WEEKEND REVIEW…SIZING JOHN RETURNS, UN DE SCEAUX IS A FREAK, A GOLD CUP OUTSIDER AND A TOP TRIUMPH HURDLE PROSPECT!

SUSSEX RANGER SHOULD BE TRIUMPH FAV

I’m going to start this week’s review in a place you may not expect, namely in the Juvenile Hurdle trial won by SUSSEX RANGER (148).  You can see why I want to do so when you see the performance he put up on the clock in comparison with the other two hurdle races on the card.

Sussex Ranger On The Blind Side Cap Du Nord
To 3 out 133.59 136.14 138.77
From 3 out 86.87 87.94 87.39

The above table shows the times taken from each winner to get from the first flight in the two mile race to three out, and then from three out to the line.  As you can see, Sussex Ranger got to three out the quickest of the three winners, 2.55s quicker than the highly touted On The Blind Side in the Grade 2 race over half a mile further.  You’d expect him to tire having done that, but amazingly he actually came home quicker from that point, just over a second quicker in fact to win by 14 lengths.  He was carrying the same weight as On The Blind Side, and 10lbs more than Cap Du Nord did in the handicap hurdle.

I’ve played around with the numbers a fair amount, but always come up with a red hot figure for a juvenile, and one that puts him comfortably clear of the current crop.  Quite how Apple’s Shakira is 9/2 and this lad is 25/1 for the Triumph is beyond me.  He reminded me a bit of Detroit City, in being a big horse who can just gallop relentlessly and for longer than his rivals.  Considering the Moore’s have a good record in the Betfair Hurdle I half wonder if they may send him there.  But the Triumph has to be the long term target, the nature and trip of the New Course would be right up his street.  For him to put up this figure on just his second start over hurdles marks him down as a top class juvenile hurdle prospect.

 

ON THE BLIND SIDE IS NO THREAT TO SAMCRO

As impressive as Sussex Ranger was, I was surprised to see ON THE BLIND SIDE (139) being lauded so highly considering the relatively poor performance he put up on the clock.  I didn’t rate his last win at Cheltenham that highly and he’s only put up a slightly better figure here.

As you can see from the previous sectionals, he was actually the slowest to the finish from 3 out, and even when adjusting for the extra distance of his race, I end up with a figure of only 139.  I saw people mentioning him as a threat to Samcro in the Ballymore but that is quite frankly laughable at this stage.

 

FORGET THE NATIONAL, BLAKLION IS A GOLD CUP OUTSIDER

I mentioned in my write up of the Charlie Hall Chase, that BLAKLION (169) was a potential Gold Cup outsider, and he emphasised that point further when gagging up in the Becher Chase at the weekend.

Blaklion Gas Line Boy Difference
14.54 13.76 0.78
33.8 33.75 0.05
47.43 47.99 -0.56
93.5 96.49 -2.99
106.25 109.22 -2.97
118.96 122.1 -3.14
131.46 134.33 -2.87
146.44 149.79 -3.35
165.24 169.22 -3.98
179.08 182.88 -3.8
196.11 200.24 -4.13
207.3 211.42 -4.12
220.93 224.98 -4.05
234.8 238.44 -3.64
248.4 252.86 -4.46
300.85 305.45 -4.6
314.13 318.84 -4.71
349.57 353.99 -4.42

As you can see from the above comparison with Gas Line Boy in the Sefton, he actually clocked a winning time 4.42s quicker for the comparative course despite going 5f further and carrying 6lbs more.  After adjusting for this I’ve given him a figure of 169, which is actually in line with the sort of numbers he was clocking in his novice chase days when he won the RSA.  Given his good record at Cheltenham and his obvious ability to get a trip and the likely jump up the weights he’s going to take after this win I’d be tempted to go for the Gold Cup itself if I were connections.

 

TWO MILE CHASES AT SANDOWN WERE A BIT UNDERWHELMING

Back at Sandown on Saturday, the two main highlights on the card were the Tingle Creek and Henry VIII but I confess to being a bit underwhelmed by both races on the clock.  I’ll deal with both races together here.

Sceau Royal Politologue Benbens
12.91 12.56 13.84
68.83 67.37 72.26
88.43 87.18 93.09
96.25 94.83 101.28
103.87 102.89 109.42
118.77 118.11 125.27
131.86 131.62 139.22
139.44 139.38 147.28
145.18 145.63 153.86
181.12 183.60 191.64
194.09 196.89 204.82
206.66 209.20 217.66
221.14 223.45 232.29

As you can see both SCEAU ROYAL (161) and POLITOLOGUE (159) clocked faster times than Benbens did in the London National.  This is no surprise as their races were over just shy of two miles rather than 3m5f!  When I adjust for the distance difference I can only get to figures of around 160 for both winners of the big races.

SCEAU ROYAL (161) just keeps hitting the same figure over and over again on my numbers, and usually this tends to point to him just being this good and nothing more.  He’s a good horse but it would have to be a weak Arkle for him to win… that may be the case this year, but I can’t help but feel something a bit left field is going to emerge a la Western Warhorse a few years ago.  If anyone can think of anything….let me know!

Sceau Royal Politologue Difference
12.91 12.56 0.35
68.83 67.37 1.45
88.43 87.18 1.25
96.25 94.83 1.42
103.87 102.89 0.98
118.77 118.11 0.66
131.86 131.62 0.24
139.44 139.38 0.05
145.18 145.63 -0.45
181.12 183.60 -2.48
194.09 196.89 -2.81
206.66 209.20 -2.54
221.14 223.45 -2.31

If I was underwhelmed by Sceau Royal, I was perhaps even more disappointed by POLITOLOGUE (159) who won the Tingle Creek from FOX NORTON (158).  As we can see from the comparison with the novice race, he was actually 2.31s slower, but did carry 5lbs more, and when I adjust for this I give him a figure a shade lower than Sceau Royal.

I’d given him a bigger number for his win in the Haldon Gold Cup, and it may prove he’s slightly more suited to softer ground than it was here.  He’s actually never been out of the first two when completing on soft ground or worse.  I certainly find it hard to envisage him winning a Champion Chase on good ground despite the trials and tribulations of Altior and Douvan, especially if Min or indeed Yorkhill revert to take him on.  Remember he was 20th in a Coral Cup, and 4th in the JLT so his previous Cheltenham festival experience isn’t great.

FOX NORTON (158) seemed to underperform here with no obvious excuse.  Perhaps the stable is under a bit of a cloud (Finian’s Oscar was dreadful in the novice chase) but probably more likely is that on this sort of ground he needs 2.5m+.  He won the Shloer Chase on soft ground over 2 miles, but he was awesome in the Melling Chase at Aintree this year over 2.5m on good ground and I note there is now talk of him going for the King George.  It’ll be interesting to see how he gets on in that race but at this stage I think the intermediate trip is going to prove his optimum.

 

UN DE SCEAUX IS JUST A FREAK ON HEAVY GROUND

I was keen to take on UN DE SCEAUX (172) in the Hilly Way Chase, thinking he may struggle under a penalty first time up on horrendous ground without regular partner Ruby Walsh there to help him settle.  He made me feel quite foolish by blasting apart his rivals, and we can see the scale to which he did this when comparing it with the other chase on the card won by Shattered Love.

Un De Sceaux Shattered Love Difference
26.87 28.89 -2.014
42.14 45.93 -3.787
57.55 62.70 -5.147
102.84 112.60 -9.754
132.16 144.18 -12.024
154.09 168.18 -14.096
170.30 184.62 -14.321
201.81 218.02 -16.214
229.75 246.78 -17.025
246.50 262.20 -15.698
264.30 276.33 -12.033
279.45 288.28 -8.830

As you can see from the sectionals above, at one stage he was a ridiculous 17s quicker than Shattered Love ran in her race. Unsurprisingly his rivals were left toiling in his wake (fortunately Ballyoisin got up when taking an unnecessarily tired fall two from home) with only TOP GAMBLE (140) able to chase him home in any sort of proximity.  That rival was running in near enough optimum conditions, but was no match for the winner.

