A hectic Saturday even by our standards with seventeen runners yielding five winners which would surely have been seven if Southfield Theatre had not fallen at the last fence at Wincanton and Zarkandar had not unseated his rider at the final flight at Aintree. But jumping is the name of the game and these things tend to level themselves out over the course of the season.
The great thing is that the horses continue in sparkling form. They have already earned almost £600,000 at this early stage of the campaign with 63 winners at a strike rate of around 33 per cent. Our squad of jockeys have been amazing, too, excelling themselves while Sam Twiston-Davies has been on the sidelines through injury. With Nick Scholfield, Sean Bowen, Harry Cobden, Jack Sherwood and Stan Sheppard all among the winners I feel a bit like a Premiership manager giving chances to all the talented youngsters on the bench.
Harry Cobden certainly enjoyed a red letter day on his 18th birthday with a treble at Wincanton high-lighted by the success of Frodon in the Rising Stars Novices’ Chase. I was hoping that Frodon would win as the 5 lbs penalty he earned should ensure that he gets into the BetVictor Chase at Cheltenham next weekend. And with Harry claiming 3 lbs there he will effectively have only a 2 lbs penalty.
Zubayr and Harry then fell at the final flight in the Elite Hurdle when close behind the winner Sceau Royal and an hour later Harry was on the deck again when Southfield Theatre came down in front at the last fence when looking sure to win the Badger Ales Chase.
Both horses were fine afterwards as was Present Man who also fell in the Badger Ales Chase.
Arpege D’Alene and Caid Du Berlais were both on the mark at Aintree and Zarkandar was obviously going to win, too, as he was tanking along in the three mile hurdle going much the best approaching the final flight. His mistake there was one of those silly things but I was thrilled to see him return in such good form after his long absence. He will be aimed at long distance hurdles again while Caid Du Berlais goes next for the Fixed Brush Hurdle at Haydock where he will again be ridden by Stan Sheppard.
Over in France Ptit Zig ran another fine race to finish third in the Grade 1 Grand Prix d’Automne at Auteuil on Saturday. Twenty four hours later Dolos earned plenty of Euros in taking third prize in the valuable Grade 1 three year old hurdle at the same course.
On Saturday Silviniaco Conti and Le Mercurey were both placed in their races at Down Royal. Noel Fehily was delighted with Conti finishing second in the Grade 1 JNwine.com Champion Chase. He now heads for the Betfair Chase.
With loads of horses waiting in the wings ready to run when the rain comes these are exciting times for everyone involved with Team Ditcheat.
For up to the minute news of my running plans next weekend please turn to my Betfair column late in the afternoon on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.