The November Meeting at Cheltenham features key trials for the Festival in March which are contested by old favourites and potential future stars.
Traditionally a three-day event, this year’s November Meeting was reduced to two after a deluge of rain caused officials to abandon the opening day’s action on Friday due to waterlogging.
However, the quality certainly wasn’t diluted as a result and there were a number of eye-catching performances – both winners and losers – on cracking Saturday and Sunday cards at the home of jumps racing.
Here’s a look at some of the key performances which caught the eye of OpenOdds experts ahead of the four-day extravaganza in the spring.
Defi Du Seuil sizzles in Shloer Chase
Defi Du Seuil looked all class as he made a winning return to action in the 2m Grade 2 Shloer Chase when getting the better of a terrific tussle with Politologue.
Trained by Philip Hobbs and ridden by Barry Geraghty for owner JP McManus, this six-year old travelled strongly throughout on the heels of the leaders and put in some fine leaps.
He was also clever when not meeting a couple of fences on the right stride and extremely brave at the second last when taking off far too early to land running as a result.
That enabled him to tuck in-behind the eventual runner-up and Geraghty decided to hold onto Defi Du Seuil until after the last to make his challenge.
Politologue quickened smartly after making a mistake at the final flight, but Defu Du Seuil showed an even better turn of foot to take up the running 120 yards from home and score readily by 1 1/4 lengths.
This dual Cheltenham Festival Grade 1 winner now has the 2m Queen Mother Champion Chase or the Ryanair Chase over 2m 5f at next year’s extravaganza as potential targets.
The fact that connections have earmarked the Tingle Creek on December 7 over 2m at Sandown – the scene of another top level Defi Du Seuil triumph in last season’s Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase – suggests they may be favouring a crack at the former.
With reigning dual Queen Mother champion Altior set to go up in trip, the two-mile contest has a wide open look to it.
The strong travelling Defi du Seuil has the perfect attributes for the Champion Chase. Whatever connections ultimately decide, he looks set for another highly successful season at the highest level.
Allmankind impresses in November Meeting Triumph trial
Trainer-jockey brothers Dan and Harry Skelton have an exciting Triumph Hurdle prospect on their hands after Allmankind ran out a very eye-catching winner of the Grade 2 Prestbury Juvenile Hurdle – a recognised trial for the Grade 1 four-year-old contest at the Festival.
The son of German Derby winner Sea The Moon, who moved to the Skelton yard from Michael Bell’s Newmarket base this autumn, beat the well-regarded Botox Has by 2 1/2 lengths.
In doing so, he maintained his unbeaten record over the obstacles having made a winning debut over hurdles just eight days previously at Warwick.
Not many horses can pull like a train for two miles around Cheltenham in heavy ground and still win impressively, but Allmankind did just that!
He raced freely at the head of affairs from flag fall and, when shaken up turning for home, found plenty to win with plenty in hand at the line. The front two pulled well clear of the third home and some highly-touted types.
It was an incredible visual performance. Allmankind clearly has a huge engine and, if learning to settle, the sky could be the limit for him.
At this stage, he is the best juvenile hurdler seen this side of the Irish Sea and it will be fascinating to monitor how he develops mentally in future races en route to a crack at the Triumph.
Allmankind is clearly not straightforward and has a mind of his own – but bags of talent too.
Skelton summed him up when asked if the occasion might get to him at the Cheltenham Festival. “To be honest with you, he could boil over at a one-man party. The FA Cup Final wouldn’t stress him any more”
Hang In There looks a Supreme prospect for Gemmell
Hang In There took some notable scalps when powering clear to land the 2m Grade 2 Sharp Novices’ Hurdle on Sunday of the November Meeting.
The market was dominated by Ecco, who had finished sixth in this year’s Triumph Hurdle and went into the race and was unbeaten in two starts this season, and the Jamie Snowdon trained Pacify – seeking a sixth straight success over the obstacles,
However, they were both put firmly in their place by Emma Lavelle’s five-year-old who made virtually all.
