2019 International Meeting recap – Three eyecatchers to take from Cheltenham’s recent feature meeting
Brian Healy looks back on the Cheltenham International Meeting and picks out three runners who caught the eye with solid runs and should win races.
Cheltenham’s International Meeting served up another excellent two days’ of top class horse racing action, and there was plenty to take from the meeting where there were some cracking performances both in success and defeat.
Brian Healy looks back on the action at Cheltenham and reveals three runners who caught his eye during another cracking fixture at the UK’s premier jumps racing track.
CHANTRY HOUSE (Nicky Henderson)
Running in the curtain-raising race to the two-day meeting, Nicky Henderson’s Yeats gelding looked a very useful prospect as he ran out a ready two lengths’ winner over Stolen Silver.
Having tracked the early pace, Barry Geraghty brought the five-year old through to challenge long-time leader Stolen Silver on the run to the last hurdle, and he met the jump well – if a little big – before stretching out impressively on the climb to the line to register a ready success.
It was only his second outing for Henderson having won a Warwick bumper previously, and he still looked in need of the experience. There wasn’t a great pace to the race which turned into something a sprint as the field turned in; but he showed a good attitude, quickening up well after the last, and his rider only had to push him out to score.
The fast-finishing Pipesmoker also caught the eye rallying well for third having been outpaced, but the performance of Nicky Henderson’s charge was a definite eyecatcher, and with improvement to come he should make up into a nice sort this term with the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle a potential target.
ELYSIAN FLAME (Mick Easterby)
Running in the opening race on the second day of the International Meeting, Elysian Flame caught the eye of plenty when finishing nine lengths’ third behind Botox Has, and the will surely come on a bundle for that experience.
The Champs Elysees gelding was having his first start over hurdles having shown a useful amount of ability on the flat, and he did plenty wrong at Cheltenham on his first foray over obstacles where his jumping left plenty to be desired early.
However, he showed he had a good engine as he travelled well through the race although his progress was continuously compromised by a series of sticky and careful leaps which cost him valuable ground, including over the final obstacle where an awkward landing threatened to pitch Paddy Brennan out of the side.
Once balanced though, he ran on well again and he should win races this season if he can brush up his jumping although he might be better suited to a flatter track than the undulations of a test like Cheltenham.
PENTLAND HILLS (Nicky Henderson)
Last season’s Triumph Hurdle winner was making his seasonal debut and bidding to defend his unbeaten hurdles record when stepping out in the feature race of the two days in the Grade Two International Hurdle, and Nicky Henderson’s charge ran a very promising race despite racing too keenly for his own good and he’ll have done his Champion Hurdle claims no harm with his reappearance.
It was his first outing away from the juvenile ranks, and the Motivator gelding took a fierce hold and fought jockey Nico de Boinville almost every step of the way around the contest where he only consented to drop his head turning in to face the climb to the line.
Despite his exuberance, he showed himself to be a very slick and accurate jumper, and he was in front after the last only to perhaps find his earlier exertions taking their toll where allied with lack of a run he faded out of the picture.
He’ll certainly come on for the outing however, and if settling better than he did in that reappearance then he will surely improve so he’s not one to write off just yet in a division that is perhaps lacking any real superstars at present with doubts surrounding several of the main contenders.