The Festival bumper is one of the most eagerly anticipated races of the meeting, not just because of the interest in the race itself but also because of the future champions it so often unearths.
As befits a race of this name, the field looked as strong as ever, with over half the field boasting unbeaten records and one of those, CORK ALL STAR, was successful again here to prove himself the best horse of his type around. Despite his Flat pedigree, he ran on strongly to prove he has a potent mix of speed and stamina. The fact that he has also now won twice at Cheltenham also bodes well for his future in championship races.
Runner up Sophocles is also Flat bred and he lacks the size and scope of many of his rivals here. However, this was a tremendous effort and he did by far the best of the four year olds. Having run on strongly from well off the pace he would surely have got even closer to the winner had he not veered badly left on the run in under his inexperienced rider.
Aranleigh looked beaten turning for home but also stayed on strongly to claim third. He should improve when stepped up in trip over hurdles. Softer ground also suits and it is easy to see him running up a sequence in novice events in Ireland next season.
The mare, Shirley Casper was fourth. She has already won a point to point and so is another who will only improve when switched to hurdling. She also has the size and scope to jumps fences, a comment that applies equally to Crocodiles Rock who eventually finished sixth after helping to set the pace for a long way.
The well backed favourite, Mad Fish, travelled well for a long way and was not beaten far in eighth. In time, he may prove to be better than he showed here.
Off the rest, Lodge Lane, Isn’t That Lucky and Berings Express are all worthy of mention. For various reasons, all three didn’t help themselves by hanging right at different stages of the race. However, they had all travelled well enough to suggest that they have the talent to bounce back and win races in the future.