Nicky Henderson was back to his usual self on Saturday after a slightly hampered start to the season by his standards. At Newcastle the two mile Fighting Fifth saw A P McCoy prepare to extend My Tent Or Yours' reputation, & failed to disappoint on his seasonal debut. Second favourite Melodic Rendezvous, was expected to give A P a run for his money, but was disappointing at best, & struggled to make a mark on the race. Overturned by Cockney Sparrow & Grumeti who earned second & third. A P had this to say after the race "He's won easy but you would have wanted him to, really. I felt us & Grumeti really quickened it up from three out & were really racing." "I can't understand bookmakers cutting him for the StanJames.com Champion Hurdle – he was by far the best horse on paper going in." Now 7/2 (PP) for the champion hurdle at Cheltenham 2014, he heads the betting & will go up against the likes of Hurricane Fly, Our Conor, Annie Power & Jezki. A tough contest it will be.
Over at Newbury, Barry Geraghty & Henderson had an equally successful result with back to back Hennessy achievements for the duo. This time, 20/1 shot, Triolo D'alene. Geraghty opted for the ride over Hadrian's approach, (which he has rode every time for Henderson to date) who was an early faller. Over the last; Triolo D'alene, Rocky Creek, Theatre Guide & Highland Lodge all showed promise in the closing stages. It looked to be anyone's race, Rocky Creek challenged & held on well but couldn't stop a determined Geraghty. The 3rd winner for Henderson in this race, Triolo D'alene was to be kept for the grand national but a decision to race him at Newbury saw Henderson get what he wanted. "After he won the Topham at Aintree last season we started to think about the National, & we will think about it." said the winning trainer. Triolo D'alene will now be hampered by the weights for the grand national, Like all Hennessey gold cup winners, should they go down that road.
Imperial commander who famously defeated Denman & Kauto Star to win the Cheltenham gold cup back in 2010, led the race from the off & travelled strongly for the majority. He was pulled up in the later stages & will now be retired. Trainer, Nigel Twiston-Davies proudly said of Imperial Commander, "He has run so many great races for us, & we'll always have that to remember him by."