The nine races attracted a record attendance for Cheltenham Festival Trials Day of 22,598 as against 20,785 in 2016.
The official going description for Cheltenham Festival Trails Day was:
Chase and Hurdle Courses: Soft, Good to Soft in places
Cross Country Course: Good to soft, Good in places
GoingStick readings: Chase/Hurdle 6.5, Cross country 7.2 (Saturday at 6.00am)
Race reports and links to reviews can be found below. The Graded action appears first, followed by the remainder of the nine-race card.
Many Clouds (Oliver Sherwood/Leighton Aspell) caused an upset in the G2 BetBright Trial Cotswold Chase on Cheltenham Festival Trials Day when defeating 4/9 favourite Thistlecrack (Colin Tizzard/Tom Scudamore) most gamely by a head, rallying to regain the lead close home, with last year’s winner Smad Place (Alan King/Wayne Hutchinson) another 17 lengths back in third… please click on link for more info and images.
• 1.45pm • £70,000 • Spectra Cyber Security Solutions Clarence House Chase (Grade 1) • 2m 62y
An added bonus on Cheltenham Festival Trials Day this year was the addition of the G1 Spectra Security Solutions Clarence House Chase to the race programme. The 2-mile contest was rescheduled following its abandonment at Ascot on 21st January because of frost… please click on link for more info and images.
• 4.00pm • £60,000 • galliardhomes.com Cleeve Hurdle (Grade 2) • 2m 7f 213y
Unowhatimeanharry (Harry Fry/Barry Geraghty) justified favouritism in the G2 galliardhomes.com Cleeve Hurdle to cement his position at the head of the market for the Sun Bets Stayers’ Hurdle at The Festival…. please click on link for more info and images.
The opening G2 JCB Triumph Trial Juvenile Hurdle went the way of 1/5 favourite Defi Du Seuil (Philip Hobbs/Barry Geraghty), who made it five from five over hurdles with a very comfortable nine-length success over Rainbow Dreamer (Alan King/Wayne Hutchinson)… please click on link for more info and images.
• 3.25pm • £30,000 • G2 Neptune Investment Management Classic Novices’ Hurdle • 2m 4f 56y
Wholestone (Nigel Twiston-Davies/Daryl Jacob) recorded a third Cheltenham victory this season with another brave display in the G2 Neptune Investment Management Classic Novices’ Hurdle.
Sent off the 11/4 favourite after winning the G2 Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle over three miles at The International, the Simon Munir and Isaac Souede-owned six-year-old was always towards the head of affairs and moved up to take the lead a mile from home.
Wholestone found plenty under pressure and stayed on gamely up the hill to prevail by three lengths over 5/1 chance William Henry (Nicky Henderson/Davy Russell).
Nigel Twiston-Davies commented: “Wholestone is a great galloper and the rain last night really helped. If it had stayed good ground, then maybe the others might have been too quick for him but he is a galloper and a stayer.
“He schools well and, while his hurdling doesn’t look clean, he doesn’t lose any lengths. He is a very good jumper – it just doesn’t look pretty! If he was slow over hurdles, it would be a disaster but he is not.
“He will entered in both the Albert Bartlett and the Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle but I am sure that the Albert Bartlett will be the one.”
Daryl Jacob added: “Wholestone has been an improving horse all year. I was a little bit worried about coming back to 2 and a half miles today but fair play to Simon, Isaac, Nigel and Anthony (Bromley, racing manager). They knew the rain was coming and it was a good test for him out there today.
“He just seems to keep improving and improving. He is just a lovely horse – he doesn’t do anything flash, he doesn’t do anything quick but he is a typical Nigel horse. They are a very, very hardy type of horses.
“I think the Albert Bartlett at The Festival could be the race for him if we get good ground. I am not going to tell my bosses what to do – they have mastered this horse from the start of the year and all credit to them.”
• 1.10pm • £60,000 • Hugo’s Restaurant Barbados Trophy Handicap Chase (Grade 3) • 2m 4f 166y
Foxtail Hill (Nigel Twiston-Davies/Jamie Bargary (3), 10st 3lb) put up a fine front-running performance to land the G3 Hugo’s Restaurant Barbados Trophy Handicap on Cheltenham Festival Trials Day. Leading from pillar to post, the eight-year-old started to go away from his field going over the third last. He tired up the run-in but kept on gamely to see off Saphir Du Rheu (Paul Nicholls/Nick Scholfield, 11st 9lb) by a length.
Tenor Nivernais (Venetia Williams/Liam Treadwell) was a further 4 and a half lengths back in third.
Jamie Bargary remarked: “I think it was more relief than anything else that he kept going up the hill but thankfully he got it done.
“I had him on the rail and Nigel has put a new bit on him, which seems to keep him straight. He never put a foot wrong and the longer I went, the braver he got, which is what you want in a front-runner.
“I was hoping that I hadn’t gone too fast. This ground is a bit dead and, if they are a bit keen, it doesn’t help their chances in the last quarter of the race. I managed to get a breather into him after the winning line, steadied it up and they all came to me. There was no point holding on top him going down the hill, so I let him roll. Luckily, I had enough in the tank after the last to keep going.
“He half-steadied into the last and pricked his ears. I heard Saphir Du Rheu coming to me but Foxtail Hill found extra up the hill and stuck his head out.
“It’s my second Grade Three and I am so thankful to be riding in these races and to be given the chance. I am having a brilliant season and it is all thanks to Nigel. He keeps putting me up and I can’t fault him as a boss.”
Nigel Twiston-Davies added: “That was very exciting. I was muttering that Jamie had gone too fast and he hadn’t! I asked him afterwards if he was going a bit quick and he said that he couldn’t go any slower! The horse made his mind up for him.
