All eyes were on Altior on Wednesday as the festival got the go-ahead to run following the threat of abandonment due to the incoming Storm Gareth. It was another fantastic day at Prestbury Park and here are some of the highlights:
There were a few contenders for this; Topofthegame just outgunning Santini in the RSA Novices’ Chase, old favourite Wicklow Brave getting nailed on the line by William Henry in the Coral Cup and Envoi Allen holding very firm to just prevail in a ding-dong battle with Blue Sari in the closing Champion Bumper.
The best of them all however has to be superstar Altior’s win in the Queen Mother Champion Chase. Having made a slight mistake at the water jump, the unbeaten Nicky Henderson horse loomed up in typical style towards the second last but was not getting things all his own way.
With Politologue serving it up to him he needed a big jump, but it was Sceau Royal who put in the biggest leap to lead the race at 16/1 going into the closing stages, only for the nine-year-old Altior to battle back to the front and record his 18th win from 18 starts – one short of the record held by Bick Buck’s.
Most Impressive Performance
Tiger Roll. Grand National winners are often one-trick ponies who only come into their own at Aintree on a flat track and an over extreme distance, but this horse is so different.
Having won not only the National but also a Triumph Hurdle over 2m1f, a National Hunt cup over four miles and in advance of this race a 2m5f hurdle, Gordon Elliott’s brilliant chaser simply romped away by 22 lengths on Wednesday to record his second win in the 3m6f Cross Country Chase. What an animal.
Star of the Future
This has to be Band Of Outlaws and his trainer Joseph O’Brien. We know he rode some of the best horses on the flat when stable jockey to his all conquering father Aidan and also started off his career by training Melbourne Cup and Irish Derby winners no less, but O’Brien is sure to take square aim at Willie Mullins’ Cheltenham record having shown a real knack for training these National Hunt types.
Case in point Band Of Outlaws, certainly not unfancied as the well supported 7/2 favourite, and it wasn’t just him winning this race that was impressive but the manner in which he did so.
Having travelled out the back and been squeezed up turning for home, coming from that position on soft ground requires real talent and the turn of foot the Fast Company gelding showed was simply brilliant.
He won the Fred Winter, a juvenile handicap hurdle, off a mark of 139 against some seemingly well handicapped types and will certainly go on from this to record plenty more successes – maybe a Champion Hurdle type?
The punters! After some hard luck stories on day one, 4 of the seven favourites went in on day two, namely Altior, Tiger Roll, Band Of Outlaws and Envoi Allen. It could be another bumper day on Thursday too with the likes of Paisley Park and Epatante looking very solid indeed.