By Tom Lee

Cheltenham Festival Clues: Five talking points from the weekend, as stars enhance Cheltenham Festival claims

By Tom Lee
Cheltenham Festival Clues: Goshen launched back into Champion Hurdle picture with fine win at Wincanton at the weekend.
Cheltenham Festival Clues: Goshen launched back into Champion Hurdle picture with fine win at Wincanton at the weekend.

Our resident columnist Tom Lee looks back at a sensational weekend of action which threw up a whole host of Cheltenham Festival clues, while he lauds a magnificent ride from Hugh Morgan in Ireland...

Goshen Triumph Provides Wincanton Wow Factor

It's well known racing's Moore family is a talented unit, one which comprises three superb jockeys; Ryan, Josh and Jamie, an ace dual-purpose trainer; Gary, plus an eloquent broadcaster in the shape of Hayley.

All have had their hands full recently, not least Flat jockey Ryan heading off to Saudi Arabia to ride Andrew Balding's Bangkok in the Saudi Cup, as well as Gary and Jamie teaming up nearer to home to try and restore the reputation of stable star Goshen

Lining up in Saturday's Grade 2 Kingwell Hurdle at Wincanton, there's no question the five-year-old was on a serious retrieval mission, trying to restore a lofty reputation battered by a dismal showing when last seen, trailing in stonewall last in December's International Hurdle at Cheltenham, after which a fibrillating heartbeat was reported. 

There's no question this lad has superstar potential - anyone who witnessed his freak accident when unseating Jamie with the pair miles clear at the last in March's Triumph Hurdle, an incident which was in no way his rider's fault despite some of the nonsense doing the rounds at the time - will be well aware, but proving it out on the track is forever the key barometer. 

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Fast forward 11 months from the fateful day and the pair looked in rude health down at the start in Somerset, expecting a battle from re-opposing International Hurdle winner Song For Someone, plus recent Haydock giant slayer Navajo Pass

Jamie was clearly brimming with confidence having helped the frustrating 4/1 shot Dentley De Mee to break a long losing streak in the race prior, his only other mount on the card, and officially four minutes and a second later he'd piloted a 20/1 double.

Goshen won as he pleased. 

For anyone looking for a statement from the four-legged comeback kid, this was it. 

Goshen, restored to his best, purred around the West Country track's right-handed, galloping circuit, mercilessly applying maximum pressure from two out and dismissively coming clear for a 22-length victory. 

Speaking from his West Sussex bunker afterwards, the notoriously workaholic Gary told the press: "You can't believe how pleased I am. He looks like he's back. People don't know how much that meant to me. He's entitled to take his chance now (at Cheltenham) on what he's done here."

The Kingwell is a recognised trial for the Champion Hurdle, for which bookies now make the Authorized gelding a general 9/2 shout, tucked in third in the market behind the mares Honeysuckle and Epatante.

As long as they all get there in once piece it's got the makings of a day one cracker in just over three weeks' time.

Plus don't forget, names such as Bula, Alderbrook, Hors La Loi III and Katchit all did what Goshen will try and do - complete the Kingwell / Champion Hurdle double.

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Recovery Position

Credit to young rider Hugh Morgan after he somehow miraculously overcame plenty of mid-race drama to guide Young Dev home in front in Sunday's 1.40 Navan.

Riding the 17/2 shot for Tipperary handler Denis Hogan, Morgan's right stirrup leather broke early on, meaning he rode without his irons for pretty much all of this three mile chase.

You'd imagine he'll be in some severe pain in the aftermath, but a brave and skilled rider paired with a willing mount turned out to be a winning combination, as the duo persisted to eventually come three quarters of a length to the good - an outcome which for much of a compelling race appeared deeply unlikely. 

Horsemanship at its very best.

Extraordinary. It's worth a watch!

Aintree In April Could Be Drama Destination

Form figures under rules of 2,1,1,2,1 suggest the top team of Donald McCain and Brian Hughes could have a star on their hands in the form of six-year-old Flemensfirth gelding Minella Drama

He impressed when landing the rescheduled listed Sidney Banks Novices' Hurdle at Market Raspberry on Sunday, benefitting from the application of a first-time hood to see out an extended two and a half miles with ease. 

He doesn't hold any Cheltenham entries, but the McCain family's traditional fondness for Aintree could well be the precursor to his spring target - look out for this exciting sort at a venue where an emphasis on speed will surely suit. 

Soaring To Festival Glory?

Jonjo O'Neill is enjoying a really good campaign, one which got better on Sunday afternoon as he landed Newbury's ever-competitive Betfair Handicap Hurdle for the second time (after Get Me Out Of Here back in 2010), with 17/2 chance Soaring Glory becoming his stable's 59th success of the season. 

Ridden by his son, Jonjo Jr, the six-year-old was in touch throughout and came away smartly to win by three lengths, a performance which tees him up for a crack at the Cheltenham Festival's opening race in three weeks.

Bookies generally offer this likeable sort at 10/1 and 12/1 (from 25's) for the Supreme Novices' Hurdle. He looks one to take seriously.

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No Shortage Of Spirit From Two Game Performers

Sunday's Grade 2 Game Spirit Chase at Newbury promised much on paper and delivered plenty on the racecourse as the front two home emerged with reputations enhanced. 

Trainer Alan King was non-committal about a Festival target for speedy winner Sceau Royal when interviewed afterwards by ITV, but it'll surely be the Queen Mother Champion Chase, for which the talented and versatile nine-year-old is 20/1 to go two places better than when third in 2019. 

A huge positive mention is also reserved for runner-up Champ - returning to the fray off a 347-day absence, one which included a wind op, the nine-year-old son of King's Theatre was dropping markedly in trip here, a canny move given you'd have expected him to pop up in the longer Denman Chase on the same card. 

Granted his previously unblemished Newbury record is no longer intact, but overall this was a fine effort from an animal now nine from 14 under rules.

Clearly as good as ever, last year's RSA hero will likely be cherry ripe for a tilt at the Cheltenham Gold Cup in three and a half weeks' time.  

The Irish will take him very seriously, as do bookmakers who offer Champ at 6/1.

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