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Race Meeting Report - Tuesday 25th October

Wed, Oct 26, 2016

The World Hurdle winner Thistlecrack was the star of today’s racing at Chepstow. His performances last season were so impressive that he has been made favourite for the Cheltenham Gold Cup in March, despite never having run in a steeplechase.

Thanks to the recent rain making the ground suitably good to soft, his debut over fences came in the fifth race on today’s card, the Aspen Waite Complete Business Growth Services Novices’ Chase. Little could the directors of this organisation have known how high-profile this race would be when they originally decided to sponsor it.

Thistlecrack (1/6 fav) made all at a steady pace, jumped well, and won easily. A big leap at the last open ditch showed he had plenty of energy left. His old rival Aqalim got to within a few lengths between the last two fences but the leader pulled away readily, flew the final fence, and finished four lengths to the good without having a hard race.

His jockey Tom Scudamore was clearly very pleased, as was trainer Colin Tizzard, who will send the horse to Cheltenham’s mid-November meeting for his next race. The bookmakers were impressed and shortened his odds for the Gold Cup.

A full day of entertainment had begun with four Paul Nicholls horses galloping before racing, including the dual King George VI Chase winner Silviniaco Conti.

The first race was a division of the 2m4f maiden hurdle, which resulted in a win for Alan King’s Laser Light (9/4), ridden by Daryl Jacob. He could be seen going nicely in fourth place until taking the lead approaching the last and going on to score by five lengths from a reliable yardstick, Rolling Dylan. Laser Light carries the colours of Simon Munir, who has owned a string of high-class novices in the last few years.

Thegreendalerocket (8/1) took the 3m2f novices chase, who led a mile out and was booted into a clear lead by Harry Cobden four out. He stayed on well and although jumping slightly to the right he was a convincing three length winner from Iora Glas. It was Jimmy Frost’s first training success at Chepstow for over five years.

Istimraar made almost all the running in the 2m selling hurdle but looked destined for second place when Richard Johnson loomed up on Honour Promise (7/1) approaching the last and took a fractional advantage. Although Istimraar got away from it better and regained the lead briefly, Johnson drove Honour Promise back in front on the short run-in. Bernard Llewellyn’s half-length winner failed to attract a bid at the auction.

Craiganee (11/2) made all in the 3m handicap hurdle to give Richard Johnson a quick double. His trainer Chris Down explained afterwards that the plan had been to hold him up, but the horse was keen early on and the champion jockey let him stride on at his own pace. He kept on pulling out more when Bold Conquest harried him all the way up the home straight, and was a length and a half on top at the line.

After Thistlecrack’s race we had the second division of the 2m4f maiden hurdle, and the outcome was another win for the Tizzard stable. Their 150,000 euros purchase Elegant Escape (10/1) tracked Paul Nicholls’s Persian Delight as that one cruised into contention between the last two flights. Despite not going as well he ran on strongly to jump into the lead at the last and, helped by the shortness of the run-in, held off the challenge of the rallying Nicholls horse by a short head.

Two 2m4f handicap hurdles that ended the day were won easily by horses that had showed improvement by finishing first and second in a race at Fontwell last week. The winner of that one, Looksnowtlikebrian (5/4 fav), led four out and in spite of blundering at the next two won by fourteen lengths from Dropzone to complete a treble for Richard Johnson. Tim Vaughan’s in-form five-year-old could run again on Friday, before the handicapper reassesses him.

It was a similar story in the next, with the Fontwell runner-up Earls Fort (6/5 fav) taking the lead four out and surviving a sketchy jump at the second last to coast to victory. Sean Corby sat still on him and drew ten lengths clear of L Frank Baum. In the closing stages he allowed the second to get to within three lengths, without ever looking threatening. Atttempting a quick follow-up, Neil Mulholland entered the winner in the last race at Sedgefield on Thursday 27th.

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Jim Beavis