Calgary Bay: only trainer Henrietta Knight's fourth win this seasonPICTURE: Edward Whitaker (racingpost.com/photos)
Calgary Bay back on track with Grade 3 win
Report: Cheltenham, Sunday
Bet With Your Mobile At Victor Chandler Chase Handicap (Grade 3) 2m5f, New, 5yo+
CALGARY BAY saw off the late challenge of Hector's Choice to return to the winner's enclosure for the first time since December 2009 and provide trainer Henrietta Knight with the perfect start to the new year.
Now nine, Calgary Bay has struggled to live up to the promise he showed as a novice when he won a Grade 2, but the 8-1 shot was always travelling particularly well and jumped to the front two fences from hometo provide his trainer with only her fourth winner of the season.
Calgary Bay had to dig deep on the run-in, but kept responding to jockey Dominic Elsworth’s urgings to secure a well deserved win, coming home one-and-a-quarter lengths ahead of the fast finishing Hector’s Choice (20-1), with Matuhi (20-1) fillingthe places in third.
Outsider of the field Pickamus set a searching early gallop, putting plenty of pressure on the field’s jumping, and 9-2 favourite Havingotascoobydo was one of the first to feel the heat as he fell at the third.
Duke Of Lucca and Micheal Flips also made mistakes to take themselves out of contention, and Ghizao weakened quickly down the back straight after chasing the early pace in a race in which few managed to get seriously involved.
The exception was Calgary Bay who got into a nice rhythm for Elsworth and made smooth headway to take over in the home straight, and his improved jumping here saw him cut to 33-1 with Paddy Power for the Grand National, a race in which he fell early on in last year.
Henrietta Knight: praised Calgary Bay's jumpingPICTURE: EDWARD WHITAKER
A delighted Knight said afterwards: "He deserved to win, he likes good ground and likes Cheltenham. He jumped so well and Dominic gave him a very good ride."
Another horse who ran an encouraging Aintree trial earlier in the Cheltenham card was Mon Mome, who stayed on to take second behind Mostly Bob in the 3m2½f handicap chase and is now 40-1 with Paddy Power for the race he won in 2009.
The well-backed Hidden Keel was sadly put down after breaking a leg at the first fence.