Unsurpisingly, Shattered Love closed the gap to 8.8s by the finish line, but Un De Sceaux was heavily eased down in his race as well.  Quite simply it was an outrageous display on ground so bad that racing was abandoned soon after.

Clearly he revels in these sort of conditions, and is susceptible in two mile races on better ground.  I think he was fortunate they were so liberal with the overnight watering before the Ryanair Chase this year, and if he doesn’t get so lucky this year I’d be keen to take him on on better ground.  The only time he’s not won on soft ground or worse in this country is when he didn’t complete the course!

 

SIZING JOHN STILL THE ONE TO BEAT

I copped a fair degree of abuse for the high ratings I gave SIZING JOHN (171) last season, so I was somewhat relieved to see him put up a good performance on the clock when returning successfully in the John Durkan yesterday.

Sizing John Avenir D’une Vie White Arm
32.76 31.04 33.61
50.83 48.15 52.09
83.42 80.39 85.8
97.67 94.84 100.48
122.98 120.72 127.09
139.03 137.96 144.51
152.26 151.83 159.14
184.05 184.6 193.9
201.17 202.74 213.01
227.08 229.07 241.19
240.77 241.88 255.01
254.63 255.1 268.62

As we can see he actually clocked a time half a second quicker than they did in the strong novice chase run over half a mile shorter but was actually much slower at the start of his race, nearly 3s slower at one stage.  He was impressive therefore to clock a faster time and when adjusting for this and the extra distance I give Sizing John 171, and this would appear to be an excellent seasonal debut for the horse.  He’s surely going to improve from here, and for going back up to three miles.

There are plenty of pretenders knocking about at the moment, namely Might Bite, Bristol De Mai and Yorkhill, but they are going to have to be on their A-game to topple the king.

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STARS OF PRESENT AND FUTURE ON SHOW AT NEWBURY & FAIRYHOUSE

APPLE’S JADE WOULD BE A THREAT IN THE CHAMPION HURDLE

For me the clash between APPLE’S JADE (160) and NICHOLS CANYON (158) was too close to call with both going into the race under what looked their ideal conditions.  The former had had a prep run, and the latter was fresh and running on soft ground.  Yet Apple’s Jade put in a visually impressive performance to win the race by nine lengths.

Espoir D’allen Mengli Khan Apple’s Jade Davids Charm
19.62 16.82 16.65 15.97
66.52 55.64 56.98 55.33
87.17 73.02 75.09 73
133.95 115.74 119.14 116.44
164.43 144.73 149.64 145.88
190.04 169.45 175.1 170.62
223.07 203.79 208.28 204.76
237.7 219.96 223.8 221.65
249.09 231.71 235.13 234.66

We can see though from the sectionals above that she actually clocked a time slower than both Mengli Khan and Davids Charm, albeit in a race half a mile longer.  Yet when we drill down into the sectionals the merits of this run become clearer.

Espoir D’allen Mengli Khan Apple’s Jade Davids Charm
190.04 169.45 175.1 170.62
59.05 62.26 60.03 64.04

She was able to set relatively moderate fractions to 3 out (ignore the Espoir D’allen race that was run at a farcical crawl), over 5s slower that Mengli Khan and 4.5s slower than Davids Charm.  Yet she was able to rattle home to the finish line in just 60s, 2.25s quicker than Mengli Khan, and 4s quicker than Davids Charm.  Adjusting for the distance and weights carried I’ve given her a mark of 160, this is a progression from her first run but still a bit below some of the best figures I’ve given her.

It seems her main target is going to be the Mares Hurdle at Cheltenham and I wouldn’t disagree with the philosophy of putting her in the race she has the best chance of winning.  But I think she could be a live threat in a Champion Hurdle.  She hurdles so well, and clearly possesses a fair turn of foot, if she got a soft lead she would be hard to peg back especially with the boys giving her 7lbs.  On my figures both Faugheen and Buveur D’air would have to run right up to their best to achieve the task of giving her weight and a beating.

NICHOLS CANYON (158) wasn’t able to match the pace of the winner in the latter stages, and now may well be an out an out stayer.  He certainly seemed to start to struggle over shorter trips last year when beaten over 2miles, and perhaps even this 2.5m distance isn’t sufficient for him to run to his optimum?  However, there is no shame in going down to one of the best mares of recent times and considering he had a hard season last year and a bit of a setback over the summer (he missed his engagement in America) this was a fine comeback run.  He remains the one to beat in the stayers hurdle for me.

SUPASUNDAE (156) ran a nice race in third, staying on and going past tired horses.  This ground wouldn’t have suited and it would appear they are going to target him at the stayers hurdle as well, and odds of 20/1 would seem a fair bet at this stage.  He is exceptionally well bred, with his mother a half-sister to Nathaniel and he only just got beaten in the Grade 1 over three miles at Aintree.  I do wonder if he would relish the stamina test of the stayers hurdle over the new course though.

 

WILL MENGLI KHAN LIKE BETTER GROUND?

The Royal Bond saw the best clock performance on the card as you can see from the above sectionals.  The winner, MENGLI KHAN (158) put up a fine effort in winning going a strong pace and seeing off his rivals who emptied on the run in.  They were a second faster to 3 out than Davids Charm was in the handicap over the same distance, and yet Mengli Khan still came home 1.8s quicker to the line.  It was a fine performance, and puts him down as one of the top contenders for the Supreme at this stage.

However, there has been plenty of talk about his size and for such a big horse putting up this sort of performance on soft ground I do question how he will perform on the likely better ground in the spring.  His only win on turf came on soft ground, and he had a win on the all-weather yet the two times he ran on ground described as good he was beaten 7 and 22 lengths respectively.  It would be on my mind when playing at short prices for the Supreme anyway.

 

DEATH DUTY SHOULD BE CLEAR FAV FOR THE JLT

Over the larger obstacles on the card we saw a fine performance from DEATH DUTY (160) in winning the Grade 1 Drinmore.

Death Duty Presenting Percy Difference
25.14 26.06 -0.92
49.86 50.76 -0.9
92.99 92.76 0.23
104.43 105 -0.57
124.2 124.14 0.06
144.85 145.35 -0.5
164.28 164.19 0.09
173.82 173.62 0.2
204.19 204.15 0.04
225.88 226.06 -0.18
246.2 246.15 0.05
269.17 271.02 -1.85
289.61 294.43 -4.82
300.29 305.72 -5.43

He went a steady enough pace as we can see from the sectionals above, in fact reaching 3 out in near enough identical time to Presenting Percy in the longer handicap chase.  However, from there Death Duty showed a fine turn of foot ending up clocking a time 5.43s quicker.  He ran in the Albert Bartlett last year, but for him to have this sort of turn of foot off a slow pace the 2.5m distance of the JLT looks ideal.  With Finian’s Oscar and Willoughby Court yet to fire on the clock yet this season he should be clear favourite for the race in my opinion.  I could arguably mark this run up more than I have done given the sprint finish he showed and he looks very much capable of winning at the festival.

