground on a fast track.
On Friday Arpege d’Alene ran like a horse who will be well suited by marathon trips when staying on well into second place behind Singlefarmpayment. He has 10st 7lbs in the Coral Welsh National but is unlikely to go to Chepstow if the ground is soft. Further ahead he looks one for the four mile NH Chase at Cheltenham and the Scottish Grand National.
This weekend we will have plenty of runners at Ascot with Diego Du Charmil and Modus pencilled in for the Wessex Youth Trust Handicap Hurdle and Irish Saint and Saphir Du Rheu on course for the Silver Cup.
Ptit Zig and Zarkandar are being aimed at the Long Walk Hurdle on Saturday while Politologue heads for the Mitie Noel Novices’ Chase on the Friday. Before then we will be busy with runners at Wincanton, Newbury and Exeter.
For all the latest news on my running plans please turn to my Betfair column late on Friday afternoon.