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Cheltenham November meeting review - Six vanquished eyecatchers from Cheltenham's November highlight

Coneygree turned in an excellent effort on his return to action at Cheltenham on Saturday.

Brian Healy gives his six eyecatchers from the recent Cheltenham November Meeting who whilst beaten should be winning races before long.

The dust is settling on three cracking days’ horse racing action at Cheltenham following the conclusion of the November Meeting, and there was plenty to take out of what was a fantastic weekend at the Cotswolds venue.

With some smart winners, shock surprises and eyecatching losers, onlookers will have been sure to have gleaned a few Cheltenham Festival clues across three competitive days’ action; and as thoughts now turn again towards March, Brian Healy gives his own six most eyecatching performances from those who were vanquished in their respective races but who with some luck should be winning before the end of the season.

MR WHIPPED


Nicky Henderson’s Grade Two-winning hurdler was fancied to make a winning debut over fences, and the Beneficial gelding certainly gave the impression that he was capable of making his mark over the larger obstacles with a solid effort in defeat.

Travelling sweetly for much of the race under Jerry McGrath, the Henderson runner was a little careful at many of his fences, and he couldn’t quite match the gallop when the pace lifted after the third last fence; but he kept on strongly until a last-fence mistake cost him valuable momentum.

The front pairing of Count Meribel - who survived a bad blunder two out - and Le Breuil showed the benefit of prior runs to fight out the finish, with Henderson’s chasing debutante back finishing only a neck back in third.

He looks sure to improve for that initial experience, and with a run under his belt he could develop into a very useful sort this campaign.

TIGER ROLL


Gordon Elliott’s Cheltenham Festival and Grand National hero was making his seasonal reappearance in the Glenfarclas Cross Country, and the eight-year old ran a promising race in finishing fourth despite conceding plenty of weight to his field of rivals, including winner Josie’s Orders to whom he was giving more than a stone in weight.

The Authorized gelding was making his first start since his Aintree heriocs, whereas the trio who finished ahead of him had all had recent runs and had a definite advantage in terms of fitness. 

He finished only around five lengths adrift in fourth, and well clear of the remainder which included stablemate and cross-country stalwart Bless The Wings; it was a valiant effort by Elliott’s popular chaser and he is sure to come on markedly for that run as he limbers up to mount a defence of both his Festival Cross Country crown and his Grand National title later in the campaign.

NEVER ADAPT


Nicky Henderson’s charge ran a very strange race in Saturday’s opener, pulling herself to the front soon after tapes-up and bowling along freely at the head of affairs desite Barry Geraghty’s efforts to settle the daughter of Anabaa Blue.

The writing was very much on the wall for the youngster as she clouted the second last hurdle and almost immediately dropped towards the tail of the field, and the fierce early pace she had set looked to have taken it’s toll. 

Despite that mistake and her earlier exertions, she managed to find a second wind between the final two hurdles, and keeping on well on the run-in she managed to get back up to claim the bronze medal from Katpoli.

Edgy prior to the start, which saw jockey Barry Geraghty briefly dismount, she should improve for the experience; if learning to settle better than she did on Saturday then it surely won’t be long before she is winning races.

CONEYGREE


No-one would have blamed connections of 2015 Gold Cup winner Coneygree had they elected to retire the now-eleven year old following some well-documented injury problems.

But following wind surgery and racing in a first-time tongue-tie, the Karninga Blue gelding showed there was life in his aging legs still as he jumped from fence to fence out in front of the field under jockey Sean Bowen in the Betvictor.com Handicap Chase.

Holding a narrow lead turning into the straight for the final time, he couldn’t quite muster up enough to hold off his challengers; but he dug deep to hold for third place on what was his first run since pulling up in the previous season’s Ladbrokes Trophy Chase.

Lack of a prior run and perhaps the 3m 3f trip on his return were both probable factors in his defeat, but nevertheless he was just over six lengths adrift of the winner to whom he was giving 13lbs at the weights.

He looked to enjoy being back in the thick of the action, and he got a resounding reception from the stands as he made his way back in. The King George VI Chase has already been touted as a possible next target if he comes out of his return well, and he showed at eleven years of age he is no back number if he can remain sound.

MEGA YEATS


Ruth Jefferson sent her Carlisle bumper winner to contest what is traditionally a hot and informative contest, and her charge ran a blinder in defeat having made most of the running.

The Yeats filly had looked set to be swallowed up by the chasing pack as they turned to face the climb to the line, but she kept finding more under jockey Jamie Hamilton, responding to the rider’s every urge from the saddle.

Her gutsy effort went unrewarded, as having looked to have the measure of a Willie Mullins favourite in Royal Illusion, she was mown down near the line by the fast finishing The Glancing Queen who blindsided the northern raider in the last few yards to score by little over one length at the line.

That trio, along with the fourth-placed Mrs Hyde who was a further two lengths adrift, had pulled well clear of the rest of the runners, and the contest could represent some form.

Jefferson’s charge looks sure to progress on the back of that outing, and she can make her mark over hurdles in due time.


Ruth Jefferson's Mega Yeats ran a blinder in defeat in Saturday's closing Listed bumper.


PINGSHOU


Colin Tizzard’s charge was a Grade One winning hurdler last term, but he could well be one to keep onside over fences this term despite being well beaten behind Lalor in the Arkle Trial on Sunday’s racecard.

The Definite Article gelding looked heavy prior to the race, and he probably needed the run; but he acquitted himself well following an early mistake, helping to force the pace and holding every chance until three out where he began to struggle. 

He wasn’t given a hard time by jockey Aidan Coleman who looked after him once his chance had gone; but he ran on again after the last to finish fourth of the five runners and ahead of Defi Du Seuil who didn’t jump well throughout.

Although he was beaten in excess of twenty lengths, he will come on a bundle for the run and the experience, and he can win races over fences.

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Cheltenham November meeting review - Six vanquished eyecatchers from Cheltenham's November highlight

Brian Healy gives his six eyecatchers from the recent Cheltenham November Meeting who whilst beaten should be winning races before long.

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