It was almost a weekend of what-ifs in the jumping world, with final-fence falls and ineligible runners providing talking points in the big National Hunt prizes in the UK.
Approaching the final flight in the Elite Hurdle, Paul Nicholls’ Irving looked set to mount a very strong challenge on the front-running Blakemount at Wincanton. But a steep landing proved too much for Sam Twiston-Davies’ mount to keep upright and he hit the deck.
There to pick up the pieces, narrowly avoiding the stricken favourite was Purple Bay.
The five-year-old powered home nicely under Mikey Ennis, leaving some to question whether he might have won without Irving’s departure. The 2013 Champion Bumper fifth was cut to 8/1 (from 25/1) for the Greatwood Hurdle at Cheltenham next weekend as a result.
Earlier in the card, there was a very easy winner in the Listed Badger Ales Trophy, in The Young Master (tipped up by yours truly on Friday) at 7/1.
Neil Mulholland’s charge won going away without being asked by Barry Geraghty and could now turn out quickly for a handicap at Cheltenham on Friday, for which he will have to carry just a 7lb penalty.
His victory wasn’t without controversy though, when the BHA later on Saturday evening announced they would be investigating how the novice was allowed to run, having only had two chase runs under his belt, when the qualifying criteria was three.
The two most intriguing antepost movers on Saturday came at Sandown.
The first coming when Irish Saint jumped and travelled nicely before seeing off the useful Chris Pea Green on chase debut. The Grade 2 winning hurdler was introduced to a very competitive looking Arkle market as a 16/1 shot.
Lucy Wadham’s Le Reve was a 21l winner in a decent looking handicap later on the card, prompting Ladbrokes into cutting his price for the Hennessy Gold Cup at the end of the month from 40/1 to 16/1.
And while the jumps action dominated, it was the final day of the flat season on Saturday, with the November Handicap at Doncaster rounding the campaign off nicely.
Our fancy Aramist ran a very nice race, filling the runners-up spot at 20/1, but there was nothing he could do about the winner.
Danny Tudhope made the decisive move on favourite Open Eagle, coming wide round the turn, seeking out better ground, and boy did it pay off.
David O’Meara’s horse won cosily by a 12l margin for the Yorkshire trainer, and looks a nice prospect.
While we had a decent weekend on the tipping front here at Ladbrokes News, we cannot rest on our laurels, and with the Open Meeting at Cheltenham just days away, we will be looking to pick out a winner or two at Prestbury Park as the jump season really hots up.
All odds and markets correct as of the date of publishing
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