Another example of a horse coming back to show his best form at the Festival, as the 2005 Coral Cup winner IDOLE FIRST claimed the most valuable handicap of the meeting.
Certain horses just seem to be suited to the Festival – be it because of the fast pace of the races, the uniqueness of the Cheltenham circuit, the invariably decent ground or simply the time of year – and the Venetia Williams trained runner was always travelling well just off the pace and rarely looked like losing after taking over the lead swinging for home. In fact, he positively sprinted clear on the run in and was still over four lengths in front at the death.
As if to emphasis the point about Festival specialists, Palarshan put up an incredible performance in second. The 2003 Grand Annual winner had been off the course for 728 days going into the race but finished best of all to pip a whole host of horses for the runners up spot. Not only was this a great effort from the horse, it was also a tremendous training feat by Henry Daly.
Mariah Rollins, Le Volfoni, Slim Pickings and Reveillez (who won last season’s Jewson) were the horses who were passed by Palarshan on the run in and left to battle it out for third.
For Mariah Rollins, who just won that battle, this was the mare’s best run by far since joining Nicky Henderson from Ireland. The drying ground was clearly the key.
Le Volfoni in fourth, also relished underfoot conditions. He has had a light campaign so far as connections have waited for the ground to improve and he could yet win a decent race before the end of the season if we have a dry spring.
Slim Pickings travelled noticeably well throughout the race, but lacked a change of gear when it mattered. A step up in trip should bring about further improvement in the horse, who has clearly thrived since moving to Tom Taaffe.
Reveillez and Madison Du Berlais both ran well, but have been penalised for winning decent events in the recent past and consequently are in the grip of the handicapper.
Opera Mundi was a very well backed favourite, but ran no sort of race. Much better was clearly expected and he may well leave this form behind in the future.