Cheltenham: Hobbs and Johnson dominate
Day one of Cheltenham’s Open Meeting turned out to be one to remember for the Philip Hobbs/Richard Johnson combo, with the pair recording a treble across the card. Bold Henry got the ball rolling for the in form partnership, causing a surprise in landing the Paddy Power Handicap Chase at a price of 14/1.
The J.P McManus owned 8yo left it late under a confident Johnson, eventually reeling in Colin Tizzard’s Sew On Target to record a 2 1/4 length victory. 6/1 joint favourite Monetaire finished third after a sketchy round of jumping, whilst the front running Defaoithesdream stayed on for fourth.
The impressive looking Champagne West made a fine start to life over fences in the Novices Chase, a race that was marred by four fences being omitted in the home straight due to the sunlight. It made no difference to the winner, however, as he jumped well when he had to and showed a good turn of foot to see off 7/4 favourite Colour Squadron, who has now finished second on six of his nine starts and remains a maiden.
The hat-trick was brought up by the King of Cross Country, Balthazar King, who retained the Glenfarclas Cross Country chase with yet another dogged performance. Last season’s Grand National runner-up again showed his staying prowess to hold off the gallant 13yo Uncle Junior by just 1 1/2 lengths, with Sire Collonges back in third.
Johnson said of Balthazar King: “I lost the reins at one point and was a bit fortunate, but when they’ve got attitudes like him it makes my job very easy.”
By Kevin Walsh / Photo: Tony Marshall/EMPICS Sport
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