The Rebecca Curtis trained Irish Cavalier caused something of an upset when landing the Charlie Hall Chase on Saturday, defeating top-rated chaser Cue Card in the process.
The outstanding staying chaser of last winter was sent off a short-priced favourite to win his second Charlie Hall, but faded late-on to finish third. Tizzard’s multiple Grade 1 winner jumped enthusiastically throughout, and was sent to the front at the end of the back straight. Turning for home all looked well, and we waited for the favourite to turn the screw. However, Jonathan Moore had other ideas, as he sent Irish Cavalier in hot pursuit, drawing alongside Cue Card three fences from home.
As the favourite started to empty, another veteran threw down a late challenge, but 2014 winner Menorah was unable to reel-in Moore and his willing partner.
“That was my second ride in a Grade Two,” said the thrilled pilot. “It's one of those races you dream about winning and it's great to get it under my belt. Early on he was a bit gassy and we went a real strong gallop. My lad was a bit on his head but second time around he started winging fences down the back. I was confident then and I just wanted to stay on Cue Card's heels.”
Rebecca Curtis had anticipated a strong performance, though the win came as a surprise. “I was hoping for a place,” said the Pembrokeshire handler. “There was the question of would he stay three miles? Jonathan rides like an old pro, he’s so cool.” When asked if a crack at the Hennessy Gold Cup was on the cards, she remained non-committal, saying: “We’ll enjoy today, get home and decide where to go next.”
Colin Tizzard was far from disappointed with his star chaser when saying: “He just got tired, that's all. I thought he was going to win, but he tired after the second-last. We took him for a racecourse gallop because if we hadn't, I didn't want to wish that I had done. He's only been beaten two lengths, so we'll go to Haydock (Betfair Chase) and see where we are at. I'd sooner he had won, but I'm delighted with him.”
The RSA winner Blaklion, ran well for a long way, and looked to hold every chance four from home. But he failed to live with the front three, and looked a little one-paced at a crucial point of the race. He stayed on for fourth, and looks like a horse that needs a stiffer stamina test. The Hennessy remains a possibility, and softer ground may help.
At Ascot Saphir Du Rheu performed solidly in defeat, and is another likely to be seen next at Newbury for another tilt at Hennessy Gold Cup. He was given a ‘caring’ ride by Nick Scholfield, being allowed to pop-away over his fences without being hurried or forced at any stage. It had the looks of a confidence building exercise, and he remains attractively handicapped.
From the foot of the weights, it was Gary Moore’s Antony that sprinted clear late-on, to win the Sodexo Gold Cup with plenty in hand. This was by far the six-year-old’s best performance, and he’s clearly progressing at a rate of knots. He’s not particularly big, but is an effortless jumper. Future targets are uncertain, but he looks capable of taking more valuable handicaps during the campaign.
At Carlisle yesterday we witnessed an exciting performance from Seeyouatmidnight in the intermediate chase. He jumped superbly on his way to victory over sole rival Bristol De Mai. A crack at the Betfair Chase is not out of the question, with trainer Sandy Thomson saying: “Before today, we were thinking about either the Rehearsal or the Hennessy, but that might be shelved now. It (the Betfair) might come a bit soon, but we will see. He takes a lot of work and is a hard horse to get fit, but he is the horse of a lifetime for us.”
The Betfair Chase takes place at Haydock on November 19, with the Hennessy Gold Cup held at Newbury a week later.