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Cheltenham reflections: the names to take from three exhilarating days

Finian's Oscar: was a fitting winner at Cheltenham
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Come the Cheltenham Festival in March the November meeting will be a distant memory of a (hopefully) colder and wetter time. Here is your cut-out-and-keep cheat-sheet with everything you don't want to forget.

Finian's Oscar

Movewiththetimes is a very good horse. He was only just beaten by Ballyandy in the Betfair Hurdle. He came with a perfectly timed run here, taking it up two out, and given the exuberant manner in which he jumped the last and the distance he put into Coo Star Sivola up the hill he almost certainly finished off his race. So the fact Finian's Oscar, who was giving him 8lb in this sprint finish of a race, breezed by him with such ease only confirms this is a horse with a serious engine.

What to look for between now and March
He took the odd chance at some of his fences so a bit more experience wouldn't go amiss.

What they said
Colin Tizzard, trainer: "Finian's Oscar jumped better than he did at Chepstow, but he can be a bit long at times. He looked like he had lost the race going into the last, but Bryan [Cooper] was very good on him and was very positive at the last and in the end he won what was a slowly run 2m4f race quite cosily. There is always something in the locker and nothing fazes him."

Apple's Shakira

Apple's Shakira more than lived up to her lofty reputation and exciting pedigree, thumping the talented Gumball by 17 lengths. The Henderson yard have been raving about this full-sister to Apple's Jade and it is easy to see why, as the powerful manner in which she pulled clear was highly intimidating. However, she was outpaced from three out to the second last and while that may have just been greenness and she will probably come on with racing – this was just her second start – it could be that 2m is her minimum. While she would get a fillies' allowance in the Triumph Hurdle, she would get a juvenile allowance in the Dawn Run and can take on weaker opposition at the longer trip.

What to look for between now and March
Her ability to travel through her races better. If it was just inexperience it should be easily rectified. 

What they said
Nicky Henderson, trainer: "Barry [Geraghty] has adored her from the first moment but she doesn't show you anything at home. She does jump, though, and although she isn't that big she has a lovely temperament. I suppose that's where we'll finish up [the Triumph Hurdle] but she needs to learn, so we won't be hiding her away."

Black Corton

Black Corton beat two vastly superior hurdlers in Ballyoptic and West Approach but jumping is the name of the game and he does that exceptionally well for a novice. You would be surprised if several horses don't progress past him – including the two he beat as they develop a similar level of experience – but he keeps surprising. The four-miler might be a better option than the RSA.

What to look for between now and March
A clash with a bona fide RSA contender or two should give us a better steer.

Black Corton: has surprised trainer Paul Nicholls this season

What they said
Paul Nicholls, trainer: "It's astonishing how much he has improved. We thought he was ordinary, which is why he was running at Worcester in June. We might look at a nice novice chase at Doncaster next month now. My belief is when they're in form and improving, there's no point putting them away."

Thomas Campbell

Winning a Listed handicap off a mark of 148 – albeit under a rider with a steal of a 7lb claim – puts a horse on the verge of Grade 1 class in the staying division, as Lil Rockerfeller proved last year. Bar Unowhatimeanharry there isn't really a standout and, with a lot of those towards the head of the market based in Ireland, he could well be half the price he is now come March and a serious each-way threat.

What to look for between now and March
Him to be stepped up in grade, but perhaps without meeting a horse as talented as Unowhatimeanharry until he has to in March.

What they said
Nicky Henderson, trainer: "I laugh about this horse because he's a reprobate, but to be fair he's still got ability and uses it. He tries and jumped very well so that suggests he handled the ground. I was thinking of the Pertemps Final but the handicapper might disagree with me."

North Hill Harvey

River Wylde may have run a very strange race but for the second Cheltenham meeting in a row North Hill Harvey toasted some seriously talented rivals. He's got speed, is foot-perfect at his fences, loves Cheltenham and Dan Skelton is already working backwards from the Arkle. It's easy to understand why. He has done more than any of his rivals, beating horses we know are talented individuals. He is probably the most likely of all the November meeting winners to follow up at the festival.

What to look for between now and March
Not very much. Too many more runs would be a worry as it'd be a shame if he left his race behind.

What they said
Dan Skelton, trainer: "North Hill Harvey has jumped great today and Harry's given him a lovely ride – very sensible – and I think it helped us having Ozzie The Oscar there. I don't quite know what route to take; he looked a fresh horse jumping the last, but it was a long way up that hill. I won't be rushing back and running him in two weeks. I'll work backwards from the Arkle."

Fox Norton

Fox Norton is just a very talented horse. Once again he gave weight and a beating to high-class opponents and in the absence of Altior he can easily step up and dominate the British two-mile scene. He proved he has the stamina for further at Aintree, should he need to go down the Ryanair route, but right now he is the best two-mile chaser in training in Britain.

What to look for between now and March
The return of Altior and the return to form of Douvan. If one or both happen, expect a step up in trip and a change of target.

What they said
Colin Tizzard, trainer: "I suppose we were half-expecting that on Fox Norton's last two runs last season and this race last year. It was a lovely performance. The way he crosses a fence, the way he stays on, he's a two-miler, isn't he?"

Slate House

Colin Tizzard has so many good horses right now and he may well have unearthed another one in Slate House. This £260,000 purchase from the Irish pointing field is now two from two at Cheltenham and is already a Grade 2 winner. He travelled smoothly into the race and then only ever did enough, but this was a performance that was far more impressive than the final margin suggests.

Slate House (red) powers up the Cheltenham hill to record his first Graded success

What to look for between now and March
Something to test him and get him off the bridle. Only then will we find out which race – the Supreme or the Neptune – is the right one for him.

What they said
Colin Tizzard, trainer: "Slate House is not a world-beater yet – we've got to keep the lid on it a little longer, but he's a lovely young horse and he's done nothing wrong. He could be a two-miler, he could be a three-miler, we just don't know. What we do know now is he's not ground dependent. We'd like to think he could be good, but he's a gorgeous-looking horse and we'll have to mind him."

Crooks Peak

The November meeting's closing bumper has been won by Best Mate, Rock On Ruby and Ballyandy in the past and the Philip Hobbs-trained Crooks Peak looks another potential star. Connections were worried about the ground but he had the class to overcome it and given their conviction he is much better on a sounder surface, plus his relatively young age for a bumper horse, he could improve plenty.

What to look for between now and March
Possibly one more run, just as a tune-up, before the Champion Bumper.

What they said
Philip Hobbs, trainer: "He's a very good-moving horse so we thought it'd be an issue [the ground] but he coped with it very well indeed. He was actually too keen to begin with, but was professional in front. My first reaction is that we'll stay in bumpers for now. I was in two minds after he'd won at Newton Abbot whether to send him over hurdles but, if we keep to bumpers this year, he'll probably be a stronger horse next year."


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She needs to learn, so we won't be hiding her away
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