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Shooters Wood

There is a chance that, because he had been beaten at Newton Abbot, Kempton and Taunton prior to this, and because he was rated just 124 and was getting weight from all bar two of his rivals, the performance that Shooters Wood put up in winning the two-mile 0-145 handicap chase at Cheltenham on Friday of the Open meeting will be under-rated, but that would be a mistake.

Ridden prominently by Ruby Walsh, tracking the clear leader Arctic Ben, he jumped and travelled well, and he moved up to press the leader with a big jump over the open ditch at the top of the hill, the fourth from home. The pace had been strong throughout thanks to Arctic Ben, five of them had started to break away setting off down the hill and, having jumped into a clear lead over the third last, Shooters Wood kept the gallop up all the way to the line. He pricked his ears having landed in front three from home, he continued to travel strongly around the home turn, and despite hitting the second last he found plenty for pressure, a giant leap over the final fence confirming that he had a good deal left to give. He was probably just idling up the hill, Wetak did stay on after the last to get to within a length and a half but that was as close as Shooters Wood allowed him to get. The time was really good, some way under Racing Post par, and the only time on the day to have gone under par.

Paul Nicholls’ gelding seemed to relish the strong gallop and the stiff track, he jumped from fence to fence, and he was making it two for two at Cheltenham having won a two-mile hunter chase at the track in May. He has been raised 8lb for this, but it could have been more. He is eight years old, but he is improving, this was just his seventh chase, so he still has the scope to progress again. It may be that he is at his best going left-handed, and he will obviously be of particular interest back at Cheltenham (he could be a Grand Annual horse), but he can make his mark at other big tracks too, and he should stay further than two miles, so there are plenty of options for him.

16th November 2012