Sports Gazette

by sports journalism students at St Mary's University, London

Alsa Mix and Torpillo stake Cheltenham Festival claims on thrilling Sandown Friday

Posted on 8 December 2018 by Robert Sutton

Alan King continued his domination of the Winter Novices Hurdle at Sandown Park with a third victory in four years.

The winning horse was Alsa Mix, ridden by Wayne Hutchinson who also rode Label Des Obeaux to victory in this race in 2015.

Alsa Mix quickened nicely in a competitive renewal of the Grade 2 contest on heavy ground following 9mm of morning rain. The mare remained unbeaten over hurdles having defeated second place Darlac by three and a quarter lengths.

Mercy Mercy me finished third with market leaders Truckin Away (who fell) and Down the Highway never landing a blow.

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There was an impressive performance by Torpillo in the Juvenile Hurdle. The Nigel Twiston Davies trained runner put himself in the frame for the Triumph Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival with a 23 length victory over Caswell Boy.

Speaking to Racing UK, jockey Daryl Jacob said: “He jumped well today, it was a nice performance.

“He is only a three year old, we want to have longevity with him and he is learning well.”

It was a big day for amateur jockey David Maxwell who rode Mendip Express to victory in the three mile handicap chase.

In a gruelling contest, the 12-year old returned to winning ways after a disappointing effort at Sandown last month.

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“What fun that was! You do wonder if this horse was past its best, especially in handicap company. It is just lovely when they run like he did today,” a delighted Maxwell said following the race.

“It was fabulous. He really enjoyed jumping those big fences.”

Thomas Crapper was second and there was no fairytale for 14-year old veteran Pete the Feat who could only manage third having taken this race 12 months ago.

The two-and-a-half mile Novices’ Handicap Chase proved an eventful contest. Out of the 14 runners who started, only six made it home. Well fancied The Bottom Bar and Lithic were among those to fall with loose horses causing chaos on the second circuit.

Warthog for David Noonan ridden by David Pipe stayed clear of trouble and ended up a comfortable winner at 16-1.

The afternoon had started with an upset as Swift Crusador beat the well-supported favourite Enola Gay. It was a victory for trainer Alexandra Dunn who had taken this horse from the Evan Williams yard.

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The final race also saw disappointment for the punters. ThisTimeNextYear was another strong favourite, but despite leading over the last, Shaw’s Cross stayed on strongly to claim a nice prize for Paul Henderson, Tom O’Brien in the saddle.

Away from Sandown, Defi Du Seuil returned to form with an excellent round of jumping in the feature Novices Chase at Exeter, while Siruh du Lac supplemented his victory at Newbury last month with a gutsy performance.

Attention now turns to the Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown today which features Altior, last year’s Champions Chaser. The card also features leading Cheltenham contender Lalor in the Henry VII Novices’ Chase and Grand National fourth Milansbar in the final race.

Featured photograph/Rob Sutton