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Duffle Coat delivers for Elliott and Power at Cheltenham

Duffle Coat extended his unbeaten record with a tenacious last-to-first success in the JCB Triumph Trial Juvenile Hurdle at Cheltenham.

The three-year-old made it four wins from as many starts to give trainer Gordon Elliott and jockey Robbie Power their first success in Grade Two prize.

Having been outpaced early on in the two-mile contest, the 2-1 second-favourite showed stamina is a strong suit as he forged clear from the last before staying on strongly up the run-in to defeat recent Warwick scorer Adagio by five lengths.

Power said: “I had no choice (but to sit at the back) as we had gone too quick and I was flat to the boards the whole way. To be fair to my lad he is really tenacious and a little terrier.

“From the top of the hill I gave him a little squeeze and he picked up underneath me. I wasn’t overly concerned as I thought we had gone quick on genuine soft ground.

“His stamina is his forte. Gordon says he doesn’t show a lot at home and that he is all about stamina and those strongly-run races suit him. “I’d imagine when his juvenile days are over he will be going up in trip.

Duffle Coat was cut to 12-1 favourite for the Triumph Hurdle in March by Coral, while Betfair went 16-1 for the same race.

Power added: “At this time of year it is hard to get a handle on the juvenile form, as you don’t know what is what.

“I’d imagine there will be more classier ones that come out than him as the season progresses, but there won’t be any more with more guts than he has. Ground doesn’t matter to him as he has won on good and soft.

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“It is up to Gordon what he does between now and March, but he will have him good and fresh for then.”

On The Blind Side made a successful return to the smaller obstacles to land the Paddy Power Games Handicap Hurdle, after running over fences and in a jumpers’ bumper.

Nicky Henderson’s eight-year-old took the lead before the second-last flight and kept on stoutly, despite being strongly challenged.

Ridden by Nico de Boinville, On The Blind Side (7-1) held Mrs Milner by a neck with last year’s winner Golan Fortune a length and three-quarters away in third.

On The Blind Side (red) and Nico de Boinville clear the last
On The Blind Side (red) and Nico de Boinville clear the last (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Henderson said: “He has been a great servant. He has been the most lovely horse all along, but he just got high in the weights. He just does love to have plenty of space. That’s where it is difficult over fences in those big fields. He doesn’t like getting crowded too much.

“He is a good chaser, but he just might be a tad better over hurdles. He really stuck on well and he was very brave. He loved it. Everything else I have run has got completely stuck in the mud, so we needed one to go in.

“It would definitely make you think that way (to stay over hurdles). We might have to look at one of those (graded staying races) as he is bound to go up a bit, but he has only won by a neck and he was giving the other horse weight.

“I’m thrilled for Alan (Spence, owner), that is a good tonic for him as he has had an operation. He is coming out this afternoon, but all is well and hopeful that will make him feel even better.”

De Boinville said: “He loved it back over hurdles, despite the ground. He loves having his own bit of space, it’s always quite hard in those big field chases to find a little bubble, but there today he’s really enjoyed it and he loves the hurdle game.

“He really knuckled down and found all the way to the line, he had to as well.”

Asked about his thoughts on riding Supreme Novices’ Hurdle winner Shishkin again this season, he added: “I’m looking forward to it. We’ve got lots of nice horses to come out, some already have, so here’s to a good season ahead.”

Elle Est Belle and Ishkhara Lady dead-heated after a thrilling finish in the gloom to the Karndean Designflooring Mares’ Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race.

After a lengthy deliberation, the judge could not separate the pair, neither of whom had given an inch up the punishing hill in the rain under dark skies.

The gambled-on Ucanaver set out to make all, but weakened out of contention as the race hotted up.

Ishkhara Lady and Elle Est Belle could not be separated
Ishkhara Lady and Elle Est Belle could not be separated (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Harry Fry’s Ishkhara Lady, ridden by Sean Bowen, looked to hold a narrow lead, but Harry Skelton forced Elle Est Belle, trained by his brother, Dan, to share the spoils on the line.

Dan Skelton said: “Elle Est Belle is a nice filly.

“She won well at Aintree on her debut and it is nice to win this race in a dead-heat.

“Harry’s horse also looks nice.”

Fry said: “We have always liked Ishkhara Lady and it’s lovely to dead-heat with Dan’s horse who also looks nice.

