Horse Racing

Racing Rewind

A triple salvo of Cheltenham bombs came the way of Rich Ricci last week in a month he would frankly care to forget.

News came that Getabird, the ante-post favourite for the Weatherbys Champion Bumper at next month's Cheltenham Festival, is set to miss the blue riband meeting and potentially the rest of the season after suffering a setback.

Joe Chambers, racing manager for owners Rich and Susannah Ricci told reporters: "It's highly unlikely he'll make Cheltenham and he's more than likely out for the season. He's sore behind, unfortunately.

"It may have happened as a result of or during his win at Gowran.

"It's a bad prognosis in terms of Cheltenham as opposed to his racing career."

This latest piece of Rich Ricci misfortune came straight on the back of the news at the start of the week that Faugheen and Min would also be Festival absentees next month.

"It's been tough. Everyone can say it's part of the game and it happens to everybody, but it feels as though we've had a relentless torrent of it in the last couple of weeks," Chambers added.

Chambers reassured anxious punters that Queen Mother Champion Chase favourite Douvan is fighting fit.

Ballyandy (3/1 fav) won Saturday's Betfair Hurdle at Newbury, one of the biggest handicaps of the jumps season.

Winner of the Cheltenham bumper a year ago, Ballyandy had been beaten on all three of his previous starts over hurdles this season but many felt his first time handicap mark was rather lenient at just 135, given his Grade One class. The hunch proved profitable for his backers as he cruised to the front at the business end of the race and never really looked like being caught.

Movewiththetimes (6-1) gave Ballyandy the most to do in the home straight but Sam Twiston-Davies’ mount remained resolute to win by three-quarters of a length.

Clyne (6-1) with six lengths away third with Song Light (14-1) a further two lengths back in fourth.

Nigel Twiston-Davies said: "It's lovely when a plan works out. He's been unlucky and hasn't won any of the races we thought he would. What a consolation! He'll go to Cheltenham now for the Supreme Novices' Hurdle.”

Also at Newbury, Native River showed that he is still a live Gold Cup contender with victory in the three runner Denman Chase.

The 11-10 favourite beat Le Mercurey by three and a quarter lengths, with Bristol De Mai running a fairly flat race back in third.

Colin Tizzard, who also trains Thistlecrack and Cue Card, now has three of the first four in the Gold Cup betting.

Native River is now a general 4/1 chance for the Gold Cup behind stable companion Thistlecrack at 7/4.

Aidan Coleman, who stood in for the ride after Richard Johnson was ruled out with flu, said: "Things can get a bit tactical in a three-runner race like that but it always helps when you're on the best horse and he did everything I asked him to do."

On the same card Altior stepped out of novice company to bury his rivals in the Grade Two Game Spirit Chase.

Ridden by Nico de Boinville, the 30/100 favourite went clear of the field with four to jump and never saw another rival as he breezed clear of the opposition to record a wide margin success.

Trainer Nicky Henderson said afterwards: "That was great. I was very nervous about the ground. We tried to keep him out of it like we tried to protect Sprinter Sacre in those days.

"We'll try to win the Arkle first. He's been on exactly the same route. It's the way we came in with Sprinter as a novice. OK, we've got this far now.

"The thing we all miss this year is Sprinter not being able to have a game with Douvan. If everything goes right and we're all here in a year's time, maybe Altior and Douvan can meet then. It would be great.”

Sizing John came out on top in a thrilling renewal of the Stan James Irish Gold Cup at Leopardstown on Sunday.

Sizing John who has finished second to Douvan on no less than seven previous occasions and was formerly trained by Henry de Bromhead, claimed his first win since joining Jessica Harrington in last month's Kinloch Brae Chase at Thurles.

Harrington said: "He was brilliant. It's fantastic to have a horse like that for Alan and Ann (Potts, owners), who has finished so close to Douvan on many occasions. That was his first time over three miles and he jumped, travelled and did everything we had hoped he would.

"He jumped really well and he was just brilliant. Once he went past two and a half miles we knew he was into unknown territory, but we fully expected he would stay three miles and he did.

"Whether he will stay three miles two and a half furlongs at Cheltenham (in the Gold Cup) is another question and I'll have to speak to Alan and Ann about it, but on good ground there's a chance he will."

Bookmakers reacted by slashing Sizing John’s odds to around the 14/1 mark from 25/1 for the Cheltenham Gold Cup next month.

Walter Swinburn died in a fall from his bathroom window in what was ruled to be an accident by a coroner on Thursday. Dr Shirley Radcliffe said the 55-year-old former jockey died as the result of head injuries and described the incident as “tragic”.

Swinburn was regarded as one of the best big-race jockeys of his time. At the age of 19 he won the Derby on Shergar by a record 10 lengths and he won the race twice more, aboard Shahrastani and Lammtarra. His major successes included the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe on All Along and he also won the Breeders’ Cup Turf on Pilsudski.

Top jump jockeys (last 7 days): C.Gethings (3/10), W.Kennedy (5/12), S.Bowen (6/15), G.Sheehan (4/10).

Top jump trainers (last 7 days): D.McCain (5/10), P.Bowen (3/8), N.Henderson (5/16), W.Greatrex (4/14).