Cheltenham Trials Day

Clarence House Chase (Grade 1)

ELIXIR De Nutz provided both Freddie Gingell and his uncle Joe Tizzard with their first Grade 1 win when getting the better of hot favourite Jonbon (Nicky Henderson/James Bowen) in the Clarence House Chase at Cheltenham on Saturday.

Jonbon was never jumping with much fluency, and a bad mistake at the fourth last almost unseated his rider, who did well to recover.

That allowed the 22/1 winner to press on, but he then made the only mistake of his round at the very next fence to throw the race open again.

Having been given time to recover, Jonbon was asked for an effort from the home turn and jumped back to the lead at the second last, only to slow into the final fence. That allowed Elixir De Nutz to get away quicker from the last and he held the renewed challenge of the 1/4 favourite by a neck. The winner is a likeable sort but exposed as no better than Grade 2 level and this defeat leaves Jonbon with something to prove in his bid to win the Champion Chase.

It’s easy to get sidetracked by what Jonbon did or didn’t do, but this was a milestone and an emotional victory for Joe Tizzard and Freddie Gingell, the son of Joe’s late sister Kim, and they are more than entitled to their moment of glory.

“It is a special day,” said an understated Tizzard. “I didn’t come here thinking we were going to win a Grade 1, but we were happy to take our chance with a horse that has been brilliant all season. Elixir De Nutz bounces off this better ground so the drying ground all week has helped.”

Gino floors Burdett Road

SIR Gino (Nicky Henderson/James Bowen) shot to the head of the Triumph Hurdle betting by beating Burdett Road (James Owen/Harry Cobden) by 10 lengths in the JCB Triumph Trial Juvenile Hurdle at Cheltenham on Saturday.

Sent off 5/4, and just behind Burdett Road in the betting, Sir Gino took over from the pace-setting Milan Tino before the last and quickened much better than his market rival to win impressively and supplant Owen’s gelding as Triumph favourite.

“He’s very good and has always sort of told us that,” said Henderson. “He is a very talented individual – he always has been since the day we started with him. Jerry McGrath found him in France for Joe and Marie (Donnelly).

“He jumped much slicker today than Kempton and we’ve been practising a bit. He’s got the hang of it now. I don’t think he needs any more practice. He would jump a fence, so you have got to look after the future as well as the present.”

Cotswold Chase

Capodanno (Willie Mullins/Paul Townend) landed something of a gamble in the Grade 2 Paddy Power Cotswold Chase having previously finished a distant third to Gold Cup favourite Galopin Des Champs in Leopardstown’s Savills Chase.

Backed into an SP of 7/2, Capodanno was receiving weight from his rivals having failed to win in an interrupted 2022/’23 campaign, and took advantage of that benefit to beat The Real Whacker (Pat Neville/Sam Twiston-Davies) by two and three-quarter lengths in a race marred by a fatal injury incurred by Coral Gold Cup hero Datsalrightgino.

The Real Whacker made much of the running until joined by Ahoy Senor at the ditch on the hill (17th) on the final circuit, but the latter’s rider Stephen Mulqueen saw his off-side stirrup leather snap on landing which left him unbalanced thereafter.

The five remaining runners were separated by little more than a length on the home turn, but as the field bypassed the penultimate fence, Capodanno moved to the lead with Stayawayfay chasing.

The Real Whacker rallied after being outpaced to regain second, but he found the winner beyond recall.

“I was going to ride my horse to suit him, and it worked out,” said Townend. “He promised a performance like that. He showed as a novice he was going to be a force to be reckoned with, but I don’t think we got the clearest of runs with him (last season). He could drop back for the Ryanair and that will be down to Willie and Frank and J.P.’s team.

Lossiemouth dazzles but Champion bid not on cards

LOSSIEMOUTH (Willie Mullins/Paul Townend) was foot perfect as she made the perfect reappearance in the Grade 2 Unibet Hurdle.

Last year’s Triumph Hurdle winner was starting her season late as a deliberate ploy given the difficulty presented by an immediate switch to open company for four-year-olds, as shown by previous Triumph winners such as Vauban for the same connections.

The 4/7 favourite travelled ominously well throughout and merely had to be nudged along to come effortlessly clear of Love Envoi from the final flight, winning by nine and a half lengths from last year’s Mares’ Hurdle runner-up. That race is next on Loosiemouth’s agenda despite the speed she showed in a falsely run race here.

“She’s done very well and the plan they made to keep her until now was definitely worth the wait today,” said the winning rider. “She will be competitive wherever she goes and she’s high-class.

“She’s physically and mentally matured and she was a fair sort as a juvenile too, so she didn’t have to improve and awful lot.”

Noble Yeats denies game Paisley Park by a head

NOBLE Yeats (Emmet Mullins/Harry Cobden) proved just too strong for a rallying Paisley Park (Emma Lavelle/Tom Bellamy) in the Grade 2 McCoy Contractors Cleeve Hurdle despite the race being just his third over hurdles, and the former Grand National winner has seemingly been reinvented by his unorthodox handler.

As in the Cotswold Chase, the field was tightly packed at the third last, where Botox Has made an error, but shrugged it off.

Turning for home, it appeared that Noble Yeats and Paisley Park were travelling least well of a quintet which had pressed on, but the hill again played its part, with Dashel Drasher leading at the final flight, closely pursued by the rallying Noble Yeats with Botox Has and Champ making a line of three but that pair clearly starting to flag.

Paisley Park and Strong Leader followed just a length behind having been outpaced on the downhill run.

Stayed on

Noble Yeats headed Dashel Drasher with under a furlong left and stayed on strongly, but so did the relentless Paisley Park, who was seeking a fourth win in the contest. He finished with a rattle up the final climb, but Noble Yeats held on to win by a head at 3/1. The reception for the runner-up was as warm as that for the winner, and the Cheltenham crowd have raised Paisley Park to the status of folk hero.

“It was a brilliant race with two, tough, genuine horses running right to the line – I think other people may have enjoyed it more than I did,” said Emmet Mullins.

“I’d imagine we’ll be back here in March, and we had to come here and do that to lay down our claim. He will be in with a shout and all roads will lead back to the National again after that.

“We’ve had our crack at the Gold Cup and got put in our place and we’re probably 10lb off the top in that bracket, so the Stayers’ is the next logical place to look and, fingers crossed, we’re in with a chance.

“There are no rules in this game, and it is great to use all the great races.”