Hang In There showed a smart turn of foot to quicken five lengths clear rounding the home turn, before only having to fend off the rallying Pacify by three lengths.
Ecco finished a further 14 lengths adrift in third. It was a most dominant display by Hang In There which suggested he had a big future and needed keeping firmly onside.
Well-regarded by Lavelle, he is now unbeaten in his last two starts. Winning jockey Adan Wedge said post race that he gave him lovely feel and that “hopefully the sky is the limit”.
Hang In There is part-owned by Andrew Gemmell, blind since birth, who enjoyed Cheltenham Festival success with stable companion Paisley Park in this year’s Grade 1 Stayers’ Hurdle.
In Hang In There, he has a horse that has the potential to make up into a Grade 1 performer.
The Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at the 2020 Cheltenham Festival is the obvious target, but he is still a huge price for the traditional curtain-raiser.
This season’s Supreme looks a potentially red-hot renewal with the likes of top class bumper performers Envoi Allen and Blue Sari – who have both made winning starts over the obstacles – among bookmakers’ market leaders.
Israel Champ emerges as Champion Bumper contender
Pond House handler David Pipe landed the concluding contest of the November Meeting, the Listed 2m bumper with Israel Champ.
Ridden by Tom Scudamore, the four-year-old son of Milan made all and found plenty to register a comfortable 1 3/4 lengths success over Nicky Henderson trained and McManus owned odds-on favourite Time Flies By.
The runner-up looked a top prospect when making a winning debut at last month’s Showcase Meeting at Prestbury Park, but was firmly put in his place.
Israel Champ, who joined Pipe after winning an Irish point impressively, put a disappointing Rules debut when sixth of 12 in a Worcester bumper well behind him.
He simply galloped his rivals into submission and never looked like being passed at any stage.
It was a performance which had owners John White and Anne Underhill dreaming of more Cheltenham Festival success.
Their maroon and yellow colours were carried to victory by Siruh Du Lac in the Grade 3 Brown Advisory Plate back in March.
Judged on the manner in which the strapping Israel Champ got the job done, he looks an exciting prospect for Pipe, whose team have struggled at recent Cheltenham Festivals.
He will unquestionably face a battalion of Willie Mullins trained inmates in the Grade 1 Champion Bumper at next year’s Cheltenham Festival should all go to plan.
The County Carlow handler has farmed the race over the years. Fellow Emerald Isle trainer Gordon Elliott also sends smart prospects over from Ireland.
However, Israel Champ is the standard bearer for the home team at this early stage of the season and looks to have a big future ahead of him.
Pipe and Scudamore teamed up with Moon Racer for Champion Bumper glory back in 2015, so know how to win the race.
Unlucky Slate House another November Meeting runner with potential
Trainer Colin Tizzard was left ruing what might have been when Slate House, a heavily-backed BetVictor Gold Cup favourite, fell at the second last fence when seemingly full of running.
Ridden by Robbie Power, the seven-year-old had lacked fluency with his jumping in the early stages of the two and a half-mile event.
He had to be nurtured into contention, but travelled ominously well and was all set to hit the front when stumbling on landing at the penultimate fence having arguably jumped it fine.
Slate House is a novice and was having just his sixth outing over the larger obstacles against some seasoned handicappers. It was thus a tough test which putting his jumping under extreme pressure.
However, he had previously put in a dominant 11-length victory in a novice chase over course and distance at The Showcase meeting where took up the running on the bit two from home, before storming clear to easily beat Garo De Juilley by 11 lengths on very testing ground.
That was a third course success for this son of Presenting, and Slate House showed enough in the BetVictor to suggest he could be a force to be reckoned with when pitched back into novice company.
Tizzard said: “Watching it live it looked like he came there to win and then watching the replay it looked even more obvious he was going to win. It just proves that he is in that league, which for me is lovely. We have a very nice horse on our hands.”
The JLT Novices’ Chase at the 2020 Cheltenham Festival looks the perfect long-term target for Slate House. So keep a close eye on his progress in the build up to that 2m 4f contest.