Tuesday, 22 February 2022

Katchit

 

The winner of just one of is 14 starts for Mick Channon, and two more for Alan King, on the Flat as a two- and three-year-old, Katchit proved something of a revelation when sent over hurdles at the start of the 2006/07 National Hunt season. Ridden by Robert 'Chocolate' Thornton, as he was in all bar two of his 24 hurdles starts, Katchit opened his account at the first time of asking, winning a juvenile novices' hurdle at Market Rasen by 9 lengths eased down. Indeed, over the next two seasons, he would win ten of his 13 starts, including twice at the Cheltenham Festival, finish second twice and third once.


Fresh from a 1¾-length victory over previous Grade One winner Good Bye Simon in the Finesse Juvenile Hurdle the previous January, Katchit was sent off 11/2 second-favourite for a competitive, 23-runner renewal of the Triumph Hurdle, over the same course and distance, on his first appearance at the Cheltenham Festival in 2007. Competitive on paper, that is, because Katchit drew clear in the closing stages for an impressive, 9-length victory.


The following season he returned to the Cheltenham Festival, attempting to become the first Triumph Hurdle winner since Kribensis, in 1990, to win the Champion Hurdle. After suffering defeats by Harchibald and Osana, both of whom reopposed, earlier in the season, Katchit was sent off at 10/1 joint-fifth choice of the market behind 2/1 favourite Sizing Europe. However, with the market leader suffering an injury in-running, on 4lb better terms, Katchit managed to reverse earlier International Hurdle form with Osana to the tune of 9 lengths, to win, all out, by a length. In so doing, he became the first five-year-old to win the Champion Hurdle since See You Then in 1985.

Wednesday, 5 January 2022

Goshen

So far, Goshen has made just one appearance at the Cheltenham Festival, where he was sent off heavily-backed 5/2 favourite for the Triumph Hurdle in 2020 after wide-margin wins, all at long odds-on, at Fontwell, Sandown and Ascot. Indeed, the four-year-old gelding appeared set for another when approaching the final flight in the Triumph Hurdle with a commanding, 10-length lead. However, he failed to pick up when asked to do so by jockey Jamie Moore and made what, under different circumstances, might have been just an awkward, untidy mistake. Worse was to follow, though; on landing, his off-back and off-fore legs became tangled together, albeit momentarily, and his back legs skidded, unbalancing Moore sufficiently to send him crashing to the Prestbury Park turf.


Despite that heartbreaking defeat, Goshen still finished his first season over hurdles with a Timeform Annual Rating of 161p – identical to Epatante, winner of the Champion Hurdle – and is currently quoted as 8/1 co-second favourite for 2021 renewal of the two-mile hurdling championship. Goshen ran twice on the Flat in 2020, at Haydock in September and Goodwood in October, and was beaten favourite on both occasions. He missed intended engagements at Wincanton and Ascot in November, as the result of unsuitable going and an unsatisfactory scope, but was reported 'absolutely fine' by trainer Gary Moore. All being well, Goshen could start his 2020/21 hurdling campaign in the Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle in late November or, failing that, in the International Hurdle at Cheltenham the following month.



Monday, 13 December 2021

Cheltenham Gold Cup 2022

The 2022 renewal of Cheltenham Gold Cup is scheduled for Friday, March 18 so, at the time of writing, is still a little over three months away. The picture will, no doubt, become clearer after the two key trials over the festive period, the King George VI Chase at Kempton Park and the Savills Chase at Leopardstown, but the ante-post market for the Cheltenham Gold Cup is already well formed.


Last year's runner-up, A Plus Tard (3/1), trained by Henry de Bromhead, was promoted to favouritism after an impressive, 22-length victory in the Betfair Chase at Haydock Park on his reappearance in November. However, with three of the seven runners, including Bristol De Mai, failing to complete the course, he may have been flattered and it'll be interesting to see how he fares in defence of the Savills Chase at Leopardstown.


