Ginge makes a Splash at Cheltenham

Splash Of Ginge battled his way through the mud for a thrilling victory in Saturday’s BetVictor Gold Cup.

Flagged up in my Friday piece as a decent each-way proposition, the nine-year-old, trained locally by Nigel Twiston-Davies, travelled powerfully throughout, and held off a persistent challenge from David Pipe’s Starchitect. Available at 50/1 on the course (yes, I was on), the winner was backed in to 25s before the off. With testing conditions, an attractive handicap mark, and a return to a track he enjoys in Prestbury Park, he had the look of a serious contender. And so it proved, with Tom Bellamy positioning him just behind the leaders, before making his move sweeping downhill towards the third-last fence.

The David Pipe-trained Starchitect was travelling every-bit as well, but Ginge was better at the second-last, and that proved crucial. Neat again at the final fence the length-and-a-half advantage was whittled away as the line approached, but Bellamy and his brave partner held on for a thrilling victory. An emotional winning jockey said: “When I looked at the race I thought he was over-priced. I was told to give him plenty of light, he was hanging left so I thought I'd be in trouble, but it worked out well. I've just started riding out for Nigel again and I've had two winners in a week for him now.”

When asked what it means to land such a big prize, Bellamy added: “It means an awful lot, in the fact that I lost my claim last year and it's been very quiet since, so hopefully that might get the ball rolling a little bit now.”
Nigel Twiston-Davies was winning his third BetVictor Gold Cup in 10 years, and said of the winner: “He has a big following does ol' Ginge. He has been a remarkable horse and just lost his confidence a bit over fences last season, so we put him back over hurdles and he has come back like a bull. He ran really well at Wetherby and as soon as this rain kept on and on we were hopeful, as the soft ground is the key to him. It is probably heavy ground now.

“He just doesn't notice it when it's this soft. It was the same when he won the Betfair Hurdle. It's just come right today. I think I'll be out with the owners tonight though - they'll insist on it! It's unbelievable, especially when it's a horse like that. He'd lost his way a little bit but it's great to give Tom Bellamy a chance as he's not having a great time at the moment. John (Neild, the owner) likes to give the young jockeys a chance so that's great.”

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The November Meeting proved fruitful for the ‘Big Three’ of Nicholls, Henderson and Tizzard. There was a poignant success for Finian’s Oscar on the opening day, as Bryan Cooper steered the exciting five-year-old to win the Steel Plate And Sections Novices’ Chase. Carrying the famous silks of the late Ann and Alan Potts, Tizzard’s youngster found plenty from the back of the last and clearly has a bright future.

The same combination of rider, trainer and owners took the Shloer Chase on Sunday, when Fox Norton proved far too good in testing conditions. With Altior out of action for a while, and Douvan yet to return from injury, Tizzard’s chaser could prove dominant over fences at two to two-and-a-half miles.

The trainer appeared to be leaving all options open for the winner, when saying: “He looks a heavier horse to me and that might be because he is older. The Tingle Creek will be next. It was always Alan Potts' wish to keep him away from Sizing John, who still has the chance of winning the £1million bonus. If Sizing John gets beat (in the Betfair Chase on Saturday) and we won the Tingle Creek, he is entered in the King George just in case. We must not pigeon-hole horses. When he can win like that I don't see any real reason why we should step him up, but the biggest and most prestigious races are over three-and-a-quarter miles.”

One of the meeting’s most exciting performances came from a juvenile in the Triumph Hurdle Trial, when Nicky Henderson’s Apple’s Shakira demolished the previously impressive Hobbs-trained Gumball. The sister of Apple’s Jade put 17-lengths between herself and the runner-up, and looks a thrilling prospect.

Henderson’s Thomas Campbell was another terrific winner, when lumping plenty of weight in capturing the listed stayers’ hurdle on Saturday. Still only a five-year-old, the son of Yeats coped admirably with the testing conditions, responding impressively to the urgings of conditional jockey James Bowen to pull clear late-on. There’s plenty more to come from this young hurdler, and it would come as no surprise if he were to take high-rank as the winter progresses.

Another young jockey making a name for herself is Bryony Frost. A week after winning the Badger Ales, she was steering the Paul Nicholls-trained Black Corton to yet another success. The young chaser was making it five in-a-row (all with Frost aboard) when taking the three-mile novices’ chase. Like Present Man a week earlier, this fella was expected to struggle in the testing ground. That certainly didn’t prove the case, as he stayed-on powerfully, stretching clear of his main rival Ballyoptic, to win by four-lengths. He continues to go from strength to strength and may well prove the type who takes to the four-miler at The Festival. There’s no doubt who’d be looking for the leg-up come March.

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