“We are pleased with what she did today and she is a horse to look forward to.”

New Power base pays off with big chance on Duffle Coat

Robbie Power is counting his blessings after getting the mount on Duffle Coat for Gordon Elliott in the JCB Triumph Trial Juvenile Hurdle at Cheltenham on Saturday.

The Gold Cup-winning jockey is reaping the benefit of deciding to base himself in Britain, because of Covid-19 travel restrictions, and is rewarded with the plum ride on the unbeaten Irish raider.

Duffle Coat has won all his three starts over hurdles, with the first two coming closer to home at Punchestown and Gowran, before completing the hat-trick in emphatic fashion at Wetherby last month.

“It’s working in my favour that currently if one of the lads based in Ireland comes over to ride they have to isolate for 14 days, so it’s one of the advantages of being based here,” said Power.

“Duffle Coat was a good winner at Wetherby. But I’ve a lot of respect for Paul Nicholls’ Hell Red – he was very impressive at Chepstow.

“It’s a step up in class, but hopefully he’s up to it.”

French import Hell Red is sure to have his supporters, but Nicholls would prefer to see some rain.

“The slower the ground the better for Hell Red, who won readily on his debut for us at Chepstow a month ago,” he said.

“His jumping was slick that day, and the good thing is that he doesn’t get a penalty for that success. While this is obviously tougher, I do rate Hell Red – who seems to be improving – so I am hopeful of a big run.”

David Pipe’s Adagio also began his career across the Channel.

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He was a clear winner of a dramatic race at Warwick this month for David Pipe, who is hoping he will be able to handle the quick turnaround.

“Adagio was good at Warwick,” said Pipe.

“Obviously this race comes up quickly. Tom (Scudamore) schooled him again the other day, and he jumped fine.

“While he’s in good form, we’ll let him take his chance again.”

Robbie Power
Robbie Power (David Davies/PA)

Power has another good ride in his role as stable jockey to Colin Tizzard on Eldorado Allen in the From The Horse’s Mouth Podcast Novices’ Chase.

The six-year-old was a promising sort over hurdles, and made a winning debut over fences at Newton Abbot five weeks ago.

Assistant trainer Joe Tizzard said: “We’ve had this race in mind for him since he won at Newton Abbot. It is quite good timing wise to go there and then the Henry VIII at Sandown.

“He travelled really well at Newton Abbot – and barring his mistake at the last, he jumped like a stag.

“He could be a very exciting novice chaser this season, which we hoped he would be, and he appears to have strengthened up again.”

Fusil Raffles has won both his starts over fences
Fusil Raffles has won both his starts over fences (David Davies/PA)

A strong line-up includes the classy Fusil Raffles, who has won both his starts over fences for Nicky Henderson – including at this track last month.

The Nicholls stable is represented by fencing debutant Quel Destin, a prolific winner over hurdles and fresh from a recent run on the Flat.

“He won nicely on the Flat at Bath a month ago, which was an ideal warm-up for his chasing debut in this,” Nicholls told Betfair.

“We know Quel Destin likes Cheltenham, and his schooling over fences has been good at home in recent weeks.

“Although he has won eight times at the minimum trip, I always think in the back of my mind that he really wants two and a half miles – as long as he jumps well then two miles should be fine.

“He’s tough, reliable and the top rated of these over hurdles, so I’m quite upbeat about his chances.”

Dr Richard Newland is hoping Le Patriote can cope with the step up in grade.

The eight-year-old got off the mark over fences at Market Rasen four weeks ago, on his first start since the Champion Hurdle in March.

Le Patriote is stepping up in grade over fences
Le Patriote is stepping up in grade over fences (Simon Cooper/PA)

“He’s trained well and he’s in good form,” said the Worcester trainer.

“We were thrilled with his win at Market Rasen, and he deserves his tilt in this company.

“It looks a competitive little race. Every one looks to have a bit of a chance on paper, and we’re probably one of the outsiders.

“We’ve got it all to prove – but we go there in good form, so I’m hoping for a big show.

“If he’s quite not up to it he’ll have had a bit of experience of the course, and then we can maybe go back for the handicap at the Festival, something like that.

“We’ll see how he copes with those fences and how he manages them and if he is up to this grade or is he a notch below?”

Philip Hobbs’ Gumball and Henry de Bromhead’s Irish challenger Zarkareva complete a fascinating line-up.