Cheltenham: Finian’s Rainbow still looking for pot of gold
Some outstanding winners grabbed all the headlines at Cheltenham last week, but there were plenty of others in their wake who promised to pay their way in future. Chris McGrath picks out eight horses who caught the eye in defeat
SPRINTER SACRE (Nicky Henderson) Third, Stan James Supreme Novices’ Hurdle
Their trainer has long been in raptures about Sprinter Sacre, as a prospect for fences, but Spirit Son was reckoned better suited to the demands of this race and duly preferred by the stable jockey, Barry Geraghty. In the event, however, it was Sprinter Sacre who went best for longest, only to lose vital impetus when thumping the final hurdle. He still made the podium behind Al Ferof and Spirit Son, beaten barely five lengths, and his physique already identifies him as an ideal sort to boss the Arkle field next year.
FINIAN’S RAINBOW (Nicky Henderson) Second, Irish Independent Arkle Trophy
Another near miss for Seven Barrows in the second race of the meeting — and another horse with an obvious destiny for next season. Jumping magnificently, Finian’s Rainbow was turning the screw too tight for most from a long way out. In the process, however, he inadvertently set things up for Captain Chris, himself an obvious prospect to break into the big time over longer distances. In his probable absence, Finian’s Rainbow could prove a very nut to crack at this trip for Sizing Europe.
ON BORROWED WINGS (Alan Fleming) Eighth, Centenary Novices’ Handicap Chase
Must sort out his jumping, a couple of blunders leaving him with no chance as the race developed up ahead, but the way he kept on again up the hill suggested — not for the first time — that he could yet come good over three miles. The lesser tempo at that trip might also take the pressure off his technique over fences, but he has only had four chases and remains entitled to improve in that respect with experience.
SON AMIX (Thomas Cooper) Second, Pertemps Handicap Hurdle
Having previously seemed to have his limitations exposed, pottering around in conditions races, he has come into his own in big-field handicaps and here cut through from the rear with dazzling ease. Ultimately he proved unable to wear down the track specialist, Buena Vista, who had gone for home a long way out, but he could fare better still returned to shorter distances.
DIVINE RHAPSODY (Philip Rothwell) Seventh, Weatherbys Champion Bumper
Boldly laid out for this race after winning a valuable bumper at the Punchestown Festival on his debut, fully 11 months earlier and perhaps his lack of experience since accounts for the fact that it was all happening a bit too quickly from halfway. It was impressive, then, to see him regroup to such good effect, storming into midfield up the hill. He has the build and raw ability to excel over hurdles, granted a sufficient test of stamina.
BEAUTIFUL SOUND (Gordon Elliott) Third, Byrne Group Handicap Plate
This was an extraordinary performance from a horse who only resumed in the autumn after a three-year disappearance. Completely tailed off after a couple of
early mistakes, he was also hampered as he started to work his way back into contention and did not look too comfortable on the drying ground either. Somehow he still managed to make the frame, beaten barely five lengths and he looks guaranteed to win a decent prize once his stamina is properly tested.
DEAL DONE (Dessie Hughes) Third, Fulke Walwyn-Kim Muir Handicap
While ultimately beaten pointless by the runaway winner, for a good while he had everything else in big trouble as he piled it on from the front. One way or another, the way he had tanked clear of the field seemed to disclose an unsuspected engine. Admittedly it is very hard to know whether to attribute that new gusto to the longer distance, the visor, or the better ground, but some combination of these elements may well produce better again on another day.
MISTER CARTER (Tommy Stack) Unseated rider, JCB Triumph Hurdle
Gave his rider a ghastly trampling after discarding him at the second last and that was by no means the first time his jumping has been an issue during his brief hurdling. If only he can iron out those errors he could be an interesting contender for valuable handicaps next season. He was decent on the Flat and, as a 50-1 shot still going well, had looked poised to show improved form on this better ground.