Monday, November 7, 2011

So Many Crumbs

So Many Crumbs

By Stephen Dwyer

Celestial Halo likes it around Wincanton. He claimed his second win at the venue in the Grade 2 Elite Hurdle on Saturday last when beating the Andy Turnell trained Aine’s Delight by 16l. Tongue-tied and blinkered, Celestial Halo was giving 10lbs and three years to triumph hurdle third, Grandouet.

Making all the running, Paul Nicholl’s seven year old was tracked by Grandouet throughout. Barry Geraghty looked very comfortable in the saddle before taking the second last a length off the leader. Full of running, the 8/11 favourite Grandouet jumped the flight a fraction early and clipped the front of the hurdle before crumpling on landing, leaving Celestial Halo in isolation to win by a wide margin.

It has to be noted that Enniscorthy native Daryl Jacob was pushing Celestial Halo along before Grandouet’s departure. Jacob, now number two rider to Paul Nicholls can be considered fortunate on the day.

Nonetheless it provided his trainer with the 1,999th winner of his career. Wincanton is Nicholl’s local track and it was fitting that later in the afternoon, Kauto Stone, a half brother to Kauto Star gave Nicholl’s his 2,000th career win. Nicholl’s reaction was joyful but grounded “so many crumbs to make a cake” was his response.

Celestial Halo is a frustrating character, brilliant on his day as seen when winning the 2008 Triumph Hurdle, he has an unreliable side in equal measure. A fall at odds of 1/4 in a beginners chase at Exeter was clearly disappointing. A lacklustre performance followed thereafter in the Grade 2 Berskshire Novice’s Chase which quickly saw Paul Nicholls switch the horse back to hurdles.

Celestial Halo was a 40,000 guineas purchase for the Stewart Family. By Galileo he was a moderate performer on the flat for Barry Hills before making a winning debut over hurdles. Previous to his success in the Spirit Hurdle at Fontwell last February, it was 477 days since Celestial Halo had won a race.

Indeed Celestial Halo has finished second no less than seven times in his career to date. His target this season is likely to be the Grade 2 Spirit Hurdle over 2m 4f once again. Judged on last year’s race if the ground turns up soft he will put up a bold show.

Grandouet appeared to be fine after the fall yesterday and better days lie ahead, he is still an exciting prospect. Many will remember the 9l trouncing he handed out at Punchestown in the Champion 4yo hurdle last May and he is favourite for the £100,000 Greatwood Handicap Hurdle at Cheltenham on Sunday November 13th.

The Greatwood hurdle is seen by many to be a stepping stone for future festival champions. Rooster Booster and Sizing Europe have all won this and Nicky Henderson will have Grandouet much sharper on the day.

He will have learned from Wincanton and could well be one of a serious prospects this season.

And Celestial Halo?

He knows where the crossbar is now so maybe he will stop hitting it.

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