 

PRESENTING PERCY MAKES ANOTHER MOCKERY OF HIS HANDICAP MARK

PRESENTING PERCY (160) won the Pertemps off 146, so I guess none of us should have been too surprised that he dotted up in a handicap chase off a mark of 145 here.  He didn’t show the same sort of turn of foot as Death Duty did in the shorter race, but he didn’t need to and travelled very well before winning this race in fine style.  A hefty rise in the handicap to a mark of 157 looks well justified on the clock and surely sees him go for a race like the RSA at Cheltenham.  After adjusting for the longer distance of this race and weight difference with Death Duty I actually have them on the same mark, though I still feel that Death Duty is the classier horse.

His mother is a half-sister to Irish National runner-up Western Charmer and I wonder whether we may see him go for that race later in the season.

 

TOTAL RECALL DEFIES HANDICAP MARK AGAIN

I’d written about TOTAL RECALL (154) after his Limerick win earlier in the season, and suggested he could be a live contender for the Ladbroke Trophy.  Obviously, I didn’t follow my own advice so it was a bit galling to watch him collar WHISPER (168) on the line.  I’ve given him the same mark on the clock as last time, and this is therefore likely just how good he is and quotes of 25/1 for the Gold Cup seem fanciful to me.

Elegant Escape Gold Present Total Recall Overtown Express
15.35 14.79 14.85 14.26
32.80 31.68 31.49 30.74
65.29 64.19 64.45 63.51
77.89 77.09 76.89 75.67
91.58 90.53 90.29 89.14
105.60 103.90 104.18 102.83
118.81 117.35 117.65 115.85
153.77 152.69 153.36 151.39
181.10 180.51 180.58 179.17
192.65 193.02 192.42 190.37
203.47 204.67 203.27 201.34
217.16 220.12 217.80 215.67
235.62 239.94 236.50 235.62

The sectionals above are taken from the first flight in the two mile race won by Overtown Express, and we can see that Total Recall clocked a similar time to both that winner and Elegant Escape.  But he was only carry 10st8lbs here and adjusting for that and the race distance I actually ended up giving him the same mark as I did at Limerick.  Good as Willie Mullins is as a trainer, I’d suggest this is just as good as the horse is and is going to be difficult to win with having been put up to 156 after this.

WHISPER (168) was agonisingly caught on the line, and has now been narrowly touched off both here and in the RSA.  This sort of number is bang in line with previous figures I’ve given him and marks him down as an excellent horse.  Yet it probably just shows that his RSA conqueror is a potential freak of nature as without his antics after the last Might Bite probably would’ve beaten Whisper by at least 12 lengths and put up a number in the mid-180s…. he looks the horse to beat at both Kempton and in the blue riband at this stage.  Whisper himself will deserve to take his chance in the big race but it would be a bit underwhelming were he to triumph.

 

SAMCRO FORM BOOST ALERT!

That headline is a bit tongue in cheek, but we did see a fine performance from ELEGANT ESCAPE (155) in winning the Grade 2 Chase over just shy of 3 miles on the same Newbury card.  He chased home Samcro in a point to point, but is clearly developing into a fine horse in his own right.  This figure was a step up on his last two performances and puts him into the upper echelons of staying novice chasers.  Native River won this race for the Tizzards, and I wonder if we may end up seeing him in the four mile chase at the festival…. He would be a prime candidate for that race for me.

Elegant Escape Gold Present Total Recall Overtown Express
192.649 193.015 192.424 190.371
32.144 35.264 33.236 34.277

As you can see, Elegant Escape clocked the fastest time from 3 out, and they were no slouches to that point either.  He actually clocked the same time over the same distance as Overtown Express did in the nearly mile shorter race. I just feel he may not be quite classy enough for an RSA though.

 

IS BIGMARTRE THE NEXT ARZAL?

One of the most admirable, and underrated in my opinion, horses of the last few years was Arzal for Harry Whittington.  He went on to win the Manifesto Novice at Aintree regularly hitting a figure of 166 on the clock, and it was devastating to lose him in April 2016.  Fortunately, it looks like the trainer has another potential Grade 1 winner on his hands in BIGMARTRE (157), who won a novice handicap chase at Newbury off a mark of just 137 but in a red hot time.

Bigmartre Willoughby Court Oldgrangewood
14.45 14.99 14.79
30.70 31.74 31.75
62.60 64.64 64.80
74.43 76.75 77.34
87.75 90.10 90.94
101.56 103.92 104.94
114.21 116.83 118.25
150.30 153.28 154.28
178.48 180.08 182.37
190.76 191.27 193.94
201.09 201.98 204.79
215.19 216.86 218.88
234.32 236.33 238.11

He clocked the fastest time of the three chases on the card, as we’d expect given his run was over half a mile less.  But he did so carry the most weight, and it was the sectional performance that marks him down as a future Grade 1 horse for me.

Bigmartre Willoughby Court Oldgrangewood
190.76 191.27 193.94
43.56 45.07 44.17

 

He got to 3 out quicker than both Willoughby Court and Oldgrangewood did in their races, and still came home in 43.56s, just over 0.5s quicker than the latter and 1.5s quicker than the former.  It was a fine performance, and I wonder whether his trainer may follow the “Arzal route” to Aintree and skip the festival altogether and target that Grade 1.  He should not be underestimated, and I note with interest that he’s only gone up 6lbs to 143.  He can go in again in another handicap off that mark should they elect to go for another one.

The runner-up CYRNAME (154) is also worth following, and has been left on a mark of 139 after this.  Nicholls surely won’t pass up the opportunity to land a big pot off that sort of mark.

DUSKY LEGEND (152) was going well when coming to grief 2 out and should land a nice race herself, especially if getting a mares allowance somewhere.  She was 3rd to Let’s Dance at Cheltenham and has clearly developed into a fine chaser.

 

WILLOUGBY COURT IS NO STAR

I wrote after the Neptune at Cheltenham, that I didn’t think the race was that great, despite the hype around Neon Wolf, and I’m still not sold on WILLOUGHBY COURT (150) who didn’t put up that great a performance to justify being cut to 8/1 for the JLT when winning his 2nd chase start at Newbury.  This sort of figure is in line with his performance in the Neptune and he’s going to need to improve markedly for me to challenge a horse such as Death Duty come the spring.

He clocked a quicker time that Old Grangewood did over the same distance, but did so carrying 4lbs less, and was nearly a second slower from 3 out to the line.  He’d gone quicker to that point but even with that adjustment and comparing him to the much quicker Bigmartre I reach a figure of 150.  He’s entitled to progress from here, but he’s going to have to.

 

REAL STEEL BURSTS INTO THE SUPREME PICTURE

The final horse that I want to talk about is REAL STEEL (144) who won a maiden hurdle at Thurles in fine style, and in a good time.  He came with a tall reputation from France where he was 2nd to Izzo at Fontainebleau who went on to win a Grade 3 at Auteil, and given time to settle in at Mullins and develop he could be the first star horse for the newly formed Mullins/Sullivan partnership.  He looks to be the stables main Supreme contender at this stage anyway.

Dawn Shadow Real Steel Highandmighty Pound A Stroke The Church Gate
173.68 175.83 182.23 178.48 184.94
52.00 49.68 54.33 54.35 56.77

As we can see from the sectionals above, he clocked comfortably the fastest time from 3 out in just 49.68s, and was 2nd fastest to that point. When comparing his run to the others on the card, I’ve given him a number of 144 which is excellent for a first start over hurdles.  Knowing the Mullins stable he will surely progress from here and should be one of the main contenders come Cheltenham.  I confess to being surprised to still see prices of 20/1 about for him.  I’d think if he were in the Ricci colours he’d be half that price, but people are going to get used to seeing the red of Jared Sullivan more and more.

