Giant wins but Harry’s Topper the lot

28 Jan 14

My big Grade 2 of the weekend (writes Phil Smith) was the Argento Cotswold Chase at Cheltenham (pictured). Going into the race, at the weights, there was only 6lb between the top top-rated The Giant Bolster (157 carrying 11-00) and the fourth best Champion Court (157 and 11-06).

Coming to the last there were five in a line but The Giant Bolster, wearing a variety of headgear for the first time, strode up his beloved Cheltenham hill to win at this meeting for the third time in four years.

The time was 1.92 seconds per furlong slower than standard and compares badly with the two 2m5f chase handicaps which returned figures that were 1.32 and 1.36 seconds off standard. I decided to base the race through Restless Harry on 141 as he had won a handicap at Newbury only ten days earlier and was clearly in form. As such, Houblon Des Obeaux ran to 148 finishing seven lengths in front of him.

Harry Topper (156) therefore comes out as the best horse on the day as he was four lengths in front of Houblon Des Obeaux and gave that horse 4lb. This was a remarkable effort as he made numerous jumping errors and clearly has the potential to rate much higher if he can ever polish up in that department.

Rocky Creek, although just holding on to second spot, was exhausted at the end of the race and I have him running 6lb below his rating of 157 in receipt of 5lb from Harry Topper. However I have left him on 157 as I don’t believe he replicated his Hennessy second here.

The winner I have performing 2lb below his rating of 155. I felt that in winning by seven lengths going away he was value for nine, but he was also getting 5lb from Rocky Creek. Although my top rated won the race it was a confusing contest as you don’t often get the first two in a Grade 2 running below their ratings. Perhaps I should have rated the race a couple of pounds higher but there would have been a knock on effect on Harry Topper and I didn’t want to have him going up more than 3lb after such a poor round of jumping.

It was a confusing race caused almost certainly by the heavy ground and the slow pace. If they were all to meet again in the Gold Cup I would expect Rocky Creek to come out on top of this group as to my eyes he ran as if needing the run after an eight week break since his second at Newbury. On better ground he would be an interesting Crabbie’s Grand National contender.