The 2023 Showcase at Cheltenham was enthralling, and here we look back at the action from two days of world-class racing.
The iconic Cheltenham Racecourse hosted two days of fantastic horse racing when the 2023 Cheltenham Showcase came to town on Friday and Saturday last week. Racing at this event never fails to catch the eye and excitement and anticipation of racing fans at home and abroad for this event was building ahead of the first race on Friday.
One of the aspects of the Showcase that makes it exciting and intriguing is that races feature rising stars and more experienced horses. This event was also significant as it was the curtain raiser for the jump racing season.
No less than fourteen races graced the track at Cheltenham across the two days, and day one (Friday) began with the Foundation Developments Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle, with the first day coming to a close with the Abu Dhabi Digital Markets Handicap Hurdle.
Saturday was the second and final day of the 2023 Cheltenham Showcase, and its seven races included the EPIC Value at William Hill Handicap Steeple Chase and the Cheltenham & South West Racing Club Open National Hunt Race.
Now, we will move on to the action, starting with the Foundation Developments Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle race that opened proceedings on Saturday afternoon.
The Foundation Developments Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle Race (Friday)
The Handicap Hurdle Race was the opening race of the event, and it was rising star Our Champ who emerged victorious, with teenage jockey Freddie Gordon on board. It was also a great birthday present for Gordon, who celebrated his 18th birthday on the opening day of this year’s Showcase.
Our Champ and Freddie Gordon have been on the rise recently, and a win came at Plumpton on debut in September. In the Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle Race, Gordon guided Our Champ to an emphatic win by a margin of no less than seven and a half lengths. Black Poppy and Ballygeary had to settle for second and third place, respectively.
Squareintheair.com Novices’ Chase (Friday)
Friday’s second race was the squareintheair.com Novices’ Chase, in which My Mate Mozzie was the favourite to win. Jockey Keith Donoghue managed to ride My Mate Mozzie to victory, living up to the pre-race billing.
The race was won by Donoghue relatively comfortably, managing to hold off competition from the likes of Jetronic and Al Zaraqaan to win the race by a margin of three lengths. To seal the victory, My Mate Mozzie weaved through Jetronic and Al Zaraqaan confidently before crossing the line in first place.
Trustatrader Novices’ Hurdle (Friday)
The third race to take place on the opening day of the 2023 Cheltenham Showcase was the Trustatrader Novices’ Hurdle. Encanto Bruno was the favourite, and trainer Gavin Cromwell and Jockey Keith Donoghue were delighted that he managed to win the race ahead of Mel Monroe and Tag Man.
This was the second victory of the day for Cromwell and Donoghue after Our Mate Mozzie’s success in the previous race. Encanto Bruno is also a rising star, and as the race was approaching its final stages, Donoghue managed to guide him to what was a comfortable two-length victory in the end.
2023 Thoroughbred Census Novices’ Limited Handicap Chase (Friday)
Whilst the favourites for the last two races did ultimately triumph, this was most certainly not the case in the 2023 Thoroughbred Census Novices’ Limited Handicap Chase. Atlanta Brave, ridden by Richard Patrick, had been the pre-race favourite, but Patrick had to settle for a 5th place finish.
Instead, it was Idalko Bihoue who won this race with Jockey Sam Twiston-Davies on board. The start of the race saw Twiston-Davies off the pace, but this would change going into the final home turn when he took the lead to win the race. The margin was very emphatic in the end, with victory being sealed by no less than seven lengths ahead of Railway Hurricane and Way Out, who filled the final two spots in the race’s top three.
Sky Bet Novices’ Hurdle (Friday)
The favourite was once again not the winner of this particular race. On this occasion, the pre-race favourite was Keith Donoghue and Toto Too, who finished in fifth place. Instead, it was Lookaway, ridden by Jack Quinlan, who managed to seal the win in the 2023 Sky Bet Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham.
Quinlan had gone into this race winless in his 46 mounts at this track, but relief came for him as he, of course, finally emerged victorious. After putting pressure on leader Kamsinas, Lookaway and Quinlan ended up with a two and three-quarter lead in the end. Kamsinas came second, whilst Idy Wood came third.
Close Brothers Amateur Jockeys’ Handicap Chase (Friday)
The penultimate race of day one at the 2023 Cheltenham Showcase was the Close Brothers Amateur Jockeys’ Handicap Chase. Pre-race favourite Bells Of Peterboro finished eighth, and in the end, it was Jack Andrews’ Mole Court who won the race ahead of Midnight Our Fred and Wick Green, who had to settle for second and third place, respectively.
Mole Court managed to fend off Midnight Our Fred to win by just half a length in a tense and enthralling race.
