MIDNIGHT Shadow landed a dramatic Paddy Power Chase overcoming a last fence blunder and holding off a host of late closers in the hands of Ryan Mania.

The pace was fast and furious over the opening three fences as the early lead was contested with Simply The Betts applying pressure to Coole Cody before last year’s winner eventually assumed control.

On joining the course proper, Adam Wedge paused the pace on the Evan Williams-trained gelding which is supported by the partnership covering the ground from their next fence to the uphill fence away from the stands no faster than Mindsmadeup who led the amateur jockeys’ chase run over three miles and a furlong. Through the same section in the two-mile Grade 2 novices’ chase Captain Tom Cat was going no faster in comparison to both races having also sauntered through the opening stages.

Midnight Shadow (154) was positioned never far away from the pace, which ultimately proved decisive.


The pace in the handicap was faster down the back straight and increased further across the top of the hill and descending to the third-last fence, whereas in the novice chase the exuberant Third Time Lucki (143+) jumped his way to the front and there was not a great deal between the two races through the section.

Midnight Shadow travelled comfortably as the pace lifted and, after an efficient leap at the third last, Ryan Mania asked his mount to close, with the response immediate as the eight-year-old eased Paint The Dream out of the way, to move onto the heels of Coole Cody.

The pair would have arrived at the second last around four lengths behind the smooth travelling Third Time Lucki if they had been contesting the novice chase and looked all set for a battle royal over the final two obstacles.

Coole Cody’s departure was cruel as he still looked to have plenty to give although it may not have suited Sue Smith’s winner either given he lost concentration before finding the line just in time as Protektorat (153) closed quickly up the hill.

Dan Skelton’s gelding covered the ground from the fourth last in 90.3 seconds compared to the winner’s 91.1, although given he was flat out and under pressure turning for home I would lean towards the difference being more about Midnight Shadow slowing than the Saint Des Saints gelding quickening.

Harry Skelton may have held a more prominent position had the partnership not made a shuddering error at the fifth fence where the champion jockey did well to maintain the partnership. A step up to three miles would look to be within the six-year-old’s compass if granted good ground.

Strongest finisher

The strongest finisher was Dostal Phil (150) who stopped the clock for the same sectional at 89.9 seconds after having just four rivals behind him at the third last. Having mainly raced around two miles, it was no surprise Aidan Coleman positioned Phillip Hobbs’s gelding towards the rear of the field.

Judged on this performance, a more prominent ride could be in the offering as the son of Coastal Path finished off best of the field. The eight-year-old may also prefer slightly slower ground and noticeably his best performances last season came at Newbury and Aintree where the home straight is longer.

Lucki can rate much higher in different circumstances

THIRD Time Lucki clocked 90.2 seconds from the fourth last fence, although there were mixed messages to his finishing effort as Harry Skelton was more vigorous than would be expected if the fuel tank was still full in the closing stages.

There is no doubting the six-year-old’s jumping, which is spectacular at times, and was ably illustrated by his prodigious leap at the fourth last. I have no doubt the son of Arcadio will be seen to better effect when presented with a lead deeper into his races and will rate much higher so he remains high on the list as an Arkle contender.

Sebastopol (140) was faster through the closing sectional as he covered the ground in 89.8 seconds having never been on the same track early on. Tom Lacey’s gelding will no doubt be seen to better effect in handicaps and possibly over further and this event was just a stepping stone to that set of circumstances.

Strictlyadancer (122) is still improving and stepped up again on his previous course win as he proved too resolute for Mindsmadeup (120), whose performance here makes the Down Royal chase times from two weeks previous more plausible. Christian Williams’s gelding closed off in 92.5 seconds from the fourth last.

The hurdle races on Saturday’s card all turned out to be a relative test of speed with Sporting John (151) posting the fastest overall time when adjusted for distance as well as a respectable closing sectional given the extended distance.

Having previously looked uncomfortable going left-handed this was an improved performance by the J.P. McManus-owned gelding who only had to be pushed out with hands and heels to prevail over Onagatheringstorm and Kansas City Chief who were placed and won respectively at the October meeting. A finishing effort from the fourth last of 94.2 seconds was marginally slower than Knight Salute’s (126) 94.0 seconds in the opening juvenile contest.


Gowel Road (126+) posted the slowest overall time of the hurdle races although the final circuit time and closing sectional were enough to highlight a handful of performances.

Sam Twiston-Davies was alive to the fact Small Bad Bob was not going quickly early so sat closest to the head of affairs before kicking for home first. The five-year-old stopped the clock for the closing sectional at 92.5 seconds in proving too strong for the more patiently ridden Unexpected Party (124+) whose 91.8 seconds was the fastest of the field.

Mackelduff (122) finished in 93.2 seconds and Punxsutawney Phil (122) in 92.9 seconds, as both stayed on well to fill the minor places while there was also plenty of encouragement on seasonal debut from Benson (120+) who will be better suited by going back right-handed.