We’ve had such a good spell with the Friday Preview Piece, that it was very disappointing to see the tip for the BetBright Chase, Irish Saint, run such a poor race on Saturday. He was never slick enough at his fences, and faded tamely out of contention turning for home.
The race went to Pilgrims Bay, who was given a fabulous ride by James Best. The horse often finds little off the bridle, and has to be delivered as late as possible. The seven-year-old cruised into contention approaching the last, and was nudged out to victory, defeating the well fancied Double Shuffle by less than a length.
In Friday’s article, I’d also mentioned Triolo D’Alene as a live contender at a decent price. Unfortunately, Henderson’s classy chaser, was pulled-up early in the race, and has subsequently been retired. It typified a turbulent day for the master of Seven Barrows, which saw his talented juvenile, Charli Parcs crash out at the second-last in the Adonis Hurdle. In truth, the youngster was never travelling, and although mounting a challenge when falling, he was by no means sure to win. There must now be questions over whether he’ll head to Cheltenham, and his price of around 10s for both the Supreme and the Triumph Hurdle looks rather skinny.
The news was worse for his stricken jockey Barry Geraghty. He looked badly shaken when rising slowly from the ground, and a trip to the hospital confirmed that he had broken several ribs and suffered a collapsed lung. With the Cheltenham Festival just a couple of weeks away, Geragthy will not have recovered in time. His absence is a blow for Nicky Henderson, but more so for owner JP McManus. He will miss a host of exciting rides, including Yanworth or Buveur D’Air in the Champion Hurdle, Coney Island, Uxizandre, Defi Du Seuil and Unowhatimeanharry in the Stayers’ Hurdle.
Nicky Henderson’s disappointment at the demise of Charli Parcs was quickly replaced by optimism as to the future of River Wylde. The six-year-old travelled beautifully in the Grade 2 Dovecote Novices’ Hurdle, and found plenty when asked to go and win his race. His jumping was slick throughout, and another fine leap at the last helped him pull three lengths clear of Elgin at the line. He’s bred to stay further, being by Oscar out of a Mandalus mare, though the dual Champion Hurdle winner Monksfield also appears in his pedigree. He’s still as big as 16s for the Supreme, a race where Nicky Henderson excels. That looks a generous price to me.
Earlier in the day, Henderson had watched a trio of Festival fancies put through their paces with a racecourse gallop. Champion Hurdle contender Brain Power, looked particularly impressive, working alongside Peace & Co and Josses Hill. Available at 8/1 for the opening day showpiece, he’s a striking looking individual, and every inch a chaser in the making. Henderson believes that decent ground is key to his chances at Cheltenham. He’s undoubtedly a serious contender in a wide-open renewal.
In a day of mixed fortunes, Nicky Henderson still has plenty to look forward to with Cheltenham now just a couple of weeks away. Sadly, Barry Geraghty is the latest in a long line of Festival casualties.