SAMCRO, BRISTOL DE MAI AND MIN ON A WEEKEND TO SAVOUR

SAMCRO IS ONE OF THE MOST EXCITING HORSES

It says a lot when a horse has won a Grade 1 by 57 lengths, and still isn’t the horse I’m almost giddy with excitement over after the weekend.  But SAMCRO (164) might just be the most exciting horse we’ve seen after bolting up in a Grade 3 race over 2.5m at Navan today.

Ratoute Yutty Samcro Balbir Du Mathan Red Devil Lads
17.66 18.23 18.14 18.82
32.7 32.98 32.91 34.5
68.46 68.45 69.66 70.78
101.1 99.29 100.37 102.23
116.77 114.28 115.77 117.58
141.91 139.13 140.94 142.54
196.64 192.46 195.93 197.73
212.97 208.29 212.68 214.82
226.51 220.86 227.26 229.36
242.53 236.05 245 246.55

The sectional comparisons with the other hurdle races demonstrate the scale of this performance.  He clocked by far the quickest time of the four hurdle races and did so going half a mile further than two of the other winners.  But what really marks him down as something to get very excited is the manner in which he won and the speed he showed in winning.  We can see this clearly when breaking down the sectionals:

Ratoute Yutty Samcro Balbir Du Mathan Red Devil Lads
196.64 192.46 195.93 197.73
45.89 43.59 49.07 48.82

The above shows how long they all took to get from the first jump in the two mile race to 3 out, and then from 3 out to the line. As we can see Samcro clocked 192.46s to 3 out, 3.5s quicker than the next best time from Balbir Du Mathan.  Amazingly he then proceeded to blast home in 43.59s, 2.3s quicker than the next best time set by Ratoute Yutty in the opening race.  I’ve upgraded him on the basis of these numbers and have given him a mark of 164 as a result.  In truth this may still be underplaying his ability.

To put up this sort of performance on just his 2nd start over hurdles on the bridle is simply extraordinary.  Make no mistake this is a very very special horse.  It’s scary to think just how good he can be, he’s unlikely to be a betting proposition ever again but for a horse racing fanatic I just can’t wait to see what he does.  He looks a nice mover, and has already won a bumper on better ground than what he was running on today, and could well improve for better ground.  All we can do is marvel at him and pray he stays sound.

I am a fan of Next Destination who looks special himself, but Samcro could be as good as we’ve seen.  After the race I was left thinking that the only way he doesn’t win the Ballymore is if they decide to go for the Champion Hurdle.

 

BRISTOL DE MAI PUTS IN A STUNNING PERFORMANCE “AT HOME”

All the talk on Saturday though was about one horse, and that was BRISTOL DE MAI (186) who won the Betfair Chase by a staggering 57 lengths.  Plenty of people have said this is an impossible race to rate but with three other chases on the card we can at least give a good attempt at trying!

Hainan Clan Des Obeaux Bristol De Mai Chase The Spud
14.48 15.3 14.46 14.89
27.93 29.6 27.03 28.09
40.91 42.94 39.39 40.73
86.24 88.2 81.69 84.94
103.54 104.54 97.48 101.46
119.37 119.55 112.28 116.83
136.5 135.18 127.94 133.2
196.41 191.51 184.37 191.22
209.68 204.33 197.02 204.6
223.89 217.72 210.76 218.53
236.97 230.15 223.29 232.07
249.63 242.37 235.38 245.07
292.39 283.11 276.74 289.16
308.24 297.77 292.32 305.34
323.32 311.84 307.01 320.04
339.81 327.9 323.54 336.46
357.14 345.37 341.45 353.65

Timing all four races from the first jump in the 2m5.5f race won by Clan Des Obeaux, Bristol De Mai clocked the fastest time of 341.45s.  He did the damage early on going from the 6th to the 7th jump in his race in 42.3s, the next best time coming from Chase The Spud in 44.21s.  He just got horses out of their comfort zone, and especially on this sort of ground.

Hainan Clan Des Obeaux Bristol De Mai Chase The Spud
308.24 297.77 292.32 305.34
48.9 47.6 49.13 48.31

The above table shows that he got to 3 out in 292.32s, 5.45s quicker than Clan Des Obeaux did over half a mile shorter.  Understandably he came home slower from 3 out, but the savage effort he put in to that stage had already told, and he came home relatively comfortably.

The debate now is whether he can replicate this form elsewhere?  This was very much a home fixture for him, a flat track on heavy ground, and indeed I gave him a big figure when he won the Peter Marsh here last year.  This was another league though and I just can’t help but wonder that a horse that has the latent ability to put in this sort of run must be able to do something like it when “away from home”.  Interestingly Twiston-Davies mentioned he had some issues last year before running down the field at Cheltenham and Aintree.  It will be fascinating to see how he goes when seen again, I would be sceptical about dismissing this as a one off performance.

 

MIN REAPPEARS IN STYLE

As if Samcro and Bristol De Mai weren’t enough, we were also treated to seeing the comeback run of MIN (172) who was very impressive in dispatching two rivals with minimal fuss, but also in an excellent time on the clock.

Min Dounikos Persian Wind
11.63 13.23 13.31
22.00 24.61 24.36
79.38 86.11 83.64
92.21 100.10 97.52
105.56 114.58 111.46
119.48 129.73 126.09
136.86 147.72 143.45
189.05 198.11 193.78
200.23 208.58 205.32
210.34 217.65 215.62
222.82 230.03 229.44

Min clocked the fastest time by nearly 8 seconds when timed from the first flight on the two mile course.  He was actually 16s quicker than Dounikos ran over the same course and distance!  All this points to Min being just as good as he was last year when I gave him a big rating when winning Racing Post Novice Chase at Christmas.

This was the first time we’d seen him over 2.5m and he looked to handle it well.  With Douvan set to return soon and probably stick to 2m the obvious target for Min looks to be the Ryanair and odds of 12/1 seem very generous at this stage.

CHELTENHAM REVIEW

SPEED NOT STAMINA WON THE RACE FOR FINIAN’S OSCAR

Friday at Cheltenham saw the second run over fences for one of the big hype horses of the season in FINIAN’S OSCAR (151) and he duly went and won, defying a penalty in doing so.

What A Moment Doitforthevillage Finian’s Oscar
8.38 8.06 8.54
30.76 30.07 31.47
51.84 50.81 53.38
65.13 64.12 67.23
77.37 76.53 80.25
89.68 88.3 93.08
109 106.64 113.26
146.41 143.47 151.28
177.97 173.44 181.02
186.33 181.37 188.25
206.45 199.21 203.89

As we can see Finian’s Oscar clocked a time faster than they did in the longer handicap chase, but slower than the handicap over 2miles.  But this doesn’t tell the whole story.

What A Moment Doitforthevillage Finian’s Oscar
146.41 143.47 151.28
60.04 55.74 52.61

The times in the above table show first, the time they took to get to 3 out, and secondly from 3 out to the line. (Using where all three courses overlap as the start point).

This shows that they went a very slow pace in this race, nearly 8 seconds slower to 3 out than they did in the two mile chase.  But then Finian’s Oscar fairly motored home, reaching the line 3.13s quicker.  It was a fair turn of foot by the horse, and whilst the overall time was nothing special, when I adjust for this finish I’ve given him a figure of 151.

He now keeps on hitting the same sort of marks for me though, and I’m now beginning to wonder if he’s going to live up all the hype surrounding him.  It’s fairly clear that he’s a good horse, but I’m not quite buying into the hype yet.  Perhaps when he gets a stronger pace he’ll really thrive, but until that happens I’ll be in the negative camp for now.  It would seem that either the Arkle or JLT Chase is on the cards at the moment, and I’d probably lean towards the former given he can stay beyond 2miles but also seems to have a strong turn of foot.

