THE training performance of the weekend was surely that of Nigel Twiston-Davies, who produced stalwart Wholestone to win the Grade 2 William Hill Rendlesham Hurdle on the back of a 15-month absence.
Ridden by the trainer’s son Sam, the 11-year-old looked almost as good as ever as he ploughed trough the mud to deny front-running Top Ville Ben (Phil Kirby/Tommy Dowson) at odds of 16/1.
Only three finished, with the ground proving too attritional for favourite Molly Ollys Wishes.
Hillcrest on a high for Albert Bartlett
HENRY Daly landed an important across-the-card double on the day when evens favourite Hillcrest (Richard Patrick) stormed to an eight-length victory over Crystal Glory (Nicky Richards/Sean Quinlan) despite conceding that rival 5lb in the Grade 2 Albert Bartlett Prestige Novices’ Hurdle.
Involved in a battle for early supremacy with recent Sandown winner Green Book, Hillcrest did plenty of early work, and would have been entitled to get tired up the straight, but he jumped the last two hurdles nimbly and well to create a very favourable impression.
He would be unbeaten but for being hampered and unseating his rider at Cheltenham last month, but is already a graded winner at that track, and deserves to be near the top of the betting for the Albert Bartlett.
Green Book weakened some way out, but he’d had a hard race at Sandown on the back of a riderless run round in the Lanzarote (first past the post, please note), and this was almost certainly a bridge too far. He can bounce back given time to recover fully.
The Galloping Bear overcomes Bristol
THE Grand National Trial again proved to be a gruelling affair, and was won by the gambled-on 9/2 favourite The Galloping Bear (Ben Clarke/Ben Jones), who beat the heroic Bristol De Mai (Nigel/Sam Twiston-Davies) by seven lengths in receipt of 19lb.
The runner-up jumped his rivals silly from the front, and only got tired from between the last two, having looked briefly to have shaken them all off halfway up the straight. Time To Get Up was the only other finisher.
Goshen grinds it out
GOSHEN is the highest-rated hurdler in Britain, and although he gets called a few names, his wins at Sandown and in the last two runnings of the Grade 2 Kingwell Hurdle show that he’s a top-class timber-topper when conditions suit.
The 4/7 favourite made most of the running here, although not at a breakneck gallop, and although Adagio (David Pipe/Tom Scudamore) got past him briefly between the final two hurdles, Gary Moore’s star used his fitness and track position to the maximum as he rallied to register a one-and-three-quarter-length victory.
He is out of Cheltenham, but may head to Aintree with options racing right-handed limited in the spring.
Some were disappointed by Adagio, but he may have run a career-best in spotting a lead to the winner on his return from a muscle injury incurred when preparing for the International Hurdle.
The Greatwood runner-up was entitled to need the run to some degree, and I thought he shaped very well in the circumstances.
He may not cope with Honeysuckle next month, but he should not have been knocked out in the betting after this, and still appeals as the best each-way bet in the Champion Hurdle.