There was a very busy Saturday of racing from Aintree, Doncaster and Wincanton while in the USA there was British success at the Breeders' Cup.
The world's highest-rated racehorse, Flightline, produced a performance that will never be forgotten at Keeneland.
Connections of Frodon made the late decision to race their talented chaser at Wincanton on Saturday, rather than the Grade One Champion Chase at Down Royal, the race he won in 2021. That proved to be a good move, as the 10-year-old carried top weight to victory in the 61st Badger Beer Handicap Chase.
Under the hands of his regular pilot Bryony Frost, the pair hit the front of the field before the 10th obstacle. He then showed all his resilience to stay on strongly to score by just over two lengths in the premier handicap contest.
Paul Nicholls’ runner has an entry in the Betfair Chase at Haydock later this month where he is 20/1 for the Grade One race. He is 16/1 to come out on top in the King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day, the race he won in 2020.
Elsewhere at Wincanton on Saturday, Sceau Royal failed in his bid to win the Grade Two Elite Hurdle for the fourth time in his career. He was beaten by Knappers Hill, who was part of a four-timer for Nicholls at the Somerset racecourse.
The Grand National fences were used for the first time this season last Saturday in the Grand Sefton Handicap Chase at Aintree. The 2m5f contest was won by Al Dancer for trainer Sam Thomas.
In what was a thrilling finish at the Merseyside racecourse, Al Dancer held on by a nose ahead of the late challenging Gesskille. It gave jockey Sam Deutsch a first victory on the Grand National course.
The Grade One Champion Chase at Down Royal featured just five runners, but it was a strong field. It was won by Envoi Allen who produced his best performance since winning at the highest level at Leopardstown in December 2021.
Ridden by Rachael Blackmore, the eight-year-old chaser led just after the final fence, and he found more than his rivals to score ahead of Kemboy and Conflated respectively. The pre-race favourite, Galvin, could only finish fourth after weakening in the closing stages.
Envoi Allen is 16/1 to win the King George VI Chase later year, while he is for the Ryanair Chase at the 2023 Cheltenham Festival.
The final notable race of the British Flat season came at Doncaster last Saturday in the November Handicap. Metier came out on top for trainer Harry Fry and jockey Saffie Osborne.
On what was heavy ground at Doncaster, the six-year-old gelding kept on the best in the 21-runner contest, winning by just under two lengths ahead of Teed Up, Emiyn and First Office, who filled the placings respectively.
The performance of the weekend came at Keeneland on Saturday night as Flightline lived up to his billing as the highest-rated horse in the world. There were shades of the great Secretariat in his performance in the Breeders’ Cup Classic as he did not have a rival anywhere near him as he cantered home for a large-margin victory.
In what we now know was the last run of his career, Flightline made a big name for himself at the world championship meeting. He was taken on early by Life Is Good at the Kentucky racecourse but, as the pair turned into the home straight, the former Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile winner could not live with John Sadler’s colt.
As well as the star performance from Flightline, it was a great evening for Aidan O’Brien and Charlie Appleby. The Ballydoyle man won the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf for the first time in his career with Tuesday. The Oaks winner chased down In Italian in the final couple of furlongs of the race.
Appleby has a fantastic record at the Breeders’ Cup, and it continued this year, as he had a double on the second day of the meeting. Modern Games won the Breeders’ Cup Mile early in the evening, while in the penultimate race, Rebel’s Romance landed the Breeders’ Cup Turf under the hands of James Doyle.
Willie Mullins completed a big race double at Cork on Sunday. Captain Kangaroo won the Cork Grand National over the distance of 3m4f, while in the race earlier, a Grade Three Novice Chase, El Barra looked a smart prospect for the Irishman, scoring by less than a length.
Elsewhere on Sunday, Sandown was abandoned after three races due to the wet conditions at the Esher-based track.