It felt more like midsummer than mid-November here on Sunday, and the combination of bright, low sun and unusually fast terrain took its toll on the final day of the second-largest Cheltenham meeting of the year.
With last year’s Arkle Trophy winner Edwardstone scratched from the Shloer Chase, Nube Negra found himself with a practice canter at odds of 1-10 to clinch a top prize of £57,000, while three of the eight obstacles were omitted from both the Greatwood Handicap Hurdle and the Supreme Novice Hurdle Trial.
The track’s selective watering overnight wasn’t enough to persuade Alan King that Edwardstone should take a chance, and the winner’s big check for Nube Negra connections was perhaps a crumb of comfort after they were forced to remove him from last season’s Champion Chase in March. when the ground – which had also been watered – became soft.
“If we had thrown him on that, we’d still be looking for him,” Nube Negra coach Dan Skelton said after notching one of the easiest wins of his career.
“It’s a shame the race was interrupted for the racecourse, the fans and the sponsor, but that’s racing. We had our conditions and we would have liked to fight a bit, but that didn’t happen today.
It won’t materialize in the Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown next month either, as Skelton is ‘insensitive’ that Nube Negra won’t run, despite being cited at around 10-1 in most companies’ rosters. . In fact, Nube Negra’s next start could be in the Champion Chase itself, depending on the field conditions at Kempton’s Christmas meeting.
“We have big ambitions for here in March,” Skelton said. “We were second [in the Champion Chase] there are two renewals and we feel we have important unfinished business.
I Like To Move It carried the weight of 12 stone to victory in the Greatwood Handicap Hurdle, beating favorite Gin Coco by five and a half lengths.
Winners of this race under the highest weight of this century include top performers Menorah, Rigmarole and Rooster Booster, who won in 2002 and went on to win the Champion Hurdle itself the following March. I Like To Move It’s around 50-1 to emulate it, in a market led by Constitution Hill (11-8) and defending champion Honeysuckle (4-1).
“He’s a real horse and the International Hurdle [at Cheltenham on 10 December] will be next,” said Nigel Twiston-Davies, the winner’s coach. “Seems pretty busy, the Champion Hurdle, but that’s the plan for now.”