Menorah Menacing in Greatwood
1 Menorah 6/1
Menorah announced his arrival on the Stan James Champion Hurdle stage with a career-best performance under top-weight in the £100,000 Greatwood Handicap Hurdle.
Last year’s Supreme Novices’ Hurdle winner was pushed right to the wire by Bothy but kept finding for Richard Johnson and pulled out more close to the line for a neck success.
Johnson kept the five-year-old out wide for much of the trip in search of better ground and he went on to provide Hobbs with a third win in the race following on from Rooster Booster (2002) and Detroit City (2006). Menorah is 12/1 with Stan James for the Champion Hurdle and 10/1 with Paddy Power.
Hobbs said: “He is only five so hopefully there is improvement to come and I hope he will be up there with my previous winners of this race.
“The ground is better out wide so Richard kept him out there. It was a lot of ground to give away and his jumping wasn’t brilliant but despite that he has still won so he has done well.
“He is a horse who needs a strong pace which is why he came here and I certainly hope he can become a Champion Hurdle horse.
“He was rated 151 today but he should have a fair bit of improvement in him and the Champion Hurdle route is the one we will take before going chasing next season.
“I imagine we will look at the race formerly known as the Bula (the International Hurdle) next month or the Christmas Hurdle for his next race.”
Paddy Power quote the winner at 10/1 for the Stan James Champion Hurdle, and will give a donation of £3,000 to Racing Welfare after Hobbs placed a charity bet on the winner at his open day last week. The trainer elected to have £250 each-way on the winner at 8/1 resulting in a handsome payout for the charity.
Johnson declared: “I am very impressed with Menorah. I thought that it would be hard for him today off top-weight on that ground. To be fair to him, he even stumbled at the last and, if he hadn’t had done that, I think he would have won a bit easier. He is a fantastic horse for the future.
“He has really knuckled down and kept finding more and more after the last.
“He is very good - he obviously was last year - and I think that we are finding the key to him now as well.
“Rooster Booster was very special but Menorah is not too far behind.”
BOTHY SO BRAVE IN DEFEAT
High-class Menorah successfully conceded weight all round in the featured £100,000 Greatwood Handicap Hurdle, but runner-up Bothy was admirable in defeat.
He and rider Danny Cook, the 3lb conditional jockey who was riding the horse for the first time in public, were beaten a neck after a flank-to-flank duel along Cheltenham’s uphill finishing straight. Manyriverstocross, the 11/2 favourite, finished third beaten a further five lengths.
Trainer Brian Ellison, who trains Bothy for owner Dan Gilbert, was absent, but Cook said: “He’s run his heart out, jumped brilliantly and travelled nicely, but every time I got close to the winner he pulled out a bit more and was never going to let me get past.
“My horse has run a great race despite that. He was a lovely spare to ride, and Mr Ellison and the owners were very kind to let have the ride. I’m glad I was able to repay them and give one of the best hurdlers in training such a run for his money.”
Alan King, trainer of Manyriverstocross, said: “I’m delighted - in an ideal world there would have been a stronger pace. He wants a flat out two miles or two and a half. I should think he’ll go to Ascot next just before Christmas.”
MORE FROM RICHARD JOHNSON
Richard Johnson, successful on Menorah in the £100,000 Greatwood Handicap Hurdle, said: “He seemed to handle slightly more testing ground.
“It all worked out well today and that extra summer on his back helped as he did it well under top-weight.
“I walked the course beforehand and the better ground was out wide. When you have a big weight on that type of horse, it helps to race on slightly better ground.
“He was awkward at the hurdle up the hill and was a bit over big at the first but apart from that he did jump very well. He is very straightforward really and a true-run race brings out the best in him.
“He won a bumper over two and a half miles when we first had him and we were slightly concerned that we had to make plenty of use of him because he wasn’t that quick.
“But to be fair to him, he seems to travel very well in any type of race which is a massive bonus.
“He is a very honest horse and when the other horse came to him, I always felt Menorah was just doing enough.
“Obviously, the handicapper will put him up again. He has won today under top-weight and it has to be a very good performance.
“I definitely think he is a good enough for the Champion Hurdle. Philip and I thought so last season and we were a bit concerned that the handicapper did not rate him as highly as we did. It is nice to be justified today.”
THE GREATWOOD HURDLE AS A POINTER TO THE STAN JAMES CHAMPION HURDLE
The 2003 Stan James Champion Hurdle victor Rooster Booster defied top-weight to win the Greatwood Handicap Hurdle in 2002 for trainer Philip Hobbs. The 2001 Greatwood Handicap Hurdle winner, Westender, was second to Rooster Booster in the 2003 Stan James Champion Hurdle, a feat mirrored last season by Khyber Kim, who chased home Binocular at The Festival.
Two of the last five winners of the £100,000 Greatwood Hurdle, the Hobbs-trained Detroit City (2006) and Sizing Europe (2007) have both started favourite for the Stan James Champion Hurdle at The Festival in the same season, only to disappoint. However, the 2007 Greatwood second Osana ran much better in the 2008 Stan James Champion Hurdle, finishing runner-up.
Hobbs is hoping that today’s winner under top-weight - Menorah - can emulate Rooster Booster.
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