“Foxtail Hill relaxed after a circuit and Jamie let the horse fill up his lungs. The rest caught up but then he still had a lot left. Jumping has never been a problem – he got brought down by a tack problem on his first run – and it was superb.
“He is certainly much better going this way round. We have had some bit adjustments and things like that and it has all worked well.
“I think the Close Brothers Novices’ Handicap Chase on the first day of The Festival is his obvious race.”
• 12.35pm • £25,000 • Timeform Novices’ Handicap Chase • 2m 4f 166y (main picture, top, courtesy of Ian Yates)
Royal Vacation (Colin Tizzard/Paddy Brennan, 11st 9lb) put up a superb display to land the Timeform Novices’ Handicap Chase during the Cheltenham Festival Trials Day.
The seven-year-old, who benefited from the fall of Might Bite when landing the G1 Kauto Star Novices’ Chase at Kempton Park on Boxing Day, was always in a prominent position as Burtons Well (Venetia Williams/Charlie Deutsch (3), 11st 3lb) made the running.
In an incident-packed race, Royal Vacation took up the running approaching the second last and kept on strongly to score by eight lengths from the staying-on Potters Legend (Lucy Wadham/Leighton Aspell, 11st 5lb) with top-weight Ibis Du Rheu (Paul Nicholls/Harry Cobden (3), 11st 12lb) a further length and three-quarters back in third.
Colin Tizzard commented: “There was an awful lot going on behind us, wasn’t there? Paddy had him in the right position all the time and he always looked as though he was going to be involved in the finish. For whatever reason, nothing else came through. His jumping has been pretty good since day one – neat and accurate.
“This is a little bit unexpected. We were a bit lucky last time but Royal Vacation will go for one of the races at The Festival now. He needed practice around Cheltenham and that was lovely, absolutely fantastic.
“I suppose we will be governed by what the handicapper does. We were 141 going into today’s race and perhaps he would have been a good thing for a handicap at The Festival but he won’t be running off that rating now.
“We will see what happens but I am so chuffed for Jean Bishop (owner) and for the horse to win a race here.”
Paddy Brennan said: “I was really, really impressed with Royal Vacation today. We always knew that he was a bit short of his best and sometimes we don’t give horses enough credit. This horse is all guts and determination and he will win a lot of races because of that.
“Colin has given him plenty of runs at places like Lingfield, Ascot and even Kempton, when people question why he was running him, but that is what has made him.
“Three miles is his trip and, the better the ground, the better he will be. He is exciting for what is left this season. He definitely felt like an RSA Chase horse today – he is going to be rated over 150 now – so let’s be realistic and he has got everything in his favour.
“He stays well – he might be outpaced at times but he will come home really well.”
• 2.50pm • £25,000 • Glenfarclas Cross Country Handicap Chase • 3m 6f 37y
French raider Urgent De Gregaine (Emmanuel Clayeux/Felix de Giles, 10st) caused a big upset in the Glenfarclas Cross County Chase when defeating 11/8 favourite Cantlow (Enda Bolger IRE/Adrian Heskin, 11st 4lb) by 3 lengths. This Cheltenham Festival Trials Day race had been rescheduled from The Open in November, when it was postponed due to the lack of rain.
The winner travelled smoothly under Felix de Giles and was held up to deliver his challenge to Cantlow after the last. He ran on well for an ultimately comfortable success. The veteran Any Currency (Martin Keighley/Richard Johnson) was another 21 lengths back in third.
Felix de Giles said: “Urgent De Gregaine was the companion for Vezelay (who ran in the BetBright Trial Cotswold Chase). He has won a lot of races in France actually and he is one of the horses that only just does enough, so I didn’t want to hit the front too soon.
“He is not a Cross-Country horse, in France he is chaser but the chases in France are a bit like these races. He has adapted well and we have profited from a light weight. The ground is testing and the distance long, so I think he has made the most of it today.
“I find that you really need a horse that stays well in Cross-Country races because they don’t go very fast and it is a long trip. The ground is quite hard work today and I think if you can have a light weight, even if you lack a bit of quality, you can beat the better horses.
“I don’t think he would be any better on quicker ground because he doesn’t have a huge amount of speed but he stays very well. I think the handicapper will probably put him up a bit but I think he has shown us everything to warrant coming back here in March.”
• 4.35pm • £25,000 • Steel Plate & Sections Handicap Hurdle • 2m 179yds
The concluding Steel Plate & Sections Handicap Hurdle at Cheltenham Festival Trials Day went to William H Bonney (Alan King/Wayne Hutchinson, 10st 11lb). The six-year-old travelled strongly throughout and was always doing enough on the run-in to see off the late challenge of Man Of Plenty (Sophie Leech/Patrick Cowley (7), 10st) by a length. Another half-length back in third was Divine Spear (Nicky Henderson/Ned Curtis (5), 10st 6lb).
Alan King said: “William H Bonney tanked through the race and I was a bit worried that he was doing a bit too much. He was a bit long at the last and does pull up in front but he found more when the other horse came to him.
“He might go for the Betfair Hurdle (at Newbury on 11th February) now. That should put him spot on – he needed his first run at Kempton, we knew that he would come forward and he might just improve a bit more again. I don’t think he has had a terribly hard race today and we will see but Newbury would be my first thoughts at the moment.
“He was wrong in the autumn and was lame for a long time. The team have worked hard to get him back and I ran him in the Supreme last season – I thought he was good enough to run in that but my horses weren’t really firing at the time.
“I am delighted for (owners) Bob and Pauline. They have been great supporters. They have not been the luckiest but, by God, they deserve a nice horse.”