Friday, May 05, 2023

A brief review of the 2022/23 jumps season

Champion jockey: Brian Hughes

Champion trainer: Paul Nicholls

Winning owner: J P McManus

Champion conditional jockey: Luca Morgan

In the space of just under an hour on the first day of the Cheltenham Festival Constitution Hill won the Champion Hurdle by nine lengths and then Honeysuckle brought the curtain down on a wonderful racing career by winning the Mares' Hurdle, her seventeenth straight win from nineteen starts.

Galopin Des Champs beat Bravemansgame in the Gold Cup, Energumene won the Champion Chase and Sire Du Berlais surprised a few when coming home first in the Stayers' Hurdle but this year's highlight was that hour on the very first day.

The Ultima form looks strong with winner Corach Rambler going on to beat Vanillier in the Grand National while second Fastorslow provided a 20/1 upset in the Punchestown Gold Cup beating Galopin Des Champs and Bravemansgame. 

Corach Rambler was beaten nine lengths by Le Milos in the Coral Gold Cup at Newbury in November but Dan Skelton's charge didn't see out the trip in the National and eventually finished tenth.

The long dry summer took its toll on early season fixtures with Wincanton, Exeter and Ludlow among the tracks forced to abandon on account of unsuitable ground. 

February proved unseasonably dry as well. Winter watering restrictions meant Newbury's Betfair Hurdle meeting was run on going officially described as good, good to firm in places; Annual Invictus, Zanza and Betfair Hurdle winner Aucunrisque all posted new course records.

Ga Law won the Paddy Power Gold Cup at Cheltenham's Open meeting and I Like To Move It the Greatwood under top weight. 

The 2022 Gold Cup winner A Plus Tard was sent off 1/2 favourite for the Betfair Chase at Haydock but Henry De Bromhead's charge ran no sort of race at all and was pulled up behind Protektorat. 

Protektorat subsequently finished fifth behind Galopin Des Champs in the Gold Cup, having taken up the running two out, while A Plus Tard was pulled up in the race before finishing a well beaten third behind Shishkin in the Aintree Bowl.

L'Homme Presse impressed carrying top weight to a comfortable victory in the Rehearsal Chase at Newcastle but unseated Charlie Deutsch at the last in the King George when looking held by Bravemansgame.

The world appeared Edwardstone's oyster after victory in the Tingle Creek but Alan King's charge unseated in the Desert Orchid Chase over Christmas, was pipped by Editeur Du Gite in the rescheduled Clarence House Chase at Cheltenham and then looked strangely lethargic behind Energumene in the Champion Chase.

A cold snap meant there was no turf racing in Britain from Monday 12th December until Tuesday 20th.

The Paul Nicholls trained Tahmuras won the Tolworth in the new year and was sent off an 11/1 chance for the Supreme on the opening day of the Festival. He trailed in tenth behind Marine Nationale, with Irish trained novices filling the first eight places. 

The dominance of Irish novices was seen again the following day in the Ballymore won by Impaire Et Passe but, come Friday, Nicholls had something to cheer when Stay Away Fay stayed on to take the Albert Bartlett. 

Iwilldoit proved well named when winning the Classic Chase at Warwick while the French trained Gold Tweet caused a bit of an upset when coming from last to first to beat Dashel Drasher and Paisley Park in the Cleeve Hurdle.

Cooper's Cross won the Sky Bet Chase, Moroder the Grimthorpe - both run at Doncaster -and Magna Sam the Edinburgh National at Musselburgh but all three subsequently finished behind Kitty's Light. 

Christian Williams' charge appeared slow to come to hand but encouraging signs were spotted behind Annsam at Kempton in January. The diminutive seven-year-old won the Eider over four miles at Newcastle in February and eight weeks later beat Cooper's Cross in the Scottish Grand National (Magna Sam fifth). 

Connections contemplated an audacious attempt for the bet365 Gold Cup, run just one week later at Sandown's jump finale meeting. Kitty's Light jumped the last upsides Moroder and scooted up the hill to win two and a half lengths and provide a fitting end to the season.

And finally, a quick football note to finish off...

Plenty has been said about my home town club, Wrexham, following the arrival of Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney. Fifteen years ago I wrote a post entitled Wrexham wrelegated. It's good to be back in the Football League.