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The Festival 2021


It's the week we have all been waiting for with the Olympics of National Hunt racing spread over 4 special days at The Cheltenham Festival.  Unfortunately, unlike last year we haven't had the week we were all hoping for. Rouge Vif set sail in the Queen Mother Champion Chase on Wednesday but after a mistake four out, he was unable to keep up with the eventual winner, Put The Kettle On.  He still gave a great account of himself and has come home safe and sound. Unfortunately Saint Calvados was then subsequently withdrawn before the Ryanair as the drying ground at Cheltenham would not have been suitable for him to run on. We are pleased to report they are both in good health and we will look forward to next year...
Joe Quintin & Calidad
Having won on the all-weather at Kempton last month, we elected to step Sheila Nash up in class at Sandown on Saturday in the Mares’ Listed Bumper.  Bidding to gain some valuable black type to enhance her pedigree, she raced in mid-field and was still within three or four lengths of the leaders as they turned for home.  However, she was unable to pick up off the bridle and got tired coming up the hill in the taxing ground.
We sent two mares up to Sedgefield on Tuesday where Shore Shanty took her chance in the mares’ novices’ hurdle which opened the card.  We were hopeful that the step up in trip and the better ground would suit but having raced up with the pace from the start, she began to struggle as the field descended into the home straight. We know she’s better than that and so we will run a few tests to find out if there’s something amiss with her.
Booley Beach was our second runner on the same card on Tuesday, lining up in the concluding mares’ bumper attempting to get off the mark on the third time of asking.  Ridden positively, she disputed the lead, racing with ears pricked and keeping wide in the search for some less poached up ground. Asked to stretch three furlongs out, she responded generously but failed to shake off the attentions of newcomer Dillarchie who had kept close company throughout.  The pair battled hammer and tongs deep inside the final furlong until her rival just got the better of the argument close home.  Whilst frustrating to be narrowly denied once again, she clearly has a similar event within her grasp in the closing weeks of the season.
Our one and only Festival runner this week was Rouge Vif who took his chance in a strong renewal of the Queen Mother Champion Chase.  With the drying ground in his favour, he bounced out in front under Gavin Sheehan with Put The Kettle On hot on his heels.  Jumping well, he held a narrow lead going to the fourth last, but having been asked for another big jump he put in an extra stride, making a mistake at a critical time and loosing valuable momentum as a result.  Coming down the hill he still held every chance, but another sticky jump three out caused him to lose his place and his race was effectively over at this point.  Gavin not hard on him as he weakened to finish last of the nine runners with victory going to fellow pacesetter Put The Kettle On.
Following the late withdrawal of Saint Calvados from the Ryanair, Franigane was our sole runner yesterday as he journeyed north to Hexham to contest a 2 mile novice hurdle.  A winner at Wetherby 23 days previously, we utilised Alan Doyle’s 7lb claim to offset his 6lb penalty and he was made the odds-on favourite in a field of 11.  Sent straight into the lead, he hurdled efficiently but still had a host of rivals stalking in behind as they approached the second last.  He battled bravely up the hill, fighting off the attention of his main market rival Fugitif, but having repelled him, he was then faced with a new challenger in the shape of Jante Law.  Trying as he might, he sadly just couldn’t hold him off as the post loomed, succumbing by ½ a length into 2nd.
Sergeant O’Leary has shown promise on two of his three starts to date, the latest when fifth at Wetherby, and he is declared in the maiden hurdle at Fontwell tomorrow.  He will need further than this 2m 1½f trip in time, but it is all about getting more experience into him at present with this next run qualifying him for a handicap mark.
Raffles Gitane made a winning debut for the yard at Hereford last month and could look to follow up at Huntingdon next Tuesday.  The race looking a lovely opportunity up against fellow juvenile fillies once more.
Warranty is another juvenile hurdler that might be seen in action next week, in his case at Hereford on Wednesday.  He has a good level of experience under his belt at this stage and any drying of the ground would be in his favour.
Sir Sholokhov has a choice of entries with options at Market Rasen, Ludlow and Sedgefield in the coming days as we plot a possible switch to fences following two runs over hurdles.  The winner of his sole start in Irish points, he has been handed an attractive opening handicap mark of 114 and that is something we will try to exploit.
 Our second entry at Sedgefield next Thursday is Dargiannini.  Already a bumper and hurdle winner at the track this season, he may look to bring up a course hat-trick by defying a penalty in the 2m novice hurdle.   The cruising speed he displayed when making all over 2½m last time suggesting he will have no trouble coping with the drop back in trip.
Until next week...