The runner-up MOVEWITHTHETIMES (141) tried to win the race with one run but just got out sped to the line by the winner.  There is plenty of stamina in his pedigree and this sort of trip may be the minimum he needs.  I noticed that he’s been dropped a pound to a mark of 145 after this race, and that would get him into the novice handicap chase on day 1 over 2.5miles.  He may also be a candidate for the three mile handicap chase that day as well.

 

NOVICE HANDICAP HURDLE WORTH FOLLOWING…AS USUAL!

As usual, the novice handicap hurdle at this meeting looks like working out again.  The winner MAGIC DANCER (133) had put up a good performance earlier in the week at Kempton and duly followed up here off the same mark.

Magic Dancer On The Blind Side Difference
34.68 37.76 -3.08
77.19 81.88 -4.69
109.52 113.77 -4.25
134.65 138.3 -3.65
168.24 171.66 -3.42
186.8 190.04 -3.24
210.63 214.05 -3.42
229.2 232.09 -2.89

As we can see, the winner clocked a better time than On The Blind Side did in the longer Grade 2 Hurdle later on the card.  Even when adjusting for the shorter trip I still get to a decent number for the winner, considering he was winning off a mark of just 113.  Raised to 124 after this will make life harder for him, but he was rated 102 on the flat at one stage and there could be more to come.

OXWICH BAY (129) was second again and seems to keep bumping into decent and well handicapped horses!  There is a race for him to be won off his new mark of 121.

CHAMPAGNE CITY (134) advertised the form of Silver Streak in running a good race to finish third here.  Perhaps doing a bit too much in front he maybe set the race up for the winner.  He was badly hampered at the start at Chepstow in that hot race, but even though he got put up a couple of pounds for this he could still be well treated.

 

APPLE’S SHAKIRA LOOKS SHORT FOR THE TRIUMPH

As a general rule I tend to be sceptical of horses with illustrious relations, and there were mutterings that APPLE’S SHAKIRA (137) had nothing like the ability of her sister Apple’s Jade.  However, she was well backed and duly usurped Triumph Hurdle favouritism from GUMBALL (124).  But quotes of 4/1 seem crazy short to me!

Apple’s Shakira Thomas Campbell Coole Cody
44.71 46.4 45.62
77.42 79.83 79.58
102.31 106.03 105.67
136.04 140.97 141.42
154.39 160 160.43
179.88 185.24 184.66
199.83 203.88 202.88

She clocked the fastest time of the three hurdles races on the Saturday, but did so over the shortest trip and carrying 20lbs less in weight than the other two winners.  Furthermore, conditions were horrendous on Saturday and the ground worsened throughout the day, and she benefitted from being ridden wide on the track compared to the runner-up who took the inner quagmire route to the line.  I wouldn’t be getting carried away with her myself, especially considering some of the talent that’s been acquired in France.

SPEEDO BOY (114) ran round the back of the field to get some more hurdling experience.  He would’ve despised this ground and I note he has been given a mark of 120, which considering he has reached RPR of 104 would seem very workable.  I wonder whether this may be the last time we see him before the Fred Winter.  Though he may need to go up a bit to ensure a run in that race.

 

PERFECT CANDIDATE WINS A THRILLER…MAYBE FROM THE NATIONAL WINNER!

The 3m3f chase was a thriller won by PERFECT CANDIDATE (162) from the closing VICENTE (160)

Black Corton Perfect Candidate Splash Of Ginge
8.86 8.59 8.35
31.91 31.4 31.27
53.21 53.53 53.63
66.77 67.95 68.11
79.19 80.98 81.21
91.68 93.31 93.71
110.8 112.79 113.82
149.69 152.34 152.11
180.7 186.83 183.94
189.1 195.79 192.86
206.65 215.34 212.7

The winner clocked the slowest time of the three chases for their equivalent sections, but did so over the furthest distance and most of the time difference came at the end when they were understandably tiring in the ground.  I’ve given the winner a mark of 162 and he is clearly very smart when he gets his conditions…namely 3miles plus, soft ground and race fit from a prep run as he was here.  It is probably stretching things to suggest he could land a blow in a Gold Cup, even on heavy ground but he would probably deserve to line up.  Either way, look out for him when he gets his conditions.

I was surprised to see Vicente getting so well backed, as the ground seemed to be dead against him.  But he seemed to cope with it ok, and he just seems to be a thorough stayer these days.  His jumping can be a bit sketchy and that maybe cost him the win here.  If they can iron out his jumping I’d be interested in his chances in the National, where he fell at the first this year.

 

SLATE HOUSE LOOKS A STAR OF THE FUTURE

Of all the horses I saw in the flesh at Cheltenham, perhaps the most visually impressive horse to look at was SLATE HOUSE (148).  He proved good looks are not his only attribute as he travelled well in the race winning from the closing runner-up SUMMERVILLE BOY (147). 

Melrose Boy Elgin Slate House
37.22 36.41 40.08
81.8 80.48 82.25
116.77 113.54 115.62
143.43 138.3 141.19
179.63 171.47 175.27
198.64 189.23 193.34
223.02 212.48 216.75
243.2 232.43 235.66

I’ve estimated the sectionals for Slate House where they by-passed some of the flights in the straight.  But even after this his time was only 3 seconds slower than the winner of the Greatwood Hurdle, and he was carrying 6lbs more.  Furthermore, this difference can be accounted for in their slow start before they strode on.  Slate House settled well, and is such a free mover will surely be better on better ground.  He looks every inch a chaser but can be a feature in the big novice hurdles in the spring before embarking on that game.  He looks very exciting to me.

 

ELGIN LANDS THE GREATWOOD

I’d been keen on THE NEW ONE (166) once the ground went on the Saturday and he duly ran a massive race off top weight to finish 4thELGIN (155) and MISTERTON (147) just had too much in hand for the old warrior and pulled clear of the rest of the field in the style of smart horses.  Depending on their reassessment the winner can be a feature in conditions races and the runner-up could land a big handicap himself.

 

FOX NORTON AS GOOD AS EVER

With the news today that Sizing John is not going to run in the Betfair Chase I wonder if that leaves the door open for FOX NORTON (170) to go for the King George.  He won on soft ground on Sunday over two miles and is clearly as good as ever, and looks like he can be a threat whatever trip they decide to go over.

North Hill Harvey Fox Norton Difference
11.34 11.11 -0.23
35.73 34.18 -1.55
43.7 42.19 -1.51
65.17 63.7 -1.47
85.46 84.39 -1.07
98.6 98.08 -0.52
111.03 110.85 -0.18
122.98 122.68 -0.3
141.68 141.4 -0.28
178.73 178.39 -0.34
209.24 208.58 -0.66
217.4 216.72 -0.68
237.53 235.75 -1.78

The sectionals above show that he clocked a time 1.78s quicker than the smart NORTH HILL HARVEY (162) did in the novice chase over the same course and distance.  He carried just a lb more in weight so I make the difference between them 8lbs on this day.

I’ve rated Fox Norton in the mid-170s last season, and this was a fine seasonal reappearance.  Wherever they decide to go with him he is going to be tough to beat.  Connections did intimate that they may stick to two miles with him, and with all the problems surrounding others in that division this year, he perhaps should be favourite for the Champion Chase!

North Hill Harvey himself was impressive when landing the novice chase in a good time.  I just feel there will be a better two mile novice chaser out there but he will certainly prove his worth in that division this season.  He goes next for the Henry VII Chase at Sandown where a clash with Capitaine could prove very informative.

