Steel Plate And Sections Novices' Chase
|Class 2, Cheltenham 14:25
2m 4f 110y
|Friday 14th November 2014|
Champagne West wins the Steel Plate & Sections Novices Chase with Colour Squadron 2nd again. Front two pulled clear of Dell 'Arca
1 Champagne West 7/2
2 Colour Squadron 7/4F
3 Urban Hymn 4/1
NR: Bullet Street (IRE)
6 ran Distances: 3¼l, 8l, 4l
TIME 5m 17.30s (slow by 19.30s)
Champagne West continued trainer Philip Hobbs' fine run of form with an authoritative three and a quarter length victory in the Steel Plate And Sections Novices' Chase at Cheltenham this afternoon.
The seven-strong field had an easier task than expected as six fences had to be omitted due to low sun (including four in the home straight), which meant the runners had a elongated run-in of about half a furlong at the business end of the race.
The 7/2 second favourite hit the front just before the final fence and although the 7/4 favourite Colour Squadron (also trained by Hobbs) loomed large as the pair battled up the hill, jockey Richard Johnson kept the six-year-old up to his work to record an impressive victory.
"It was a promising performance over two and a half miles but it bodes even better for three miles as that's where I think his future lies," said Hobbs.
"He was just a bit keen in his races over shorter last season but he's beginning to grow up and beginning to relax more and I think he'll be a good horse in time.
"He was a bit careful at the third fence but I was quite happy to see him do that. I suppose we didn't learn too much about his jumping because most of the fences were taken out but he jumps well enough. He should continue to improve."
Hobbs was also keen to praise runner-up Colour Squadron after the race.
"His attitude has been called into question a few times which I think is a bit unfair," said the trainer.
"He's run some good races in the past and run against some good horses. I think he's run against another good one here."
Johnson was also looking forward to the future following the race. Champagne West's victory means both trainer and jockey have recorded a 66.5/1 double on the card so far following Bold Henry's victory earlier in the day.
"He has always schooled well at home," said the jockey.
"When we turned in, I couldn't see much at all and, and the end of day, safety is important as well.
"It is just not worth the risk - it's easy when you are in the stands thinking it doesn't look bad but you literally can't really see the orange boards or anything because there is a massive shadow on them.
"He has jumped nicely. He was almost getting there a bit too early jumping the ditch coming up the hill. He usually improves for a first run - he did last year - and he has been more settled growing up this year."
The consensus among the riders of the placed horses was that the removal of six fences had little bearing on the result.
"It would be hard to say that we'd have been any closer if there had been more to jump," said Tom O'Brien, on the runner-up Colour Squadron. His colleague Brian Hughes, on third-placed Urban Hymm, said: "I think the ground would have been more of an issue for mine. It's gluey and he's a big, good-moving horse."
Colour Squadron, the 7/4 favourite and like the winner trained by Philip Hobbs, ran without hind shoes. "He struck into himself last time at Newton Abbot," Hobbs said, "and after that we took his hind shoes off and bevelled in his front ones. He's schooled without his hinds at home and it doesn't seem to make any difference.
"I know his attitude has been called into question at times but I think that's a bit unfair. He's run a good race and I think he's bumped into a good one."
Hughes agreed about the quality of the race. "I had the winners of two good hurdle races [Dell'Arca and Splash Of Ginge] behind me and there will be winners out of this race. Despite the missing fences, it rode a good race."
Urban Hymn's trainer Malcom Jefferson rued the omitted fences, only slightly tongue in cheek. "Mine is a good jumper," he said, "and I think health and safety is taking over a bit much."
Jefferson views Urban Hymn as a high-class prospect. "He's a big horse, but a really lovely mover," he said. "Better ground will suit him better and he could be one for the RSA Chase back here in March."
Steel Plate And Sections Novices' Chase
£20,000 added, 4yo plus, 2m 4f 110y, Class 2
Going: Soft, Good to Soft in places
|Pos||Dist||Horse / Jockey||Weight||Trainer||Age|
|1st||Champagne West (IRE) 7/2
|11-2||P J Hobbs||6|
|2nd||3¼||Colour Squadron (IRE) 7/4f
T J O'Brien
|11-2||P J Hobbs||8|
|3rd||8||Urban Hymn (FR) 4/1
|11-2||J M Jefferson||6|
|4th||4||Dell' Arca (IRE) 9/2
|5th||8||The Wexfordian (IRE) 66/1
|6th||14||Splash of Ginge 8/1
|11-10||N A Twiston-Davies||6|
|WN||Bullet Street (IRE)