Chel­tenham and Ain­tree

Trainer Gor­don El­liott notches up a dou­ble vic­tory, while a for­mer showjumper comes out of the dol­drums with a dream win at Chel­tenham’s sea­son opener

Horse & Hound - - Contents - By TOM PEACOCK

BRI­TISH train­ers were given a hid­ing by their Irish coun­ter­parts at the Chel­tenham Fes­ti­val in March and many might be pri­vately hop­ing that the im­pli­ca­tions of Brexit are widerang­ing enough to keep Gor­don El­liott and Wil­lie Mullins away from Glouces­ter­shire al­to­gether.

El­liott was re­spon­si­ble for two of the three Irish win­ners at Chel­tenham’s Show­case meet­ing on Satur­day, 27 Oc­to­ber and, in wor­ry­ing news for the op­po­si­tion, he in­di­cated that he will be back again soon as there is lit­tle prospect of catch­ing Mullins in his do­mes­tic ta­ble.

“We had a quiet six weeks at home and the [Irish] cham­pi­onship has gone, re­ally,” said El­liott, who threw all of his re­sources into a bat­tle with Mullins last sea­son only to be over­hauled at the Punchestown Fes­ti­val. “We’ll be go­ing wher­ever we can for the prize money.”

The rain that lashed down through­out the af­ter­noon had ar­rived too late for many horses, with the qual­ity of the card un­doubt­edly re­duced by ground that started off on the quick side.

Yet it must be con­sid­ered clever plac­ing by El­liott to pick up the near-£16,000 Move Over To Match­book Novices’ Chase with the lik­able grey Cubo­ma­nia, who had al­ready won four times in Scot­land since mid-Au­gust. El­liott is now tempted to take ad­van­tage of a very le­nient rat­ing on the Flat with him.

There should be fur­ther sight­ings of Di­nons, who was as re­lent­less as his rider Richard John­son in com­ing 14 lengths clear in the Ran­dox Health Novices’ Hur­dle and is now chas­ing a sixth con­sec­u­tive vic­tory.

“We thought he was our best chance,” El­liott ex­plained. “He’s a gor­geous horse, he’ll make a nice

chaser one day. We might come back here for a Graded race at one of the next meet­ings.”

DREAM TRI­UMPH

RE­BECCA CUR­TIS is start­ing to make amends for a truly dis­mal cam­paign, which was only partly res­cued when Joe Far­rell took the Scot­tish Na­tional.

The for­mer ju­nior in­ter­na­tional showjumper, who is based in far­thest west Wales, has four Fes­ti­val win­ners to her name by the age of 38. How­ever, she lost num­bers af­ter the end of her part­ner­ship with blood­stock agent Gearoid Costel­loe, and a to­tal of nine win­ners dur­ing 2017-18 was far be­low her usual stan­dards.

Now more of a bou­tique op­er­a­tion, Cur­tis’ Ffor­est Farm sta­ble was given a boost by the vic­tory of Re­lent­less Dreamer in the Match­book Bet­ting Ex­change Hand­i­cap Chase. Win­ning owner Nigel Mor­ris, who also has a share in Joe Far­rell, might have two Ain­tree hopes on his books as Cur­tis re­vealed that she would “love to see him run in the Grand Na­tional one day”.

“I’m re­ally fo­cused this year, things are look­ing good,” Cur­tis said. “For­get ev­ery­thing else now, it’s on­wards and up­wards to build the yard back to what it was. I have those two horses and [hand­i­cap chaser] Ge­ordie Des Champs seems to have im­proved a bit this year, so he should hope­fully do OK.

“I haven’t got as many as I’d like — I’ve only 20 in now — but I don’t want loads and if I could get it back to 30 or 35 nice novices, I’d be re­ally happy,” added Cur­tis.

Fri­day’s card pro­duced high drama when two dif­fer­ent horses ducked over a tape be­ing held to di­vide the run-in from the route back out into the coun­try, and Chel­tenham’s ground staff quickly erected a plas­tic run­ning rail for Satur­day. Ex­cite­ment was in­stead fo­cused upon some close fin­ishes, not least when Ni­cholls’ quirky Mo­dus was given an early

‘I’m re­ally fo­cused this year, things are look­ing good’ TRAINER RE­BECCA CUR­TIS

can­di­date for ride of the sea­son by Barry Ger­aghty to foil Duke Of Na­van in the valu­able Ran­dox Health Hand­i­cap Chase.

The Gor­don El­liott-trained Cubo­ma­nia, rid­den by Richard John­son, takes the lead in the Novices’ Chase

The Mighty Don (left) claims a hand­i­cap hur­dle un­der Leighton Aspell for trainer Nick Gif­ford, fend­ing off Sykes (right)

Re­lent­less Dreamer (right) tops a hand­i­cap chase ahead of Co­gry

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