 

THE MACHINE STUTTERS BACK INTO LIFE AT PUNCHESTOWN

By far and away my least favourite commentator in racing is Mike Cattermole.  And my least favourite bit of commentary from him is in Mikael D’Haguenet’s Ballymore hurdle win where he says the horse has “not found anything” just as he comes there swinging on the bridle two out.  A close second is his commentary for Faugheen’s champion hurdle win where he proclaims “and he is a machine” as Arctic Fire devours the ground behind him to only go down by just over a length.  That moniker “The Machine” seems to have stuck now for FAUGHEEN (152) and it was good to see the engine started again in the Morgiana Hurdle on Sunday.  However, whilst everyone else seems to have gone into hype overdrive I can’t help but feel that the engine in this “machine” has developed a bit of a stutter in the 665 days since we last saw him.

Top Othe Ra Faugheen Let’s Twist Again Dom Dolo
48.03 45.45 52.51 49.16
78.02 74.13 84.31 79.76
117.09 112.38 126.04 120.25
132.89 127.73 141.86 136.6
162.23 157.29 171.55 166.18
172.15 166.88 181.33 176.34
205.69 199.82 216.52 211.63
218.54 213.45 229.95 225.01

As we can see from the sectionals for the four hurdle races on the card, he did clock the fastest time as timed from the first flight on the two mile course (we’d expect him to do so!).  He set a quick early pace getting from the first to the second 2.5s quicker than TopOthe Ra did in the earlier handicap hurdle.  His overall time was 5.1s quicker and he did so whilst carrying 2lbs more in weight.  Comparing these two races, and the other two hurdle races on the card though and I can only get to a mark of 152 for the former champion.

The one time I felt he truly deserved his nickname was when last seen in the Irish Champion Hurdle where I gave him a mark of 179.  This comeback run I’ve rated nearly two stone lower than that.

He’s going to be ten by the time next year’s Champion Hurdle comes around and the last winner that old was Sea Pigeon back in 1981.  I’m no massive stats fan but when shopping in the short price end of the market I want to have everything in my favour and combining his ongoing years with this underwhelming performance on the clock leaves me happy to take him on in the market.

He came home from 3 out here just 0.15s quicker than Top Othe Ra did in the handicap hurdle.  Sure, he had done a lot more up to that point but I think this questions the intuitive impressive reaction to the visual performance in the race.  He beat three rivals here who patently hated the ground and this lead me also to wonder whether that is another reason to be against him in March.

Regardless of the actual going they will call it good to soft on the day, but it’s perfectly possible that there will be more give on the A435 into the track than there will be on the course.  This is a horse who has won over 3 miles on heavy ground in his novice days and he can sustain a relentless gallop on that sort of ground.  He won on soft ground over 2.5m at Ascot when reportedly he stripped very fat, and he went down by just half a length to the monster Nichols Canyon on soft ground in this race two years ago (that was a hot time that day regardless of the consensus view of the race).  He then slammed Arctic Fire out of sight on soft ground in the Irish Champion Hurdle when last seen.  The one time he has encountered ground officially described as “Good” was when beating the now 143 rated chaser Ballyalton by 4.5 lengths in the Neptune over 2.5m.  Now nearly 10 years old is it possible that on genuinely quick ground over two miles he could get found out?  It would be on my mind if playing at short prices.  He seemed to relish the ground in this race to me.

Finally, there are plenty better paddock judges than me who said he looked fit for this run, and this would back up Mullins quotes that they have had him ready to go for a while.  With all the attention this horse garners they surely left nothing to chance.  The fact that he has returned a figure someway below his best triggers alarm bells for me.

I’ve been wrong before, and I’ll be wrong again and I know this sort of view won’t be popular and he may blow them all out of the water in March.  But a 10 year old who’s been off for nearly two years beats 3 rivals unsuited to conditions in a time someway below his best is now 9/4 favourite for the Champion Hurdle.  That’s not the sort of bet that gets me excited.

 

MIGHT BITE AND APPLES JADE RETURN

NMIGHT BITE MAKES SOLID REAPPEARANCE…NOTHING MORE!

There were two big seasonal debuts this weekend just gone, and the first one I want to look at is the one made by MIGHT BITE (151) who won a four runner race at Sandown in solid style.  I still maintain that I’ve never seen a performance like his win in the RSA at Cheltenham, but he seemed a much more straightforward horse at Aintree and it was more of the same on this run as he travelled well to easily dispatch some solid rivals.

Jameson Might Bite Houblon Des Obeaux
7.94 8.39 8.21
14.32 15.12 14.86
54.86 58.3 57.12
69.77 73.55 72.09
83.58 87.93 85.7
142.75 148.33 145.15
163.83 169.3 166.2
171.71 176.92 174.23
179.66 184.35 182.53
195.26 200.06 198.31
209.08 213.64 212.26
217.19 221.67 220.81
223.71 227.97 227.38
262.85 267.52 267.92
276.88 281.47 282.49
290.6 294.47 296.2
308.11 310.89 311.95

 

On the clock though I can only get to a number of 151 for Might Bite for this run.  As we can see, he clocked a time just a second quicker that HOUBLON DES OBEAUX (141) did in the veterans chase over the same course and distance carrying just a pound less.  I’ve adjusted a bit for his faster finish, but it is still a run nearly two stone below what I felt he is capable of in the aftermath of his RSA win.  Obviously, this is just his first run of the season and there are bigger days on the horizon, but his jumping was a bit too big and overall I felt a bit disappointed by him on this run.  It may be that that mega effort in the RSA has left it’s mark, certainly he’ll need to be stepping up on this run to win the King George.  Overall this was just a solid run from him.

 

JAMESON AND WESTERN MILLER LOOK NOVICES TO FOLLOW…ALONG WITH THEIR OLD RIVALS!

I was much more taken with the novice handicap chase on the card won by JAMESON (147) who just managed to collar the front running WESTERN MILLER (151).  They clocked a much faster time in this race, finishing 2.8s quicker than Might Bite did in the half mile longer race for the same course, and only carried 3lbs less.  When adjusting for this and their slightly slower finish I’ve given the winner a mark of 147, which is in line with the mark I gave him at Ffos Las when beaten by West Approach.

The pair of them were thirteen lengths clear of the third placed horse and this was a decent performance to my eye.  The runner-up has probably improved for fences and going up to this 2.5m trip, and he equally gives some credit to the performance of Capitaine who slammed him by 22lengths on his previous run.  Both West Approach and Capitaine are lined up to run at Cheltenham this weekend and I’ll be interested in their prices on the day.

Jameson and Western Miller though are clearly smart novices in their own right, and were running here off marks of 129 and 133 respectively.  The novice handicap chase on day 1 is now 0-145 and should they get into that race they would look nice prospects for it at this stage.

 

APPLE’S JADE WINS ON RETURN

The other big reappearance on Sunday was from APPLE’S JADE (154) who won the Lismullen Hurdle at Navan over 2.5m.

Icantsay Mengli Khan Apple’s Jade Oscars Den
14.05 15.3 14.47 15
29.9 32.25 30.43 30.98
69.63 74.96 70.5 71.11
96.12 102.15 97.78 98.26
122.34 128.12 124.6 125.02
136.67 142.67 139.44 139.49
197.98 200.32 199.74 201.29
211.65 212.88 212.18 213.6
227.06 226.4 225.8 227.31
246.96 242.28 241.49 243.84

 

As you can see from the sectionals above, Apple’s Jade clocked the fastest time from the first flight on the two mile course.  She also clocked the fastest time from 3 out (as shown below) and with that in mind I would love to see them let her take her chance in a champion hurdle.  She jumps hurdles so well that she can take lengths out of her rivals, and I feel in a strongly run race she can use this to full effect.

Icantsay Mengli Khan Apple’s Jade Oscars Den
48.98 41.96 41.75 42.55

 

She typically improves for her racing, and so her putting in a mark of 154 here gives plenty of optimism for the future.  I think she’s capable of a stone better than this and so Buveur D’Air and Faugheen would have to be on their A-game to give her 7lbs and a beating.

