Festival Eye Catchers
Just a four year old mare, she ran a brilliant race in the Champion Bumper, staying on into 6th after being held up in rear throughout, making eye-catching progress. She had to make up lots of distance and did so, despite horrendous ground conditions making that all the more difficult. She had three previous starts that were all cosy victories in junior bumpers coming over shorter trips of 1 mile 4, 1 mile 5 and a listed bumper over 1 mile 6. She didn't keep her unbeaten record here, but definitely did not let herself down and proved to be suited by the extra distance.
On her debut she won at 20/1 for John Butler, with the 2nd, 3rd and 5th all winning on their next starts. Poetic Music was then sold and moved to underrated trainer, Fergal O’Brien. On her first start for Fergal, she was held up and ran on from the rear to win by three lengths under a penalty. The form of that race hasn't stacked up as well as her first, but in truth she won very much within herself. It was a near identical run when winning that listed bumper at Cheltenham on her 3rd start, staying on best of all to win going away. Her exaggerated hold-up style of running, tends to flatter her rivals and has not resulted in huge winning distances, but she has been much the best in all of her races prior to the festival. I expect we might see her turn up in the Grade Two Mares' Bumper at Aintree where I’d hope she will run well. She may be a dark horse for next years mares’ novice and will surely pick up some of the UK mares’ novice races throughout next season.
Eldorado Allen -
On softer ground, Allaho posted a near identical time in this years’ Ryanair, his time just 0.3 seconds slower than the year before. Last years' renewal saw his rivals being pulled up left, right and centre. This year they were possibly more wise to it and ridden with more restraint in behind and visibly choosing not to take him on. Eldorado Allen is the only one who chased Allaho, running in second for most of the way. Keeping on well, he just lost 3rd to Janidil by half a length close home; Janidil was arguably ridden to pick up a place having been held up throughout, in a similar way to how Eldorado Allen himself pinched second in last years’ Arkle. It was a brilliant, brave run from him off the back of a grade two victory over three miles in the Denman Chase last time out. The second in that race, Royale Pagaille, arguably ran a career best in the Gold Cup finishing 5th, but in a photo finish for third with Galvin and Protektorat. Eldorado Allen is one for the staying chases next year I think. Possibly even at the intermediate trip, the Grade Two Peterborough Chase at Huntingdon over two and a half miles could be an early season target for him, before going on to defend his crown in the Denman Chase.
He is another who caught my eye in the bumper. It was easy to be impressed with winner Facile Vega and even 2nd home American Mike. Both exciting hurdling prospects for next year, I think Seabank Bistro is another who could fall into that same bracket, having finished a strong 4th here. He made a winning debut, winning his bumper over 2 miles 3 furlongs, from a decent yardstick in Santonito. Santoninto had previously been a close second to both Albert Bartlett winner, The Nice Guy and another Mullins big gun, Embassy Gardens. Santonito then gave the form a boost by winning a bumper the weekend before Cheltenham, pulling clear with Mullins' own Don Chalant. Having only had the one start and over nearly two and a half miles, he was well supported in the market despite a less than optimal drop back in trip for this race. Nearly halving in price to 18/1 from 33/1. He stayed on well to take fourth before the front two kicked on, just not quite having the same turn of foot to go with them. He finished just two lengths off James's Gate, who, due to connections, is well fancied for the Ballymore. I think Seabank Bistro is a staying hurdler in the making and one who could be aimed at either that race as well, or even the Albert Bartlett.l
Also one who looks to be suited by further in time, he may even go novice chasing as a 4 year old later this year. Trainer, Gordon Elliott, has done that before, most recently with Riviere D'etel who made the most of the age allowances to rack up some good wins early this season before going off a short price in the Arkle. Fil Dor wasn’t suited by a steadily run race in the triumph, and is a staying prospect much in contrast to the flat bred speed horse, and impressive winner, Vauban. If the race was run on the Wednesday with the softer ground, I think he could have even turned the tables with him. What caught my eye, though, was after being passed by Vauban, he stayed on gamely to keep second from stablemate Pied Piper who had looked decent enough himself in his two starts, having beaten Vauban on debut. Fil Dor showed some brilliant battling qualities and is certainly a good prospect going forward along with the other two. Vauban made a mistake at the last and it briefly looked like Fil Dor might reclaim top spot, but Vauban's turn of foot got him out of trouble. I think next season, the Turners' could be his target, if chasing. Before stepping up to three miles plus in future years.
This horse caught my eye, when running a very solid race in the Coral Cup. Tracking the leader and travelling strongly, he ended up fading into 4th being beaten around 10 lengths. He in turn was 10 lengths clear of the rest of the field and I don't think was suited at all by the ground conditions. Officially soft, it was more heavy ground on the day and his previous best form had all been on good ground. He's been left alone by the handicapper and is on a mark of just 140 which I think is lenient for him. He is one who I'll definitely back next time, most likely in "The Orell Park Handicap Hurdle" at Aintree, the equivalent grade three handicap over two and a half miles. If not appearing there, I think on good ground next season, he has a big handicap race in him.
The only one in this list, who didn’t complete their race. Off the back of a good Grade Two win over three miles, he was visibly going best of all in the Brown Advisory, when he fell two out and think he would have ran L'Homme Presse close if not passed that rival, though that is up for debate. He has been remarkably consistent this season. Winning twice, as well as being just a length 2nd to National Hunt Chase winner Stattler, and a short head 2nd to Grade One winner Master McShee over an inadequate two miles four furlongs. I think depending on how he comes back from that fall, he could contest the Punchestown 3 mile novice Grade One where I think he would have a great chance. Next season he might struggle at the top table in open grade one races, but could pick up a few of the early season grade two and three races, and definitely one to keep on side.
Despite almost writing her off before the race, on account of Zambella being the strongest British trained horse, appearing to have Pink Legend well beaten on their previous start. This mare ran a career best to split 155 and 149 rated mares, Elimay and Scarlett and Dove. She was a half length second off level weights with Elimay and receiving 3lbs from Scarlett and Dove who was just behind her. She does tend to be a little inconsistent, but is one to consider for the UK mares listed/graded chases next season. There’s a listed mares’ Chase over 2 miles 4 at Carlisle that could be an early season target, before being aimed for another shot at this race. Hopefully we see her in action again, but now with the all important black type gained this year, with a listed win and this grade two second, connections may be tempted to retire her to be a broodmare.
Banbridge- The only winner in this list, his hurdles record is now 4 wins from 6 starts. He didn‘t do everything right in the Martin Pipe, being keen early and racing wide, he still finished his race very strongly to win going away. I think the performance can be upgraded slightly on that, especially as there would have been a number of other unexposed horses in that race. Only nudged up 4lbs by the handicapper, he could be one for an Aintree handicap or one at the Punchestown Festival. I think he is still unexposed and could be even better stepped up slightly in trip and if settling better. He did start his season all the way back in May last year and has ran 7 times since then, so maybe he will be put away now for a break before a novice chase campaign next year. Definitely one I’ve added to my tracker though.