We ended a superb week in high spirits with two winners at the Cheltenham Festival, a brilliant run by Bravemansgame in the Gold Cup and a treble on Saturday.
In addition I was thrilled to see my 17 year old daughter Olive finish third in the Hunter Chase on Shantou Flyer on her first ride at Cheltenham.
The horses remain in top form and have now earned well over £3.1 million for their owners with six weeks before the end of the season of the season.
Stage Star recorded my 47th success at the Festival on Thursday in the Turners Novice Chase with the help of a finely judged ride from the front by Harry Cobden who was riding brilliantly all week and was one of the features of the festival for me . All the talk beforehand was of the Irish invaders having a stranglehold on the race but Stage Star was more than equal to the challenge, jumped for fun, and stretched clear at the finish to win by three and a quarter lengths.
I was delighted by the quality of that performance and imagine I will train Stage Star for the Ryanair. He has plenty of boot, travels so well and I’m not sure he needs to be going the full Gold Cup distance yet but prob has to go left handed.
On Friday it was the turn of Stay Away Fay to sparkle with another positive ride by Harry in the Albert Bartlett. Once again the Irish horses dominated the market but Stay Away Fay, owned by Chris Giles and Dave Staddon, disputed the lead the whole way, jumping slickly, and kept on strongly to defeat Affordable Fury by a length. It was a taking performance by our horse having only his third start over hurdles. He is improving rapidly, a stout stayer who will be going chasing next season. Before then he could go to Aintree or Punchestown.
Bravemansgame then ran the race of his life when finishing second to Galopin Des Champs. The pair were upsides at the last fence before the Irish trained favourite eased clear on the run in. It was a hell of a race, as good a Gold Cup that you will ever see with an end to end gallop and some proper horses in the line up. We had the two best staying chasers from England and Ireland coming to the fore. What more could you want?
I’m so proud of Bravemansgame who travelled superbly, was pinpoint accurate at his fences, and was the only one to make a race of it with the winner. He certainly got the trip all right and we will have another crack at the Gold Cup next year. The options for him now are Aintree or Punchestown although he had a hard enough race on Friday and it wouldn’t be the end of the world if he didn’t run again this season.
Earlier in the week Greaneteen did well to finish third in the Queen Mother Champion Chase after somehow surviving an alarming mistake at the ditch. Hitman put in another solid run to be third in the Ryanair while I was delighted to see Captain Teague finish third in the bumper and will be a lovely novice hurdler for next season. The one that probably got away was Thyme White who is so good fresh and was tanking along when departing at the 2nd last when looking full of running .
The biggest disappointment came from Hermes Allen who failed to shine in the Ballymore. I know he is a smart horse and You Wear It Well, who finished second to him at Newbury, confirmed the point with a deserved victory in the mares’ novice hurdle at the meeting. I am quite keen to run him over three miles at Aintree if the ground is good. He will bounce back .
We hardly had time to draw breath before heading to Kempton on Saturday where Outlaw Peter and Complete Unknown landed the two most valuable races on the card at the Sunbury course. Both were given copybook rides by Harry on their way to decisive victories in what had seemed beforehand to be competitive handicaps.
The day ended with Farnoge completing a treble for the yard with Bryony in the bumper at Uttoxeter taking our score for the season to 143.
We are back in action at Taunton on Monday before a brief lull ahead of Newbury’s two day meeting at the weekend. We will have a few to run there including Summer Brise, a nice Kapgarde filly, in the £100,000 bumper. Go West could possibly go for a valuable bumper at Kelso .
Meanwhile I am half tempted to try to beat our best total of prize money of £3,646,511 which came in 2007-08. Obviously we need things to go our way but there is so much good racing to come so we could get close to that figure if the cards roll our way.
For the latest news on my Saturday runners please do check out my Betfair column which goes live early on Friday afternoon.