 

FOOTPAD SHOWS FINE TURN OF FOOT

FOOTPAD (156) put in a fine debut over fences at Navan, and I had to time the race a second time as he showed a turn of foot that I hadn’t previously associated with a horse I felt more suited to three miles over hurdles.

Clarcam Footpad
17.61 19.15
50.71 54.46
82.88 87.96
94.32 99.24
107.54 112.67
133.19 139.18
160.09 166.8
190.93 196.75
210.28 214.13
228.67 230
240.92 241.25

 

The overall time wasn’t anything special, he was fractionally slower than Clarcam was over just a furlong shorter, although carrying 5lbs more in weight.  But the turn of foot he showed was impressive.

Clarcam Footpad
30.64 27.12

From three out to the line, Footpad was 3.5s quicker than Clarcam.  They had gone much quicker in Clarcam’s race, but even accounting for that this points to a fine debut chase performance from the winner.

He clearly can stay further than this sort of trip, and now combining in a turn of foot and fine jumping he is clearly of interest as an Arkle horse.  I’m not sure I’d have him as favourite at this stage, but he certainly warrants interest in the race.  He is yet to win on good ground and that would have to be a concern should he mop up races in Ireland and go off a short price in March.

 

BALL D’ARC IS BRILLIANT ON HEAVY GROUND

There was an excellent performance on the clock from BALL D’ARC (166) at Naas on Saturday.

Ball D’arc First To Boogie Mossback
14.39 15.95 15.3
63.1 67.85 65.73
86.55 92.56 89.27
104.38 111.62 108.04
138.74 147.49 143.72
151.03 160.96 157.13
165.59 175.98 172.57
197.34 208.06 204.83
211.39 221.77 218.83
231.6 242.29 237.58

 

As we can see from the sectionals, he clocked by far the best time of the three chase races on the card, and even when I adjust for the half mile shorter trip this was a red hot run.  I note that on ground with heavy in the description he has now run 5 times over fences winning 3 times.  One of his defeats was by just half a length to Ballycasey, and the other defeat was finishing runner-up on his debut.  Clearly on deep ground he is worth following.

I was interested in the run of ORDINARY WORLD (151) in second, in as much as the winner loves this sort of ground, he absolutely hates it!  He ran big numbers last year behind Min and Altior and I wonder if they’ll target something like the Grand Annual.  He could get beaten over the winter months on deep ground and then pop up on much quicker ground in the spring and land a touch in a big handicap chase for connections.  He has some relations who have done well over 2.5m so even going up to that trip could merit a bet.

 

SERIOUSLY HOT MAIDEN HURDLE ALERT!

There have been some good novice hurdles already this season, but the best one so far may be the one won by NEXT DESTINATION (156) at Naas.  On paper it looked strong and it certainly lived up to expectations on the clock.

Red Jack Early Doors Next Destination Oscar Knight
16.11 16.23 15.99 16.7
71.29 69.21 69.49 71.38
103.27 99.62 99.64 101.4
150.72 146.08 146.47 148.02
166.41 161.59 161.79 163.47
201.88 196.04 197.25 199.26
215.72 210.09 211.43 213.49
230.82 225.41 226.02 229.06

 

Next Destination clocked a time 3s quicker than Oscar Knight did in the handicap hurdle over a furlong further on the card, and did so carrying 20lbs more in weight.  The more eye-catching performance though was when comparing it to the grade 3 hurdle on the card won by Early Doors.  Next Destination clocked a time just 0.6s slower but ran over 3f further and carried 13lbs more.  All the ways I played with the figures, I gave him a red hot number of 156.  He was half a second quicker from the last to the line than anything else!  He looks a live candidate for the Ballymore…the only problem being that Samcro lies in wait!  But at this stage that looks a potential clash to savour.

The vanquished horses were thirteen lengths back but put up performances of merit themselves and will be winning maiden hurdles and could be handicap hurdles to follow.  Someday, Paloma Blue, Laverteen and Pallasator are worth keeping an eye on.

SOUTHFIELD ROYALE HANDICAPPED TO GO WELL IN BADGER ALES TROPHY

There is a horse declared for the Badger Ales Trophy at Wincanton who if returning to his best looks absolutely thrown in.

SOUTHFIELD ROYALE was 4th in a red hot renewal of the four miler won by Minella Rocco with Native River second.  He looks best on his first two runs of the season and a five week break thereafter.  Before last season his form under such conditions read 11212114 with the first 2nd behind War Sound in a novice hurdle when trying to concede that rival a stone in weight, and the other runner-up berth coming when going down by half a length to Twelve Roses over a probably inadequate trip at Exeter.  As mentioned he was 4th in a red hot renewal of the four mile chase in 2016.  He was actually highly rated enough to go for a Grade 1 at Punchestown and was sent off as short as 4/1.

He didn’t reappear until January last year suggesting something was amiss and Mulholland said he’d had one or two niggles, and his season subsequently bombed with form figures of 0F0 (although he was going well in the Kim Muir before falling).  As a result he now runs off a mark of 138, and the fact he is back out at this time of year must give hope that they have ironed out whatever issues he was having last year and had a smoother preparation.  He looks dangerously handicapped on his best form (was also 2nd to Tea For Two in Grade 1 at Kempton), and goes well fresh.

I’ve rated him in the mid-150s previously and a price of 12/1 is worth paying to find out if he’s back on track.  Mulholland “won” this with The Young Master a few years back before disqualification and has had a 3rd and 5th place the last two years.  There is rain due to hit the track but he is versatile with regards to the ground with wins on good and heavy.

NOTEWORTHY PERFORMANCES FROM THE LAST FEW WEEKS…

HOW GOOD COULD POLITOLOGUE BE?!

I’m going to go through some of the horses that caught my attention in the last few weeks, but top of the list is one from Exeter yesterday, where POLITOLOGUE (168) was very impressive in landing the Haldon Gold Cup.

Ask The Weatherman Ballyoptic Politologue
38.89 37.58 33.78
50.04 48.37 43.46
62.65 60.87 54.6
140.86 138.15 128.82
154.27 151.03 141.61
165.74 162.09 152.64
175.83 171.58 161.91
233.8 228.2 218.06
241.91 235.97 225.67
251.88 244.6 234.17
268.24 258.46 248.35
282.45 272.16 263.25

As we can see from the sectionals above Politologue clocked much the best time from the first flight in the 2m1.5f course.  The Haldon Gold Cup was run at a fierce pace in the ground, and indeed plenty of decent horses were struggling from well out.  Only his stablemate SAN BENEDETO (164) could go with the impressive winner who idled on the run in after perhaps hitting the front too soon.  But he was going so well that Sam Twiston-Davies had little choice but to let him go on at that stage.  We’d expect the time of the race to be quicker than the other two races run over three miles but even after adjusting for this the winner reaches a red hot number.

The mighty Altior now lies in wait in the Tingle Creek and Politologue goes there with a live chance of upsetting the Champion Chase favourite.  He reportedly had a racecourse gallop prior to this and provided this run hasn’t taken too much out of him he should be some sight over the Sandown fences.  Longevity is not a feature of top class Nicky Henderson chasers (Sprinter Sacre, Long Run recent examples) and I would be wary of taking short prices about Altior in what has the potential to be a red hot division this year.

The runner-up was 12lengths behind Altior at Sandown and so on that run Politologue still has something to find.  But this six year old grey can certainly step up to the plate and it will be fascinating to see how far he can go in this division.  San Benedeto can also land a big race this season given he has now run to this number twice.

