Entries & Recent Form

With just a week to go until the 2021 Cheltenham Festival I am pleased to have brought to an end the frustrating run of placings courtesy of a fantastic double at Newbury over the weekend.  Umbrigado was very good in landing the prestigious Grade 3 Greatwood Gold Cup, whilst Iron Heart confirmed his promise by scoring on his handicap debut on the same card.  With a good run from Night Edition in the valuable Morebattle Hurdle at Kelso on Saturday, it is reassuring to have the string in such good order as the highlight of the racing calendar is almost upon us.

Umbrigado On The Mark At Newbury

The highlight of the week was of course the success of Umbrigado (pictured above) in the Greatwood Gold Cup at Newbury on Saturday.  Given a patient ride by David Noonan, he crept into contention on the final circuit and always appeared to be travelling well and despite fiddling the last couple of fences, he responded well on the run-in to collar the leaders and score going away.

He has now won his last three starts over fences and clearly is a horse on the upgrade.  He didn’t have an overly-hard race on Saturday as he travelled extremely well for much of the contest and we will have to see how he comes out of this race but we will now have to seriously consider going to the Cheltenham Festival with him.  He is entered in the Paddy Power Plate (2m4f) and the Grand Annual over two miles and we will leave him in both races at the six-day stage and assess his options from there.

The result was timely for David Noonan who gave him an excellent ride and will be done no harm by this high-profile success.

Heart’s Handicap Success

Iron Heart (pictured right) completed the double on the card when a narrow winner of the 2m handicap hurdle under Fergus Gillard.  The winning margin of a neck doesn’t really tell the full story however as our four year old travelled beautifully on this better ground and bounded clear in fine style approaching the last only to idle on the run-in to win by a diminishing margin.  It does mean that the handicapper should not be too hard on him and he can continue to improve.  Already a winner twice on the flat, he is a nice dual-purpose horse to look forward to and can give his owners Decimus Racing plenty more enjoyment.  There are still a couple of 10% shares available, so do give me a bell if you would like to be involved in the action.

Night Edtion ran an absolute cracker to finish runner-up in the valuable Morebattle handicap hurdle at Kelso on Saturday.  Runner-up in the Boodles handicap hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival this time last year, he had disappointed in a couple of starts this season but this was much more like it.  Sticking to his task really well in the straight, he was only 1¼ lengths behind The Shunter at the line.  He could head to the Festival, although it is questionable whether he will get in from his mark of 129.

Well Done Kelso!

Talking of Kelso, I would like to congratulate them on the excellent initiative to alter race conditions and offer a £100,000 bonus to any horse winning the Morebattle and going on to score at the Cheltenham Festival.  Changed to a handicap since its last running in 2019, they were rewarded with a good, competitive field and it certainly breathed new life into the race.

Earlier in the week, What A Moment was unlucky not to score when runner-up at Plumpton.  Our veteran did everything right and looked set to score turning for home, only to idle badly in the closing stages.  To his credit, he did rally on the run-in to force a photograph and he deserves compensation.

Buster Edwards was another to post a better effort when third in the 3m3f handicap hurdle at Sedgefield on Sunday.  He stuck on well in the closing stages and should be capable of winning something similar from his current mark for the Willpower Partnership.

The Week Ahead

Looking to this week and we run Bumpy Johnson and Shoot To Fame at Exeter tomorrow (Tuesday).  Bumpy Johnson was the good winner of a bumper at Fontwell and he was not beaten far next time out at Hereford on his hurdling debut.  He made mistakes when disappointing last time but has schooled well and is better than that effort and this maiden hurdle looks a decent opportunity for him.

Shoot To Fame runs in the 2m1f novices’ handicap hurdle.  The winner of a couple of point-to-points, she has shown some ability but has proven a bit disappointing to date.  This doesn’t look to be the deepest of races and it would be great if she could show a bit of improvement for the Blue Ball Syndicate.

On Wednesday we will have one runner as Nordic Combined makes his debut for the David Pipe Racing Club in the 2m3f handicap hurdle.  He is a horse that is a little quirky, although he possesses plenty of ability.  He beat the likely favourite at Taunton last season conceding a stone so has obvious claims on that basis.  Fergus Gillard takes 5lbs off his back and he should be thereabouts once again and will give members plenty of enjoyment.

Neon Moon and Sans Logique are entered at Wincanton and Southwell (on the flat) respectively on Thursday, whilst Iron Heart, Gericault Roque, Kepagge and Sexy Lot are engaged at Sandown on Friday, with Eamon An Cnoic holding an entry back over fences at Leicester.

The big race of the weekend comes at Sandown where the Imperial Cup is the highlight.  It is a race that the yard has traditionally done very well in and it offers a bonus for the horse winning this and then going on to score at Cheltenham.  This time around we are represented by Leoncavallo, Nordic Combined and Eamon An Cnoic.  Keep up to date with all the latest running plans by visiting our daily news page each day.

Preview Nights

Of course, it is that time of the year when all the Cheltenham Preview nights take place and whilst things will be a little different this time around, I will still be on the panel of three such events this week.   They will be virtual previews of course conducted via Zoom or some suchlike.  On Wednesday, I will be on the panel of the Star Sports free preview night alongside Davy Russell, on Thursday it is the Tom Faulkner point-to-point fundraiser and on Friday it is the turn of the excellent Value Racing Club whose preview evening will benefit the Injured Jockeys Fund.

Vieux Lion Gets Another Go

Finally, away from Cheltenham, there was a scratching stage for the Grand National last week.  Whilst he was all but guaranteed a run before this stage, I am pleased to report that Vieux Lion Rouge definitely gets in now as he is number 37 in the list with a maximum field of 40 for the Aintree centrepiece.  With Tom Scudamore booked to ride favourite Cloth Cap, Conor O’Farrell will partner Vieux Lion Rouge and he will no doubt get the thrill of a lifetime as he bids to extend his remarkable record of 223 Grand National fences jumped without incident.  Conor knows him well as he was aboard when winning a veteran’s chase at Chepstow and for his second victory in the Becher Chase this season.

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