Native River (centre) lands the Denman Chase – but will he grab gold?
PICTURE: Edward Whitaker (racingpost.com/photos)
Collated by Lewis Porteous 6:30PM 12 FEB 2017
In our new Sunday column, we take a sideways look at the best and worst moments from the weekend’s racing
Performance of the weekend
Where to start? Native River screamed Gold Cup contender in the Denman Chase, while Mega Fortune, Bacardys, Disko and Sizing John all booked their festival berths in style at Leopardstown, but arguably the performance of the weekend came from Altior in the Betfair Exchange Chase. A model of a racehorse, Altior makes everything he does look effortless and his jumping set the pulse racing for all the right reasons. No wonder he’s long odds-on for the Racing Post Arkle.
There was not much for Nigel Twiston-Davies to quibble about on Saturday but the enigma that is Bristol De Mai blotted his copybook with a lacklustre show in the Denman Chase. With his demolition job in the Peter Marsh still fresh in the mind, Bristol De Mai was the well-backed favourite but his Gold Cup aspirations took a hefty dent after an indifferent round of jumping saw him finish last of three. Write him off at your peril, but unless the festival gets a late transfer to his favourite track Haydock the chance of him striking gold looks unlikely.
Tweet of the weekend
Newbury and Leopardstown might have served up the Graded action this weekend but away from the bright lights journeyman jockey Dave Crosse celebrated the biggest win of his career. The race in question was a Class 2 handicap chase and victory on Templehills doubled Crosse’s tally for the season.
Tobefair just does not know when he is beaten and Debra Hamer’s winning machine completed a remarkable seven-timer with a really gutsy effort at Newbury on Saturday. It came off a mark 53lb higher than when initiating the sequence in June 2015 and all roads now lead to the Pertemps Final at Cheltenham next month for the next chapter of the fairytale.
Best Delia Smith impression
The action at Newbury on Saturday proved small fields do not necessarily make for unattractive racing, but when the two Graded chases attract a combined seven runners and Britain’s most valuable handicap hurdle does not contain a full field size even at the five-day stage, alarm bells start to chime. Perhaps, with the festival in mind, it was down to the testing ground. Either way, doing his best impression of Delia’s ‘let’s be havin’ you!’ rant, Nigel Twiston-Davies’ battle cry in Saturday’s Racing Post was inspirational. “We can run in the Betfair Hurdle and the County Hurdle. Maybe people just get nervous? I don’t know why. I love a battle,” said the in-form trainer.
Biggest cause for concern
Well, concern for Willie Mullins and his supporters at least. Ireland’s champion trainer saddled 11 runners at Leopardstown on Sunday and, although he left the track with a Grade 1 in the bag, that came from 12-1 chance Bacardys, with favourites Bapaume, Saturnas, Bellshill and Voix Des Tiep all defeated. Not ideal with a little over four weeks until Cheltenham.
Picture of the weekend
Racing Post Arkle favourite Altior is spring-heeled in the Game Spirit Chase
PICTURE: Getty Images
Steve Smith and Dalton Grant never quite reached the pinnacle when they represented Great Britain in the high jump, but with leaps like this Altior is heading to the top of the podium.