Five things we learned on the second day of the Cheltenham Festival
The importance of timing your run – and it's even more important on the New course
Wicklow Brave looked home and hosed in the Coral Cup when hitting the front still hard on the bridle, but he was picked up late by a stronger stayer. It would be harsh to criticise Patrick Mullins for getting there too soon, as his mount was delivered with a terrific chance, but with the benefit of hindsight, delaying his move may have resulted in victory.
Going a strong gallop on testing ground leaves horses vulnerable to being picked off up the notorious hill, and this will become even more significant when the action moves to the New course on Thursday.
There are only two jumps in the final six furlongs, which places the emphasis firmly on stamina, so siding with horses proven at the trip and likely to benefit from patient rides could be the best approach.
Too much can be read into trainer form based on small samples
Gordon Elliott was badly out of form. Well, for about two hours. Blowouts for Apple's Jade and Battleoverdoyen led to speculation that Elliott's team was under the weather. However, Delta Work ran with credit in the RSA, looking as if he was simply beaten by two better horses, while Tiger Roll then went on to land one of the easiest festival victories you will ever see in the cross-country chase. Success for the heavily punted Envoi Allen made it a good day for Elliott.
It brought back memories of last year, when Elliott failed to win on the opening day, with Apple's Jade among the disappointments. Elliott then fired in eight winners, equalling the record for victories at one festival.
Perhaps making hard-and-fast judgements on trainer form, based on a small sample size at the most competitive meeting of the year, is not a good idea.
Joseph O'Brien rules the juvenile division
Band Of Outlaws bolted up in the Fred Winter, Fakir D'Oudairies ran with credit to make the frame in the Supreme, and we've not even seen the best of Joseph O'Brien's powerful bunch yet!
Sir Erec is many people's idea of the banker of the week in the Triumph Hurdle and events at the festival so far will not have deterred them.
The Irish juveniles simply look a lot better than their British counterparts – they had the first three home in the Fred Winter – and Sir Erec's win at the Dublin Racing Festival, allied with his Group-class Flat form, marks him out as the clearly dominant force.
Ground is better in theory but won't suit every horse
Heavy rain followed by blustery, drying conditions led to the ground being described by jockeys after the first race on Wednesday as being "tacky", "dead" and "harder work than yesterday".
However, times and the official going description suggested runners were racing on a faster surface than Tuesday.
Fresh ground on the New course should make it seem less "hard work", but having horses who are effective on a variety of surfaces, and don't bomb out when conditions aren't spot on, will be advantageous.
Topofthegame puts to bed any concerns over attitude
A high head carriage, a failure to see off La Bague Au Roi at Kempton, and an incident at the start of an Exeter novice chase when he whipped around and forfeited ground, had planted a seed of doubt about Topofthegame's attitude.
But he laid those concerns to rest with a faultless performance to win what will almost certainly go down as a high-class renewal of the RSA Chase, both him and runner-up Santini appealing as serious Gold Cup contenders with the prospect of further improvement to come.
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