Racing expert Steven Dowler gives his top 5 eyecatchers of the Cheltenham Festival 2020. Which horses made the cut?
LOUIS VAC’ POUCH (Stable Plate Chase)
This eyecatcher of the Cheltenham Festival 2020 might come as a surprise. However, Louis Vac Pouch should be given recognition on the back of his fine display in the Stable Plate Handicap Chase in which he finished seventh of 23 runners.
It was just the second outing for Louis Vac’ Pouch and Phil Kirby, having been turned over as 13-8 favourite in a jumpers bumper race when he was runner-up on stable debut at Newcastle in a class 4. Due to that defeat, Louis Vac’ Pouch was sent off at 50-1 but, if you digest his form, there were plenty of reasons indicating the eight-year-old would outrun his odds and so it proved.
Louis Vac’ Pouch jumped and travelled with plenty of zest and, despite being outpaced three out, he made plenty of ground through the field before being stopped in his tracks at the second last. That left Thomas Dowson with no option other than to ask his mount for maximum effort and the response was immediate.
Impressively, Louis Vac’ Pouch was eating up the ground before belting the final fence which proved costly, otherwise he might well have been involved in the finish. His handicap mark will be reduced 2lbs to 142 for his next run. Therefore, he could be competitive in many more major handicaps.
CAPTAIN GUINNESS (Supreme Novices’ Hurdle)
I do think Abacadabras was unlucky in the opening race of the Cheltenham Festival 2020 but so too was Captain Guinness, who deserves to come under the microscope.
He was hugely impressive when landing a novice hurdle on his debut at Navan, albeit Blackbow fell at the last making life easier. Henry De Bromhead’s talented horse was thrown straight into the deep end next time out in a grade two and, although doing plenty wrong that day, he still nearly won. It suggests that there is a bright future for him. Despite lacking experience, Captain Guinness had a lot to overcome when tackling the Supreme’ Novices Hurdle.
Rachael Blackmore did really well to save her mount’s energy and, going down to the third last hurdle, this promising five-year-old was looking a big danger before being badly hampered by the leader Asterion Forelonge.
He still managed to recover quickly to get back on the bridle once more before the leader, again, caused carnage for a second time at the second last flight, knocking Elixir D’Ainay across and forcing that horse to crash out.
Unfortunately, Captain Guinness was right in the slip stream and, having nowhere else to go, he was bought down.
With deep analysis on the outcome of the race, it would be hard to disagree that Captain Guinness would have been involved in the finish due to the way he was travelling and making ground before the incident occurred. It remains interesting to see which route connections go with the lightly-raced individual because, on looking through his profile, you would like to think he can develop into a genuine Champion Hurdle contender by next year.
However, I think Captain Guinness will be campaigned over fences due to being lightly raced over hurdles and, therefore, the Arkle Novices’ Chase could be the answer for him next year.
ALLAHO / MINELLA INDO (RSA Novices’ Chase)
The RSA Novices’ Chase never fails to deliver and this year was no different. Champ pulled it out of the fire under an inspiring Barry Geraghty performance and is clearly a very talented individual.
Be that as it may, I do think Allaho, who eventually finished third, should be given plenty of credit for his run in defeat. This high-class but free-going horse attempted three miles for the first time over fences and he travelled like the best horse in the race throughout.
Paul Townend let him bowl along at the front, jumping from fence to fence, despite racing keenly up until mid-race when he finally relaxed.
For the majority of the contest it looked like being a repeat of last year’s Albert Bartlett, with Minella Indo racing prominently as well. It was at the third last-last fence when there were still a host of runners in with a chance, all of them being on the quarters of both Minella Indo and Allaho.
But, one by one they started to drop away and both the Irish high-class horses were still locked in combat from the home-bend as they began to pull clear of the field.
Minella Indo was driven to the front two out as Allaho landed awkwardly, handing the advantage to Minella Indo. However, then the latter absolutely belted the final fence, handing Allaho another chance. They were both still tooth and nail, scrapping nose-to-nose up the famous hill.
Neither was to succeed because Champ came from out of the clouds to steal the race, having looked a well held third and ten lengths adrift of the front pair jumping the last. It was clear to see both the eventual second and third traded blows a long way from home, with mistakes coming from both of them late in the day which evidently proved costly.
Although neither Minella Indo nor Allaho took top honours, they both put in huge performances in defeat and are well worth noting for the future and are sure to win plenty of grade one events between them in years to come.
NIGHT EDITION (Boodles Juvenile Hurdle)
I mentioned in a Cheltenham Festival 2020 preview night that I was quite bullish about Night Edition being a horse to follow next season. This highly promising four-year-old ran a fabulous race in defeat to finish second behind Aramax in the competitive Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle.
Night Edition had previously won a low graded race with the minimum of fuss but came into this race with decent course and overall form whilst remaining unexposed. Sent off 16-1, Tom Scudamore had him switched off towards the rear of the field until setting out on the final circuit, Night Edition made good headway through the field and was travelling better than most.
Unfortunately, their clear run whilst travelling sweetly was soon to fall away, having been hampered after jumping two out in a messy situation with a host of runners still in contention. What I thought to be most impressive was the way Night Edition regathered his momentum like a very horse and made a sparkling manoeuvre around a good percentage of the field off the home bend with the assistance of Tom Scudamore.
He rode a brilliant race to put his horse in with a decent chance of glory from an unlikely situation. Night Edition soon went second and challenged the eventual winner jumping the final flight but sadly couldn’t reel back Aramax up the hill having used up all the energy to get into that position.
The more I watch the race, the more I think Night Edition would have won with a clear run. Regardless of the outcome, I would recommend adding Night Edition to the portfolio because he is sure to win plenty of decent contests for the David Pipe stable in the near future.
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