Weekend to remember for Hobbs and Johnson at Cheltenham

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The Open meeting was a success on many fronts, but none more so than for the pairing of Philip Hobbs and Richard Johnson, who racked up six winners over the three-day extravaganza.

Speaking to the Racing Post, the Minehead handler described how their sextet of wins was “out of their wildest dreams” and “phenomenal”, and it bodes well for the future of the operation.

Bold Henry got Friday’s hat-trick up and running with a late surge up the hill, while it was bookended with Balthazar King retaining his crown on the cross country course, despite making a major blunder half way round.

But those wins sandwiched the first of Hobbs’ two live RSA Chase chances, Champagne West, running out a strong winner over an extended two and a half miles. Roger Brookhouse’s six-year-old was introduced as a 12/1 shot for the three-miler at the festival.

He was joined near the head of the market for that race by Sausalito Sunrise on Sunday (12/1 from 16/1) after he ran a gallant second to the impressive Kings Palace.

David Pipe’s horse made the most of a 5lb weight advantage to surge to the head of the market as an 8/1 shot.

The Hobbs-Johnson team also landed the feature on Sunday with Garde Le Victoire picking up the Greatwood Hurdle from heavily backed favourite Vaniteux.

A jumping display to behold

While the numbers Team Sandhill racked up eclipsed everyone else, it was the performance of an Alan King inmate that caught the eye the most.

Taking in the Shloer Chase rather than the Paddy Power Gold Cup looked an inspired choice as Uxizandre produced an almost foot-perfect round of jumping under Barry Geraghty to land the Listed Prize.

Going left-handed seems key for the JP McManus-owned gelding, so a festival race could be on his calendar, with his Ryanair odds cut from 16/1 to 12/1, while he was introduced to the Champion Chase market as a 16/1 shot.

There’s life in the old Fly yet

Last season it looked as if age was catching up to Hurricane Fly, well beaten in the Champion Hurdle, before the victor that day, Jezki, confirmed the placings at Punchestown.

But Ruby Walsh and Willie Mullins have always stood by their claims that the two-time Champion Hurdle is far from done just yet.

And so he showed at Punchestown. He rolled back the year’s giving the young pretender Jezki a 2 1/4l beating. In notching up his 20th Grade 1 victory, the Fly stayed well and truly in the picture for ‘his’ race in March, for which he is now a 14/1 chance.

All odds and markets correct as of the date of publishing

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Ben Stones

Ladbrokes News’ equine expert, Ben likes nothing more than studying the form to pick out a winner or two for our readers. A Journalism and Media Studies graduate from the University of Winchester, Ben has previously written for a number of football and racing blogs and websites, as well as contributing to the sports pages of his home-town newspaper.