Despite some pretty desperate weather Betfair Super Saturday at Newbury was a cracker, featuring the much-anticipated return of last season’s Gold Cup third Native River and an even more keenly anticipated first start of the season for Altior.
Native River (170) was coming to the end of a busy season when he filled third spot behind Sizing John in last season’s Gold Cup, already the winner of the Hennessy and the Welsh National, but he has been campaigned much more deliberately this time around, having his first start for 11 months on Saturday. Though the race probably wasn’t a strong piece of form (Cloudy Dream sure to benefit from a drop back in trip, while Saphir du Rheu shaped as if needing the run), this was an ideal Gold Cup preparation for Native River, and with doubts about plenty of the other contenders in that race he looks to have a solid chance.
The Game Spirit looked a stronger piece of form, last season’s outstanding novice chaser Altior having no easy task on his return against the race-fit Tingle Creek winner Politologue. Altior didn’t only prove his wellbeing following his setback earlier in the season but looked right back to his best (remains on 175p), dismissing Politologue (remains on 165) comfortably, quickening clear and winning by four lengths with plenty in hand. Altior is deservedly odds-on for the Champion Chase given the obvious doubts about Douvan’s participation, his closest rival in the betting Min (169+) having plenty to find on ratings.
A fantastic return from Altior to win the Game Spirit Chase.— JumpsRacing.co.uk (@jumpsracingcouk) February 10, 2018
Cantered all over the 165-rated Politologue.
This year’s Betfair Hurdle had virtually all the class and competition of any Festival handicap, the field of 24 stacked full of progressive and interesting sorts, though the very strong gallop on the testing ground meant plenty simply didn’t get into the race (unsurprisingly the first and second recorded the two best timefigures of the week over hurdles). However, Kalashnikov (148 from 134p) clearly improved on his second in the Tolworth Hurdle, a more professional model here than the one who’d finished second at Sandown, the field strung out by wide margins in behind. He’ll reportedly run in the Supreme, well worth a go at that race for all that he’d have to improve again to trouble favourite Getabird (150p).
Elsewhere on the card at Newbury, the opening race was won impressively by Whatswrongwithyou (135p), though trainer Nicky Henderson had his eye on handicaps rather than anything fancy next time (no novice entries at Cheltenham). The listed bumper that closed the card has an impressive roll of honour – won by the likes of Al Ferof, Shutthefrontdoor, Definitly Red, Barters Hill and Ballyandy – and Acey Milan (up 13 lb to 121) produced a high-class effort to win it by 11 lengths.
Over at Warwick the highlight was surely Saint Calvados’ romp in the Grade 2 Kingmaker, and though he stood out on form beforehand in receipt of weight from the other runners, he hammered his rivals with another scintillating all-the-way win. Now rated 158p, he’s arguably now the pick of the home-trained Arkle contenders, second to only Footpad (165p) in the overall picture. The other performance of note at Warwick was that of Woolstone One (137p from 119p), who overcame a rise in class in style in the listed mares’ hurdle.