Call Me Lord won a thrilling renewal of the Grade 2 International Hurdle at Cheltenham, but it was his beaten stable companion Pentland Hills who really caught the eye.
The Nicky Henderson trained four-year-old, who was previously unbeaten in three starts over the obstacles having won at Plumpton before landing the Grade 1 Triumph Hurdle at this year’s Cheltenham Festival and following up in a Grade 1 at Aintree, finished fifth but ran much better than the eventual five lengths he was beaten suggests.
After racing keenly on the heels of the leaders under regular pilot Nico de Boinville, Pentland Hills tanked his way into the lead approaching the last.
He appeared to be travelling strongly at that stage, but lack of race fitness then took its toll on very testing ground and he weakened badly in the final 100 yards.
His rider wisely looked after the son of Motivator and allowed him to come home in his own time.
For me he travelled like much the best horse in the race and it was a highly promising comeback after 254 days on the sidelines in what is a recognised trial for the Champion Hurdle.
The immediate reaction from bookmakers was to push him out in the betting for the Grade 1 showpiece on the opening day of the 2020 Cheltenham festival in March – a move which baffled me and seemed harsh.
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Tempting each-way price for Champion Hurdle
Pentland Hills is sure to come on a bundle for that outing and best odds of 9/1 with Unibet about him for what at this stage looks a wide-open renewal of the Champion Hurdle look more than fair and make plenty of each-way appeal.
Speaking after the race, Henderson said: “It looked as though Pentland Hills got a touch tired in the end. He over-raced a little early on for me. He looked as though he was travelling supremely well through the race and, luckily for once, it was a good idea to run two in the race.
“I was very pleased because I thought he came through like the best horse in the race and just needed it. He travelled very well and jumped beautifully. There’s tons more to come from him.”
I agree and think Pentland Hills is a horse to follow for the remainder of the season as there are undoubtedly more races to be won with him.
Chantry House looks a Supreme prospect on hurdles debut
Henderson saddled five winners over the two days of The International Meeting and among them was the very exciting Chantry House.
The five-year-old, who carries the famous green and gold hooped colours of leading iris owner JP McManus, lived up to his tall reputation when making a winning return to action in the British EBF “National Hunt” Novices’ Hurdle Qualifier .
Under a confident ride from Barry Geraghty, Chantry House travelled well on the heels of the leaders before being produced to challenge at the final flight.
He then only had to be shaken-up to cosily beat Stolen River by just under two lengths.
It was a most taking display, especially as Chantry House looked very inexperienced, and one which earned him a top priced quote of 20/1 with William Hill for the Supreme Novices Hurdle at the 2020 Cheltenham Festival.
Henderson said: “Barry said that Chantry House will learn a lot from today. He was a bit gassy early on and they didn’t go very quick – they all got muddled up and sprinted but he got there.
“His future is bright but another year will help him a lot – he will know an awful lot more next time too. He has pace and plenty of gears, so I will stick to two miles with him for the time being.
“He is a very nice young horse, but he just needs educating. As Barry said, he is still pretty green, as that was only his second run after having one bumper.”
I thought there was nothing not to like about the way in which Chantry House got the job done and come next March he looks sure to go off shorter than the current 20/1 on offer for the Supreme should all go to plan.
Redford Road emerges as Albert Barlett contender
Redford Road made it three wins from four starts over the obstacles when showing tremendous guts to land the Grade 2 Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle Trial – and Ladbrokes make him a tempting 25/1 shot for the big one itself at the 2020 Cheltenham Festival.
Sent off a seemingly unfancied 14/1, the Nigel Twiston-Davies trained five-year-old raced towards the rear of the eight-strong field before making stealthy headway two flights from home.
He then took up the running rounding the home turn led the field but looked beaten when 5/2 favourite Champagne Well headed him approaching the last and went a couple of lengths clear.
On the stiff uphill run in, however, Redford Road found a renewed effort and rallied in the last furlong to get up and score by half a length from fergal O’Brien’s charge.
Given that Champagne Well had previously won at The Showcase meeting at the track in October before finding only the hugely exciting Thyme Hill three lengths too good in a Grade 2 at the home of jumps racing last month, the form looks solid.
It makes the huge odds on offer for Redford Road for the Grade 1 Albert Barlett look a bit of an insult in my eyes as he has shown the ideal attributes for that 3m test. I therefore wouldn’t put anyone off backing him each-way for that contest.
Twiston-Davies confirmed it was his long term target.. He said: “It was lovely to watch him go round there and quicken up that hill like a proper Cheltenham horse. We have done a lot of schooling with him and his jumping has always been good.
“We will obviously have to think about the Albert Bartlett at The Festival for Redford Road. That will be his Gold Cup for the season..”