We head to Cheltenham in top form after a double at Sandown including a tremendous success by Iceo in the Betfair Imperial Cup.
With Larchmont Lass breaking her duck with a determined victory in the Listed Mares’ EBF bumper and Quel Destin only just beaten in a valuable novice handicap Chase we had plenty to celebrate.
Iceo has bounced back brilliantly after missing the best part of a year with an injury that had us baffled for three weeks when he was on and off lame soon after running in the Dovecote Hurdle at Kempton last February. Just to make sure my head lad Clifford Baker organised an Xray of his front legs which revealed a hairline fracture down the front of his cannon bone. He then required surgery which involved using several screws to repair the damage.
We gave him plenty of time to heal and didn’t rush him when he returned into training so I was a bit surprised at how well he ran on his comeback at Sandown in January. The moment he passed the post in third place I told his owner Chris Giles that I’d aim him at the Imperial Cup in the hope that the ground would be soft enough for him. Once the rain arrived I was quite bullish about his chance because he’d improved tonnes in the past few weeks.
Harry Cobden gave Iceo a lovely patient ride but still felt he got to the front too soon. But he kept on willingly late on for a well deserved victory by three and three quarter lengths.
While Iceo is in the County Hurdle at Cheltenham I’d say he is unlikely to run there as he had a hard enough race on Saturday. I’ll try and find one more race for him this season provided there is cut in the ground which is so important to him.
Chris would certainly love to run Iceo the Scottish Champion Hurdle if the going is soft enough. Long term he will be an exciting novice for fences next season.
I was thrilled with the success of Larchmont Lass on the most testing ground she has encountered. She has progressed with each race and dug deep with the help of a determined ride by Harry. She will not run again this season, has already schooled over hurdles, and will tackle mares’ novice hurdles next season.
Quel Destin relished the conditions at Sandown, set out to make all the running and was only just caught on the flat by Hudson De Grugy who was in receipt of almost a stone.
All roads now lead to Cheltenham where we will have around sixteen runners through the week. They are all in good shape after they worked nicely on Saturday morning and our strike continues to hover at around 30%.
We’ve made a fast start to March, the horses look fabulous and we couldn’t be happier with their preparation ahead of the Festival where we will have three runners on Tuesday including the highly progressive Tahmuras in the Supreme Hurdle.
Then we will be busy with chances each day leading up to the Gold Cup on Friday in which I have high hopes for Bravemansgame who looks amazing in his coat.
A day later on Saturday we will be sending some interesting runners to Kempton and Uttoxeter.
For the latest news on all our Cheltenham contenders please check out my Betfair column which this week will go live soon after declaration time each day.