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CHELTENHAM 2016: Douvan the dark destroyer
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CHELTENHAM 2016: Douvan the dark destroyer
on 16 March 2016
Anne Marie Duff reviews the first day's action at the Cheltenham Festival

RACING POST ARKLE TROPHY

The other star of the first day was predictably Douvan. His Arkle win was never in doubt, the 1/4 shot jumping with fluent ease and shrugging off standing off the last to race away to win by seven lengths with one tap of Walsh's whip.

“We think he could be anything and he hasn't disproved that there,” was Willie Mullins comments and just about summed it up. For the fifth time Sizing John finished second to Douvan bringing up the predicted forecast.

Vanituex put it up to the winner into the straight but was fighting a losing battle when he clipped the top of he second last and fell.

Nico de Boinville returns on Altior

SUPREME NOVICES HURDLE

The Mullins/Ricci/Walsh four-timer had become unstuck in the opener when Nicky Henderson’s Altior had run out an impressive winner under Gold Cup winning jockey Nico de Boinville. Min was beaten seven lengths and there did not appear to be any excuses. Mullins had said he might not have been as good as Douvan or Vautour and so it may now prove.

It was a deserved win for Henderson who had seen many of his best horses beaten in this including Binocular, Spirit Son, Sprinter Sacre, Josses Hill and L’Ami Serge.

Min had raced prominently as Charbel led but stood too far of the third and was again long at the fourth. It did not appear to have been an excuse as he lost little ground.

Altior ranged up to challenge on the bend and always looked to be going best. The time was good and Altior has a fine turn of speed. The Champion Hurdle may well be his target in a year. Buveur d’Air ran well in third for Henderson.

Of the Irish challengers, Silver Concorde was never travelling and finished last. Bellshill was also disappointing, finishing second last. Supasundae raced prominently if a bit keenly but faded to seventh while Tombstone ran on to finish fourth.

OLBG MARES HURDLE

The Mullins/Walsh/Ricci three-timer was completed by Vroum Vroum Mag who had too much class for her rivals in the mares hurdle.

Given a ride similar to Quevega, in that she stays well but was held up, she came through on the run to the last as Rock On The Moor ran a great race for Jessica Harrington and, jumping it well, she raced clear. Irish-trained mares filled the first three places with Rock On The Moor (66/1) holding second from Stuart Crawford’s Legacy Gold (40/1). Gitane du Berlais also ran well, in contention until before the last. Rich Ricci described his winner: “Somebody described Vroum Vroum Mag as a 'big buxom brunette' the other day and she fits that bill.”

The Govaness sadly took a fatal fall at the last. Disappointments were last year’s placed mares, Polly Peachum (10th) and Harry Fry’s Bitofapuzzle (17th) who was never going well.

Un Temps Pour Tout and Tom Scudamore over the last

ULTIMA HANDICAP CHASE

On a day when times proved the ground was faster than the good to soft officially stated, it paid to race prominently and Un Temps Pour Tout (11/1) won the Ultima Handicap Chase for Tom Scudamore, David Pipe and owners Bryan Drew and Caroline Tisdall.

The expensive purchase, £450,000 at the Doncaster Hennessy Sale in November 2103, was always to the fore and came up the hill in fine style for a seven length win. Holywell took second with The Young Master third and Morning Assembly fourth. All four had been in the front six throughout.

Previous winner Holywell to was well supported to 8/1 and was transformed from the horse who had been pulled up at Doncaster in January. Racing with enthusiasm, he only gave way after the last when the race was between himself and the winner. It was a decent Grand National trial by Morning Assembly.

Warren Greatrex’s favourite Out Sam (13/2) was last away and never competitive but ran through beaten horses to be seventh. Kempton winner Theatre Guide took a bad fall with Paddy Brennan at the first down the farside and was lucky to emerge uninjured. Jack Kennedy also took a fall of Auspicious Plan on the first circuit causing Jim Culloty’s Spring Heeled who was out the back at the time, to unseat Brian O’Connell. Shanahan’s Turn led on the first circuit but faded.

NATIONAL HUNT CHASE

The first point of call in the National Hunt Chase is to seek out the mounts of Derek O’Connor, Jamie Codd or Nina Carberry. Their mounts were to the head of the betting and it was O’Connor who produced a quality ride on Minella Rocco, surprisingly easy to back at 8/1. He was called a professional amateur on Racing UK which was a pretty fitting description.

It was a sixth win in the race for Jonjo O’Neill and a third Festival win for O’Connor. Though a novice, it was his sixth run of the season and he warmed to his task after being slowly away and needing reminders early on. He ran on well to hold the challenge of Colin Tizzard’s Native River, a horse O’Connor had been offered the ride on. Nina Carberry’s mount Southfield Royale, trained by Neil Mulholland, was well supported into 5/1 favouritism but he could find no extra from the turn-in. Katie Walsh had a good ride of Measureofmydreams into third.

Jamie Codd was slowly getting into contention on Noble Endeavor we he fall heavily at the second last, a fence which took its toll all day. Ballychorus unseated Steven Clements at the ditch at the top of the hill while Colin Bowe’s Shantou Flyer fell heavily at the 20th.

Sadly Pont Alexandre was pulled up by Patrick Mullins and was fatally injured.

CLOSE BROTHERS NOVICE CHASE

The final race provided a first win for Ian Williams and Brian Hughes when Ballyalton (12/1) stayed on strongly from the Paul Nicholls-trained Bouvreuil who looked to be going better after the last. It was a good success for Hughes who had been unlucky in this race with Ataglance two years ago.

Again the winner, who had been second to Faugheen in the Neptune two years ago, had been prominent. Bridgets Pet was the best of the Irish in fourth.

Favourite Aloomomo (3/1) was prominent but had no extra in the straight. Jonjo O’Neill’s Rezobi became the third fatality of the day when falling at the second last.

STAR OF THE DAY: Annie Power

GOOD DAY FOR: Glenview sire Shirocco with two winners

QUOTE OF THE DAY

“I was a bit concerned after her last piece of work but it was Douvan she workked with so maybe I shouldn’t have been,” Ruby Walsh

<B>DISAPPOINTMENT OF THE DAY: The three equine deaths

RACING: Ireland 3 England 4

BREEDING: Ireland 5 France: 2

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