A treble at Cheltenham on Sunday took me to the top of the trainers’ table for the first time this season.
With my friend and former assistant Dan Skelton hot on my tail we should be having plenty of banter over the next few months.
We didn’t have much luck on the first two days at Cheltenham before Threeunderthrufive took the opening Class 2 Novice Chase on Sunday with an impressive round of jumping from the front. He has taken to fences like a natural and just needed the run when he was beaten by Does He Know at Chepstow last month. He came on a bundle for that outing and then won smartly at Exeter so I was more than hopeful that he would turn the tables on Does He Know. He stays and gallops all day so I’m thinking of entering him in the Coral Welsh National, a race I came so close to winning in 2019 with another novice Truckers Lodge.
Just over half an hour later at Cheltenham Yala Enki made all the running in the valuable Jewson Handicap Chase. He was given a cracking ride by Bryony Frost who gets on so well with him , how she got two days for “closing the door“ on Brian Hughes coming down the hill after the third last is beyond me . If she had let Brian up the inner I would have not been pleased. It was tactical race riding at its best and after giving the horse as good a ride as you will ever see, to get two days is totally ridiculous. I sometimes wonder what things have come to and how decisions are made! I strongly urge her to appeal.
She got him into a lovely rhythm in front, kept up the revs, set him alight down the hill and they readily saw off all challengers after jumping the last fence. For an eleven year old to carry top weight of 11st 12lbs and win in that manner first time out is fantastic. When you think of all the hard races Yala Enki has had down the years it is quite something to produce a career best at his age. We knew we had him cherry ripe at home and it’s obvious from his work that he still loves the job. He will also have an entry in the Coral Welsh National but the race for him is the Portman Cup at Taunton in January over a marathon distance. That is his Gold Cup and he has won it for the last two years on soft ground.
Politologue then returned to action with a creditable second to Nube Negra in the Shloer Chase in which Rouge Vif finished fourth on his first start for us. Politologue enjoyed himself out in front but couldn’t quite see off the challenge of the winner in the closing stages. It was just a case of a talented younger horse beating him on the prevailing ground at Cheltenham and he was right as rain afterwards.
Politologue is a marvellous horse to train, always runs well fresh and retains all his enthusiasm for racing. I’d consider running in the Tingle Creek at Sandown if the ground came up really testing. If that doesn’t happen then I’ll probably keep him for the Clarence House at Ascot in January.
Timeforatune completed a great day for Team Ditcheat with a strong late run to land the Listed bumper at Cheltenham. A relentless galloper, he is now unbeaten in three starts and has definitely improved physically since he won at Chepstow just over a month ago. He will probably switch to hurdles after Christmas.
On Friday Gelino Bello again looked an exciting prospect when a close second in a classy novice hurdle while on Saturday Lalor and Simply The Betts made highly encouraging debuts for the yard in the Paddy Power Gold Cup.
It was brilliant to see Lalor flying up the hill to finish third behind Midnight Shadow because it was the first time he has finished a race in 18 months. Simply The Betts also kept on to be sixth after racing keenly in the front rank. They were both fine on Sunday morning and will have entries in the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup at Cheltenham next month.
This coming weekend I’ll be taking a team to Haydock where Next Destination is on course for the Betfair Chase and Bravemansgame will run in a Graduation Chase. On the same day the plan is to run Master Tommytucker in the Chanelle Pharma 1965 Chase.
For all the latest news on my runners on Saturday please be sure to check on my Betfair column which goes live late on Friday afternoon.