Abu Dhabi Digital Markets Handicap Hurdle (Friday)
The final race on Friday was the Abu Dhabi Digital Markets Handicap Hurdle. Favourite Soul Icon will still have been disappointed, even with a fourth place finish. And so, finishing ahead of third place Rambo T and second place Angels Breath was Pinnacle Peak, who, ridden by Adam Wedge, won the race to finish the action on the opening day.
It was a surprise victory, and a fantastic performance from Wedge and Pinnacle Peak saw them pass Angels Breath and win by four and three-quarter lengths at the finishing line. It was a first Cheltenham win for joint-owner Richard Lloyd.
Now that we have looked back at the action from Friday let’s now move on to our review of the action on Saturday, which was the second day of the 2023 Cheltenham Showcase. We will start with the Epic Value At William Hill Handicap Chase, which opened proceedings on the final day of this race meeting.
Epic Value At William Hill Handicap Chase (Saturday)
Despite being the favourite to take the win, Haddex Des Obeaux failed to finish the race in the dying embers of the race. Instead, Rachael Blackmore, who was on board Dancing On My Own, crossed the finish line in first place ahead of Triple Trade in second and In Excelsis Deo in third place.
Triple Trade did attempt to challenge Dancing On My Own, but the victory was never really in doubt for the Henry de Bromhead trained horse. De Bromhead has plenty of victories to his name at Cheltenham, and this win saw him celebrate his 51st birthday in some style.
Masterson Holdings Hurdle (Saturday)
The third race on Saturday was the Masterson Holdings Hurdle, where Spirit D’Aunou was the pre-race favourite for the win. In the end, Jamie Moore and Spirit D’Aunou finished in fourth place and just outside the top three.
It was Harry Cobden and Blueking D’Oroux who managed to finish the Holdings Hurdle ahead of Jilaijone and Bois Guillbert in second and third. After an enthralling battle with Jilaijone, Blueking D’Oroux eventually emerged from the race victorious by a margin of two lengths.
Epic Jumps Season At William Hill Handicap Chase (Saturday)
The Epic Jumps Season At William Hill Handicap Chase was the race that followed the Masterson Holdings Hurdle, and the winner of this year’s race was Whacker Clan, ridden by Darragh O’Keeffe. This was the second win at the Cheltenham Showcase for trainer Henry De Bromhead after Dancing On My Own won the Epic Value At William Hill Handicap Chase earlier that day.
Race favourite Twig finished this race in second place behind winner Whacker Clan. It was a tight and tense race where Twig did challenge for the lead at the last, but Whacker Clan managed to seal a three-length victory.
Pertemps Network Handicap Hurdle (Saturday)
Nico de Boinville rode Hyland to victory in the Pertemps Network Handicap Hurdle at Cheltenham on Saturday afternoon. De Boinville managed to fend off competition from Judicial Law, Flight Deck and Dubrovnik Harry, who filled the final three spots in the race’s top four.
After an entertaining race, it was a two-length victory for Nico De Boinville and Hyland. It was a highly significant moment, particularly for Syndicate Organiser David Sumpter, who, after this race, had finally got his first win at Cheltenham after no less than 35 years.
William Hill Epic Weekend Free Bet Novices’ Hurdle (Saturday)
Pre-race favourite Antrim Coast came close to sealing the race win, but it was Sean Bowen on board Butch who fended them off to claim the win in this race. Butch did take the lead on jumping the last, but Antrim Coast was able to go past to lead the field going into the final furlong. One final push saw Butch manage to regain first place, crossing the line for the win.
As a result, Antrim Coast settled for second, whilst it was Reverend Hubert who secured third place in this race.
William Hill Lengthen Your Odds Novices’ Chase (Saturday)
The William Hill Lengthen Your Odds Novices’ Chase was the penultimate race not only of day two but also of the 2023 Cheltenham Showcase. On this occasion, the pre-race favourite was able to live up to the billing, with Keith Donoghue sealing his third win of this two day meeting aboard Flooring Porter, who managed to fend off competition from Broadway Boy in second place and Weveallbeencaught in third place.
It was a competitive race, and in the end, it was Broadway Boy who was the closest challenger for Keith Donoghue and Flooring Porter. After completing the final jump with some aplomb, Flooring Porter recorded the win by a margin of two and a half lengths.
Cheltenham & South West Racing Club Open National Hunt Flat Race (Saturday)
Now we move on to the Cheltenham & South West Racing Club Open National Hunt Flat Race, which was the last race of the 2023 Cheltenham Showcase Meeting for 2023. The Kemble Brewery won, with Valgrand and Martin Plage in second and third. Pre-race favourite Catch Yourself On finished in ninth place.
The Kemble Brewery had to deal with several obstacles on course to victory, including a 4lb penalty. Ultimately, Jockey David Bass led The Kemble Brewery to a two and a quarter lengths victory.
It was an enthralling two days of racing at the iconic Cheltenham Racecourse, and excitement will be building ahead of the 2024 Cheltenham Showcase.
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