Chad Yeomans assesses what we learned at Cheltenham, reveals the one horse to make his notebook, and pays tribute to a jockey in the form of her life.
As expected, the highlight on Saturday for most racing fans was seeing Paisley Park return to action in the Cleeve Hurdle.
He travelled well throughout before hitting his customary flat spot when he was rousted along by Aidan Coleman as they approached the last. But, in true style, he kicked clear once the turbo jets switched on and left the rest for dead.
I don’t think he’ll have much to fear at Cheltenham when he defends his Stayers’ Hurdle crown (which he is currently to defend).
However, if the mighty mare Benie Des Deux – who is the antepost second-favourite at – does turn up for this rather than the Mares Hurdle, then he might face his toughest battle yet, especially giving her 7lb.
Santini has caused all sorts of commotion following his success in the Cotswold Chase. There are almost more questions around him now than there were before that success!
He never looked like he was travelling sweetly, but perhaps it’s just his style to race behind the bridle. He clearly needs encouragement and to be reminded why he’s on the racecourse.
However, when his partner Nico de Boinville needed him most, he jumped clear at the last and stayed on resolutely.
He’s smart, but I think he might get taken off his feet early if they go at a frantic pace in the Gold Cup – for which he is – in six weeks’ time.
Elsewhere at Cheltenham
In all honesty, I wasn’t overly impressed with much else in the other trials.
Imperial Aura remains of interest as a well-handicapped horse, who is only going to get better with experience.
She’s been getting plenty of plaudits, but I couldn’t write this column without mentioning Hollie Doyle, who has been riding out of her skin.
There are too many good rides to mention but, to highlight one, her performance on Paddleurowncanoe at Lingfield last Wednesday was brilliant on a horse that really needed to be wound up a long way out.
She has also ridden four trebles in eight days, which is just mind-blowing, I’d love to see her get some deserved chances in Group races this year.
It’s not the most original of entrants this week, but I was very impressed with Benie Des Deux, who won the Galmoy Hurdle in great style.
I have liked her for a long time and do think that she’s a better mare than Honeysuckle, despite the fact, that she will want and appreciate further.
She looks back to her best and her master trainer will no doubt find her plenty of races in England, Ireland and France to collect plenty of prize money.
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