Racing returns to Cheltenham for the first time since the Festival, a moment to make fans of jump racing smile in the face of adversity. As ever, finding winners will be a serious challenge but Scardura (3.35) looks like a talent worth siding with in the Bentley Flying Spur Handicap Chase, the feature contest of ITV4’s Friday programme.
From the Neil Mulholland yard that has been among the winners and won this race with Fox Norton four years ago, this youngster made a really promising chase debut at Stratford in July, a piece of form that has worked out well. Beat The Judge, just behind him that day, is half a stone worse off this time.
Scardura managed to unseat at the first when fancied at Perth next time but made amends at Newton Abbot in a style that suggested there would be plenty more to come. Odds of 5-1 are fair.
1.50 Cheltenham A GoingStick reading of 6.1 suggests the ground will ride a bit softer than usual for this fixture, recent rain having fallen on watered ground. Still, it may not be what Ask For Glory wants, the Paul Nicholls runner in this novice hurdle having done all his racing on genuine soft ground. Midnight River might have the legs of him, having turned over an odds-on favourite on his recent hurdles debut, the pair clear of a big field.
2.25 Cheltenham Having twice run with credit at the Festival, Galvin has a big chance of getting his first win at the track in this novice chase. He was a maiden over fences when fancied for the novice handicap here in March, finding just one too good. Since then he’s had three confidence-boosting wins against small fields and we may see a more assertive performance this time. Soldier Of Love deserves his chance after a productive summer but does not look quite good enough. The other Irish raider, Doctor Duffy, may be a more potent threat having run third in the Kerry National.
2.40 Doncaster Following a horse over a cliff is something to worry about with Jonah Jones, who is so often “slowly away” and “nearest finish”. But he really did seem unlucky at Ascot last time and this looks winnable, even for a horse who makes his own trouble.
Newbury: 12.40 Skyrunner 1.10 Aleas 1.40 Scope 2.15 Widaad 2.50 Licit 3.25 Ben Lilly 4.00 Tulfarris 4.35 Teruntum Star 5.06 Power Home
Doncaster: 1.00 Titian 1.30 Sea Sylph 2.05 Colonel Faulkner 2.40 Jonah Jones 3.15 Ocean Wind 3.50 Pride Of America 4.25 Miss Mulligan 5.03 Blistering Barney
Cheltenham: 1.50 Midnight River 2.25 Galvin 3.00 Captain Tom Cat (nap) 3.35 Scardura (nb) 4.10 Champagnesuperover 4.45 Fusil Raffles
Newcastle: 4.30 Byron Hill 5.00 Lady Rockstar 5.30 Rocket Rod 6.00 Daniel Deronda 6.30 Scarboroughdebut 7.00 Berry Edge 7.30 Habit Rouge 8.00 Aiden’s Reward 8.30 Maurice Dancer
3.00 Cheltenham There’s something wrong about a handicap hurdle at Cheltenham with no Irish runners, even if it is October. But there are still some progressive, shrewdly campaigned runners, including Captain Tom Cat from the stable of Dr Newland, whose Duke Street won the race last year. He barely justified odds of 8-15 in a novice hurdle last time but has since won twice. He looks fairly treated and can improve for this step up in distance.
3.15 Doncaster This £12,000 prize is thin consolation for Ocean Wind, who was prevented from trying his luck in the Cesarewitch after winning the trial with authority. He looks one to stick with, despite a half-stone rise in the weights and his stable having run out of winners.
Flat effort from Tiger Roll as National campaign begins
The second Flat race of Tiger Roll’s illustrious career is unlikely to rate as even a footnote in future accounts of the dual Grand National winner’s career, as he could finish only sixth in the Flower Hill Maiden Stakes at Navan, having missed the break and raced detached from the rest of the field for the first half-mile of the 14-furlong race.
Having opened in the betting at 10-1, Tiger Roll set off as a 9-1 shot against several rivals with impressive Flat pedigrees. Sam Ewing, a 16-year-old apprentice rider who had earlier said he could not believe that he would be riding “one of the best horses ever”, passed three rivals in the home straight but Tiger Roll never threatened to lose his maiden status on the Flat at the age of 10. Ilmig, a gelding by the outstanding stallion Galileo from Jessica Harrington’s stable, took the spoils from the favourite, Jesse Evans.
The defeat meant Tiger Roll did not emulate Red Rum, the only horse in history to win three Grand Nationals, by adding a win on the level to his record. Red Rum famously dead-heated for a five-furlong selling race at Aintree in 1967, with the legendary Lester Piggott holding the reins. The performance did confirm Tiger Roll’s wellbeing, however, before what could prove to be a historic season on the track.
Having been denied an attempt to win a record-equalling third National by the suspension of racing, trainer Gordon Elliott will now gear Tiger Roll’s campaign entirely around a return to the race he won in 2018 and 2019, with no more than three races beforehand. Tiger Roll is unchanged at 12-1 for the National with Paddy Power, and a 5-1 chance for Cheltenham’s Cross-Country Chase, a race he won before both of his National victories.
“He just missed the break and when he’s on his own, he wouldn’t do a tap, but that’s grand,” Eddie O’Leary, racing manager to his brother Michael, Tiger Roll’s owner, said, “but we’re happy with him. It will be the cross-country [at Cheltenham in November] or the Boyne Hurdle [at Navan in February, for his next race].” Greg Wood