Tough Tobefair edges gruelling battle to win Pertemps qualifier at Cheltenham
The team behind Tobefair were agonisingly denied a fairytale Cheltenham Festival success in the Pertemps Final in March, but the tenacious nine-year-old showed his heart was far from broken as he emerged on top in a gruelling Pertemps qualifier at rain-sodden Cheltenham on Saturday.
Tobefair's remarkable rise through the handicap ranks for trainer Debra Hamer and syndicate Down The Quay Club captured the imagination in 2015 and 2016, and he nearly claimed big-race glory at the festival in March only for Sire Du Berlais to snatch it away in the closing stages.
He added a victory at Cheltenham before last season was out and returned in fine style when running down Sunset Showdown – wearing the green and gold silks of JP McManus, the same as Sire Du Berlais – in a qualifier for this year's Pertemps Final.
Jockey Tom Bellamy said: "He's a brilliant horse. His second at the Cheltenham Festival was a surprise and to come back here and win on ground that was not up his street was amazing. He's a people's favourite and a testament to a small yard."
Classy Saint Calvados shines in handicap company
Harry Whittington returned Saint Calvados to handicap company for the first time since his days as a novice chaser, but it proved a wise move as the talented six-year-old defied top weight to win the Randox Health Handicap Chase.
Gavin Sheehan rode usual front-runner Saint Calvados with more restraint than usual, settling him in midfield, and the tactical switch paid dividends in tough conditions.
Despite one hairy moment early on, Saint Calvados, who finished seventh in the Queen Mother Champion Chase last season, travelled into the race strongly under Sheehan and moved past flamboyant pacesetter Knocknanuss before seeing off the late charge of Vaniteux up the hill.
It was a fine performance, with the rejuvenated runner-up getting 29lb from the winner, and one which seems certain to push Saint Calvados back into Graded company, although his trainer was not making any firm plans yet.
Whittington said: "We knew there was plenty of pace on and trailblazers. I had a little bit of a ding dong with Gavin before as I thought he was going to drop him out and I said no don’t drop him out just track the pace then he came back in and he said he was half winding me up.
"Owners Andrew and Kate Brooks are away on holiday with it being school half-term and we'll sit down and make a plan when they're back.
"He has handled the track and we know he loves these conditions."
Flat fitness benefits Quel Destin on jumps return
Quel Destin won a Grade 1 at Chepstow as a juvenile hurdler last season and showed the benefits of a recent spin on the Flat when winning the Masterson Holdings Hurdle.
Favourite Torpillo went well for a long way in the £40,000 race for four-year-old hurdlers, but it was Quel Destin who picked up best for Harry Cobden up the stands' side rail to defy a penalty and the challenge of the Peter Fahey-trained Soviet Pimpernel to win by three-quarters of a length.
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