Classy chasers face Haldon test on road to Cheltenham
Monday 05 November 2012
The domestic jump season sprang into life at the weekend – defying the £16m-worth of Breeders' Cup in California – and takes another lively step today at Exeter. The little country track, high on Haldon Hill west of the city whose name it bears, often demands masochism from its patrons when they find themselves shrouded in wet mist that has swept off nearby Dartmoor.
But whatever the weather there's no gainsaying the quality of the competitors who turn up at one of the sport's outposts. And over the years the place has played host to several Kipling-style impostors: the triumph of the likes of Viking Flagship, Best Mate and Azertyuiop; the disaster of Best Mate's death after his three Gold Cup wins; the shock of defeat for Desert Orchid; the drama of novice Kauto Star's penultimate-fence fall and remounted near-victory.
We are in an era that seems to demand simplistic "narrative" at every turn and today's feature, the Haldon Gold Cup, is tagged as part of "the road to Cheltenham". On the path that leads to the Queen Mother Champion Chase – where the extraordinary Sprinter Sacre, regarded as two-mile chasing's Frankel, lies in wait – this may prove something of a crossroads for today's principal protagonists, Cue Card and Menorah.
They will contest a Grade Two chase over a demanding two and a quarter miles which presents a test that can suit either speed horses or stayers, and both have won over shorter and longer trips. "We could have gone to Wetherby for the Charlie Hall [three miles and a furlong] on Saturday but I didn't want to bottom him first time up," said Cue Card's trainer, Colin Tizzard, yesterday. "This is a lovely starting place. It's a stiff track, the equivalent of two and a half, and afterwards we'll know which way to go with him."
Though neither Cue Card nor Menorah, from the Philip Hobbs yard, proved any match at all for Sprinter Sacre in the Arkle Trophy at Cheltenham, their winning novice form last season has already had recent boosts. Before the Festival, Cue Card accounted for last month's wide-margin Aintree winner For Non Stop, and after it Menorah bounced back to beat Cristal Bonus, impressive at Down Royal on Saturday.
Hobbs has won this race twice in recent years, with Monkerhostin and Planet of Sound. "Menorah has bags of pace," he said, "and he could go up in trip or down." Paul Nicholls, who added a double at Kempton on Sunday to his classy four-timer on Saturday, saddles the versatile Edgardo Sol.
Chris McGrath's Nap: Gas Line Boy (1.50 Exeter)
Has already proved his stamina, which will be needed round today's testing track, and, as a powerful individual, should be capable of coping with his penalty.
Next Best: Landscape (2.20 Exeter)
Thought good enough to run at Group level on the Flat in France and looks sure to benefit from last month's hurdling debut at Cheltenham and today's step up in distance.
One To Watch: Pete The Feat (Charlie Longsdon) has improved markedly for a change of stable and the handicapper may not yet have his measure.
Where The Money's Going: First Mohican is unbeaten in three runs and is Paddy Power's 4-1 favourite for next Saturday's Flat season finale, the November Handicap at Doncaster.
Latest in Sport
England vs Lithuania: Wayne Rooney rules out repeat of boxing celebration after son Kai repeats it at school and focuses on goalscoring record
Marco Reus becomes Arsenal transfer target to replace Theo Walcott
Paul Scholes: It's amazing Manchester United midfielder Michael Carrick has so few caps for England
New kits for 2015/16: Have the Arsenal, Manchester United, Chelsea, Liverpool and Barcelona strips been leaked?
Floyd Mayweather vs Manny Pacquiao: Zab Judah denies flooring Mayweather during sparring as he prepares for 2 May
- 1 Germanwings crash: Police make 'significant discovery' at home of co-pilot Andreas Lubitz
- 2 Germanwings captain Patrick Sondenheimer tried to break into locked cockpit door 'with an axe' as plane was descending
- 3 Zayn Malik already working on solo material, just days after quitting One Direction
- 4 The West has it totally wrong on Lee Kuan Yew
- 5 #FreeTheNipple: Women in Iceland bare breasts in solidarity with trolled student
Nigel Farage brands LGBT activists 'filth' and 'scum' and accuses them of scaring away his children after they invade his local pub
Ukip supporters are 55 or older, white and socially conservative, finds British Social Attitudes Report
JK Rowling responds to fan tweeting she 'can't see' Dumbledore being gay
Russia threatens Denmark with nuclear weapons if it tries to join Nato defence shield
Jeremy Clarkson sacked live: Alan Yentob 'wouldn't rule out' ex Top Gear host's BBC return
Germanwings plane crash live: Andreas Guenter Lubitz intentionally crashed flight 9525 into the Alps in act of mass murder and suicide – latest
£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...
£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped commission: SThree: Does earning a 6 figu...
£18000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...
£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A challenging opportunity for a...