Last year's winner, Minella Indo (5/1), a stable companion of A Plus Tard, reportedly caught out his trainer by how badly he needed his reappearance, when only third of five, beaten 5 lengths, behind Frodon in the Ladbrokes Champion Chase at Down Royal in October. De Bromhead said afterwards that he looked forward to taking the winner on again 'some day', which may well be Boxing Day at Kempton Park. Minella Indo has done precious little wrong at the Cheltenham Festival, winning either side of an agonising defeat in the RSA Insurance Novices' Chase in 2020, and must have every chance of defending his Gold Cup crown.


Beyond the market leaders, Al Boum Photo (20/1), trained by Willie Mullins, appears to have been all but written off by the bookmakers. The winner of the Cheltenham Gold Cup in 2019 and 2020 and third last year when, according to his trainer, '...he didn't fire as well as he has', Al Boum will be a 10-year-old by the time the 'Blue Riband' rolls around. If he were to win, he would become the oldest winner since Cool Dawn in 1998 but, with Mullins plotting a 'different route' for him this season, stranger things gave happened.


Tuesday, 16 November 2021

Mick Fitzgerald

 

Nowadays, Mick Fitzgerald is best known as a television presenter on ITV Racing but, in his younger days, was one of the most successful National Hunt jockeys of his generation. Before being forced into retirement after sustaining neck and knee damage in a fall from L'Ami in the 2008 Grand National, Fitzgerald rode 1,295 winners, including 14 at the Cheltenham Festival.


Fitzgerald was leading jockey at the Cheltenham Festival twice. On the first occasion, in 1999, he achieved a notable double on Call Equiname and See More Business, both trained by Paul Nicholls, in the Queen Mother Champion Chase and the Cheltenham Gold Cup, respectively. That year, he also won the Triumph Hurdle on Katarino and the now-defunct Cathcart Challenge Cup on Stormyfairweather, both for Nicky Henderson. On the second, in 2000, he won the Arkle Challenge Trophy on Tiutchev, the Festival Trophy on Marlborough, the Stayers' Hurdle on Bacchanal and the Cathcart Challenge Cup on Stormyfairweather again; all four winners were trained by Nicky Henderson.


Remarkably, despite a 15-year association with Nicky Henderson – who is, nowadays, the leading trainer in the history of the Champion Hurdle, with eight wins – Fiztgerald never won the two-mile hurdling championship. In fact, in twelve attempts, two third places, on Blue Royal in 2000 and Afsoun in 2007, were the best he could muster.

Thursday, 14 October 2021

Cheltenham Festival 2021 Results: Day Four

 13:20 Triumph Hurdle


Quilixios (Rachael Blackmore) 7/4

Adagio (T Scudamore) 17/2

Haut En Couleurs (P Townend) 14/1


13:55 County Handicap Hurdle


Belfast Banter (KC Sexton) 33/1

Petit Mouchoir (J C Gainford) 22/1

Milkwood (RT Dunne) 28/1


14:30 Novices’ Hurdle


Vanillier (MP Walsh) 14/1

Oscar Elite (Jonjo O’Neill Jr) 40/1

Streets of Doyen (SD Torrens) 10/1


15:05 The Cheltenham Gold Cup Steeple Chase 2021


Minella Indo (JW Kennedy) 9/1

A Plus Tard (Rachael Blackmore) 3/1

Al Boum Photo (P Townend) 9/4 Fav


15:40 Challenge Cup Open Hunters’ Steeple Chase


Porlock Bay (Lorcan Williams) 16/1

Billaway (P Townend) 2/1 Fav

Staker Wallace (MP Walsh) 9/1


16:15 Mares’ Chase


Colreevy (P Townend) 9/4

Elimay (MP Walsh) 6/5 Fav

Shattered Love (JW Kennedy) 6/1


16:50 Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle


Galopin Des Champs (SF O’Keefe) 8/1

Langer Dan (Lorcan Williams) 13/2

Floueur (Paul O’Brien) 33/1