Banbridge once again showed his liking for Cheltenham with a stylish
performance in the From The Horses Mouth Podcast Arkle Challenge Trophy Trial
Trained by Joseph O’Brien, the six-year-old was a winner at the Festival in March but that came in the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle and he was running in Grade Two company over fences on this occasion.
He was always handy in the hands of JJ Slevin, in a race that was run at a good pace set by Sole Pretender. Tommy’s Oscar tracked the leaders as one by one the field thinned out, including Pentland Hills who dropped away tamely.
Glory And Fortune still held a chance running to the second-last but unfortunately fell, which left Tommy’s Oscar as the only danger albeit he was a remote one at best as Banbridge powered up the hill to win by six lengths and justify 11-8 favouritism.
Betfair cut the winner to 16-1 from 20s for the Arkle in March and go 10-1 from 14s for the Turners Novices’ Chase.
O’Brien said: “JJ gave him a lovely ride and it was an impressive performance. The British opponents had high ratings and the other Irish horse (Sole Pretender) is a good one as well, so we knew it was a hot race. We came here obviously for a bit of nice ground, but also to see how he would handle the drop to two miles.
“His jumping looked good and was well able to keep him in the race. I think he took a stride out at the top, maybe it was the last one down the back and my heart was in my mouth a little bit watching him, but he made up a couple of lengths at the fence, which I thought was impressive.
“That is only his second run over fences, but he seems to have taken to it well and he’s an exciting horse going forward, for sure.
“All roads lead to March – there is no denying that – but there is a lot of water to go under the bridge before that.
“We were not sure about coming back in trip and there is only one way to find out. We knew he was a pretty slick jumper and we thought that was hopefully going to keep him in the race.
“It was a decision discussed with Ronnie (Bartlett, owner) earlier in the week, because he had an option in Cork last weekend over two and a half, but the ground was heavy and we obviously entered here and Ronnie decided maybe this was the right race for him, because we were getting nice ground and he obviously has course form and I was in full agreement.
“I think we can be flexible (trip-wise) and take it on a race-by-race basis, but it is very nice to know he can perform well at two miles.”
“We are absolutely 100 per cent satisfied and he has come up the hill well. This is a track where it helps to have course from and we knew that from his novice hurdle campaign and it is not a bad track to be able to handle.”
Bartlett said: “It looked special, didn’t it? I’m very happy. It is just great for the way it turned out. He was a bit scary – a bit flamboyant – but scary in a good way. We are not complaining.
“Let the horse see how the horse comes out of the race. It keeps the dream alive. It keeps us out of trouble.”