Cheltenham’s Hunters’ Evening is a calendar date for plenty from the Pointing community, and a unique chance to pit one’s wits as a rider over Cheltenham’s stiff fences, which take a bit more jumping than your average Point-to-Point course. It was gratifying to see the 7 races so well supported, given that many of our hunter chases have endured poor fields.
The marquee race of the evening is the four miler, a war of attrition that sees a large field whittled down as stamina is found wanting. This time around, it delivered a corker of a finish, with just a neck separating first and second.
Give Me A Copper led the 12 runners until the 10th put him on the floor, when Smoke Man took over the lead, with favourite Shantou Flyer in close contention. Stratford winner Law of Gold, crept closer despite a less than foot-perfect round, but as they faced the downhill for the final time, Coup de Pinceau, fresh to the hunter chase game from Colin Tizzard’s, had the leader in his sights, and as they faced the final two fences, he asserted, with Law of Gold in hot pursuit. Neck and neck to the line, no horse deserved to lose, but Coup de Pinceau prevailed under George Hiscock for Sherborne-based Syd Hosie.
The Ineos Grenadier Mixed Open Final attracted 11 runners for the other feature of the evening, in which Cotswold Vale Farmers Ladies Open winner Dandy Dan won by 6 1/2l. Given a clear view of his fences in an outside berth all the way round, he showed good speed from the last to put some distance between him and Caryto des Brosses, trained by David Kemp, trainer of Law of Gold. It was a day of seconds for the Suffolk handler, but augurs well if both remain in training for Stratford at the end of the month. Winning rider Lauren Keen-Hawkins, who works for nearby Kim Bailey.
Gina Andrews illustrated why she is the pick of trainers for her driving finish in the Intermediate Hunters Chase, getting Latenightfumble up to a neck victory over Go Geronimo. Latenightfumble was one of two runners on the night for Champion TYom Ellis, whose other horse Kalabaloo finished a remote second in the Irish Thoroughbred Marketing Mares Hunters Chase, to Kelly Morgan’s Feuille de Lune. Latenightfumble looks headed for the John Corbett Cup at Stratford at the end of the month.
Clive Boultbee-Brooks has enjoyed 5 Hunter chase winners this season, and Trio for Rio produced back-to-back victories in the Kdta Open Hunters Chase to win this a second time under Tommie O’Brien. There was only a length in it at the line, whilst spectators were able to enjoy two of our finest riders urging on their mounts in the closing stages.
Second-placed rider Will Biddick had started the evening in style with a gritty pillar-to-post victory on Envoie Speciale for Chris Barber against another of our leading riders in James King, who threw down a challenge on Envious Editor. Biddick was able to conjure extra from Envoie Speciale to win by 1 3/4l.
Ludlow winner Solomon Grey continued his hot streak of form in the concluding 2m 4f contest.