It’s always invigorating for NH enthusiasts to see Cheltenham’s first ‘proper’ meeting of the season in October, especially in the beautiful early winter light.
I didn’t watch all the races, but Duke of Navan caught my eye. Very keen until after the third when young Ryan Day got him settled, he travelled throughout like the best horse in the race. Ten-years-old now, he probably hasn’t won as many races as his talent merits, but on today’s performance, he could pick up something decent this year.
Last season, I thought Redicean could make up into a very nice horse. He disappointed at the festival and I watched with interest today. Although Wayne Hutchinson did his best, the horse never really got into a rhythm. He was lighting up after each jump until Wayne got hold of his head again.
I think the jury’s still out on whether undulating tracks are for him. He travelled into the business end of the race looking like the winner, but was arguably weak in the finish. In his favour was the 15lbs he was conceding to the winner (1st and 2nd both 4-year-olds). Also, he didn’t look fully wound up to my eye, whereas the winner was race fit.
He’d be an interesting prospect if he could get decent ground in one of the big handicap hurdles at right-handed tracks, where the pace would help him settle.
In the first I thought West Approach ran a remarkable race to finish 3rd given the energy expended and the distance conceded with balloon like jumps at many of the fences. Dicky Johnson did a fine job in kidding him into settling nicely between fences.
Significantly, perhaps, the only other time he tried to make all was at Newton Abbott in May 2016. He seemed to enjoy being in front today and I hope they give him another try with these tactics. He could be a good in-running bet if setting out in front and jumping the first two or three in economical fashion.