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Gallant Oscar

Gallant Oscar did really well to finish third in the three-mile handicap chase at Cheltenham on Tuesday given that he was held up out the back in the early stages of the race in a race in which it was an advantage to race handily. Jumping the third fence, the ultimate winner, The Druids Nephew, raced in eighth place of the 24 runners. At that point in the race, the ultimate runner-up, Grand Jesture, was disputing fifth place with eventual fourth Indian Castle, while eventual fifth Pendra was ninth. Gallant Oscar was third last, 22nd of the 24 runners.

It was an unusual Festival this year, in that front-runners and prominent racers did much better than they usually do. Eight of the 27 races were won by horses who either led or disputed the early lead. This three-mile chase slotted in with that pattern, in that it was difficult for horses to make ground from very far back.

Gallant Oscar settled nicely out the back of the field for Bryan Cooper through the early stages of the race. Hunted around on the first circuit, he started to make his ground at the end of the back straight on the second. Moved to the inside on the run down the hill, he moved easily into fifth place as they ran around the home turn. At that point, he and the winner The Druids Nephew were the only two horses who were still on the bridle. He still had about six lengths to make up on the leader, however, and he got a little crowded on landing over the second last fence, which didn’t help. Switched to the near side, he was still just fifth jumping the last, but he stayed on well up the hill to get past Indian Castle and Pendra and take third place, closest at the finish.

A progressive handicap hurdler and chaser last season after joining Tony Martin, the Oscar gelding ran some nice races in handicap hurdles during this winter before reverting to fences and finishing a remote fourth behind Djakadam in the Thyestes Chase in January having been backed in to favouritism. He travelled well through that race, but he didn’t find as much as he found on Tuesday at Cheltenham.

Tuesday’s run was just his seventh over fences, so he still has scope to progress. He will be of interest in another staying handicap chase, he remains potentially well handicapped on a mark of 135. He could be an Irish National horse this year, and he could be an Aintree horse next year.

10th March 2015