With testing conditions the order of the day for Trials Day at Cheltenham on Saturday afternoon just how significant the results are likely to prove come the four-day extravaganza in March is debatable but the victories achieved by Apple’s Shakira, Frodon, Definitly Red, Santini and Agrapart are hard to fault despite the going description of Soft ( Heavy in places ).
The first named consolidated her position as JCB Triumph Hurdle favourite with what could be described as a workmanlike performance in the opening contest. The mount of Barry Geraghty took a while to get the better of northern raider Look My Way but the 1-7 chance was well on top at the finish, resulting in bookmakers cutting the daughter of Saddler Maker into a general 11-4 for the juvenile contest on the festival’s final day, although Betfair Sportsbook were less impressed offering a standout 7-2 about Nicky Henderson’s charge.
In the 2m 5f Crest Nicholson Handicap Chase the Paul Nicholls-trained / Bryony Frost-ridden Frodon defied top weight with a hugely impressive seventeen length victory which probably rules the six-year-old out of future handicaps, resulting in the Ryanair now being the gelding’s likely target for which he is now a top price 25-1 with Boylesports and Betvictor.
Definitely Red provided trainer Brian Ellison and the north with a genuine Gold Cup contender following his convincing defeat of American and Bristol De Mai in the BetBright Trial Cotswold Chase and the consistent high-class nine-year-old would surely be a lot shorter than the 25-1 available with Ladbrokes and Coral for steeplechasing’s premier contest were the gelding in the care of one of the south’s major yards.
The Ballymore Classic Novices’ Hurdle went to the Nicky Henderson-trained Santini who needed all of the two mile four and a half furlong trip to bring his stamina into play, causing Henderson to suggest an entry in the Albert Bartlett was the way to go. A 12-1 chance with William Hill and Betfred for that three mile contest may look tempting but owner Richard Kelvin-Hughes warned “ it might be a year too soon “ for the Milan gelding who looks a tremendous chasing prospect of the future.
While Agrapart and Lizzie Kelly took the galliardhomes.com Cleeve Hurdle the pair are unlikely to be reunited in the Stayers’ Hurdle at the festival as the horse is unlikely to get the testing conditions required in just over six weeks time. The seven-year-old would also need supplementing for the race where the betting is currently headed by Sam Spinner at 9-2 with Betfair Sportsbook and Boylesports.