 

BALLYOPTIC IS TOP CLASS

The other classy performance on the Exeter card came from BALLYOPTIC (162) in the novice chase over three miles.  From the sectionals we can see he clocked a time 10seconds quicker than Ask The Weatherman did in the handicap chase getting further and further ahead as the race went on.  Even after adjusting for the 17lb weight differential, this was a top class debut from the winner and surely marks him towards the top of the staying novice chasers.  Rated 155 over hurdles he looked to take well to the chasing sphere with his exemplary jumping.  Twiston-Davies won the RSA with Blaklion two years ago and surely has another live candidate in Ballytoptic.  His best form does seem to be on softer ground so that would temper ones enthusiasm initially but it would be dangerous to underestimate him.

ELEGANT ESCAPE (149) was second and ran to the same mark I gave him previously.  He is a decent staying novice chaser and perhaps a candidate for the four miler.  Certainly prices of 50/1 seem crazy at this stage for a horse of his calibre.

BARNEY DWAN (145) was back in third, and ran a very likeable race.  No match for the classy winner the Pertemps runner-up could be a live candidate for the three mile handicap chase on day one of the Festival.

 

WORTH WAITING FOR WAITING PATIENTLY

At Carlisle on Sunday we saw the reappearance of WAITING PATIENTLY (156+) in a four runner chase.

Mister Whitaker Waiting Patiently Difference
13.55 12.62 -0.93
22.99 21.74 -1.25
49.53 46.59 -2.94
63.49 59.89 -3.6
79.12 75.07 -4.05
92.19 87.99 -4.2
168.85 164.73 -4.12
177.26 173.03 -4.23
191.76 187.5 -4.26
205.22 200.9 -4.32
214.4 210.14 -4.26
239.08 234.69 -4.39
251.3 246.79 -4.51
265.11 260.54 -4.57
276.81 272.75 -4.06
295.58 291.79 -3.79

There was another chase on the card over the same trip, and we can see from above that Waiting Patiently clocked a time 3.79s quicker, and did so carrying 16lbs more.  I’ve awarded him a mark of 156 but feel confident he can progress from this.  His trainer muted the December handicap chase at Cheltenham over 2.5m and that looks a nice race for them to target.  He beat Politologue last year and is clearly a classy chaser and probably a live candidate for the Ryanair where quotes of 20/1 make some appeal.

 

GOOD NOVICE HURDLERS AT CORK

I’d rated the Punchestown hurdle won by CRACKING SMART (149) highly and it was good to see the winner go in again at Cork on Sunday, beating the classy ROBIN DES FORET (145).

Shady Operator Cracking Smart Granny Biddy
16.29 16.65 16.55
29.68 30.01 30.41
94.63 94.63 96.26
113.82 113.04 115.74
127.43 126.59 129.61
180.88 180.64 184.32
195.86 196.15 199.69
208.07 209.75 212.66
216.9 219.95 222.48

Stepped up to 3 miles here, the winner looks a smart candidate for the Albert Bartlett at this stage.

The horse he beat at Punchestown, won the opening novice hurdle on the card. SHADY OPERATOR (146) clocked a good time here and is clearly a decent prospect for JP McManus and Joseph O’Brien.  He clocked the fastest time of the three hurdle races, but this was over the shortest distance, so I rate Cracking Smarts run over a mile further as the better performance.  Either way the two of them are classy individuals and worth following.

Shady Operator had two nice horses in behind him, and the three of them were well clear of the rest of the field.  CASTLEBROOK (142) won a PTP by 30 lengths and looks a nice recruit for Alan Potts given he is only four years old and has his best years ahead of him and over longer trips.  Back in third was DAYBREAK BOY (140) who was a decent flat horse (rated 99) he could be one to bear in mind for handicap hurdles.

 

BENATAR LOOKS TO BE THE NEXT STAR FOR THE MOORE TEAM

I’ll confess to never being a fan of Sire De Grugy, but I’ll certainly be joining the fan club for what looks to be the next Moore star horse in BENATAR (153) who won what looked a decent novice handicap chase at Ascot off top weight and a mark of 142.

Benatar Exitas Go Conquer
27.11 26.93 29.31
43 42.11 45.7
82.5 80.18 87.4
93.81 91.43 99.23
111 108.46 116.62
123.85 121.01 129.91
155.02 151.7 161.2
164.78 161.78 170.64
175.08 172.26 180.29
185.88 182.74 190.9
211.81 208.35 216.48
226.62 222.5 231.52
240.73 235.79 246.29

 

He clocked a slower time than Exitas did in the handicap chase, but did so over half a mile further and carrying a whopping 27lbs more in weight.  Adjusting for all this I give him a figure of 153.  He was 4th behind Finian’s Oscar at Aintree on his last run over hurdles but looks to be a fine recruit to chasing.  In some quotes I found, Gary Moore seems to imply this horse may be as good as anything he’s had and if he can build on this chase debut as he should he can take high rank in the novice chase division.

 

QUITE BY CHANCE SHOULD GO FOR THE BET VICTOR GOLD CUP

The two mile chase won by EXITAS (142) was run at a good pace, and the winner clocked a fine time in finishing 5s quicker than Benatar did when timed from the same first fence.  He was running with a featherweight though and I am more interested in the runner-up QUITE BY CHANCE (155) who himself finished 13 lengths clear of the third.  Rated just 144 here he is entered up in the Bet Victor Gold Cup and is an interesting candidate for that.  He was 4th in the December version off a mark of 147 and perhaps goes there a bit under the radar.

 

IS DISKO A GOLD CUP HORSE?

Over in Ireland DISKO (169) confirmed the promise of his novice campaign with a fine reappearance in the Grade 2 chase at Down Royal over two and a half miles.

Outlander Disko Poormans Hill
28.45 27.79 28.47
39.62 38.51 39.69
63.87 61.7 63.69
72.24 69.84 72.14
113.16 109.63 114.17
154.74 150.59 157.36
170.52 165.96 173.61
180.74 176.27 184.13
207.03 202.38 211.22
225.28 220.56 230.56
250.7 246.02 256.83
261.08 256.48 266.85
270.9 266.36 276.2

As we can see from the sectionals, Disko clocked a time 4.5s quicker than Outlander did in the Grade 1 chase.  Even when adjusting for the half a mile shorter trip here Disko ran a red hot figure and confirms himself as one of the top chasers around at the moment.  Successful over 3 miles at Punchestown last year he looks to be the main Gigginstown candidate for the Gold Cup at this stage.  However, his pedigree suggests that sort of trip may be beyond his optimum and in what could be a vintage renewal of the race this year he may get found out in the latter stages.

 

WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED TO OUR DUKE?!

The Grade 1 chase over 3 miles beforehand was won by OUTLANDER (154), but the time was nothing special and the form doesn’t look to be worth following to me.  The noteworthy run, or lack of it, came from OUR DUKE (103) who was never travelling and subsequently found to scope dirty.  He clocked numbers in the mid-170s for me last year and had the beating of the aforementioned Disko.  If he can bounce back from this he can still be a Gold Cup horse and this was clearly not his running.

 

IS BRISTOL DE MAI THE NEW KID ON THE BLOCK?

The Charlie Hall Chase was billed as a clash between two of the older brigade, but the younger BRISTOL DE MAI (167) ended up victorious as both Coneygree and Cue Card failed to get round.

Daklondike Born Survivor Bristol De Mai
11.36 11.27 10.83
23.45 23.33 22.09
34.57 34.46 32.95
91.98 93.23 88.41
104.48 104.79 100.42
115.15 115.16 111.13
126.1 125.57 121.63
142.98 141.33 137.87
189.08 185.03 183.95
199.87 195.44 194.04
211.28 206.35 204.88
222.07 216.4 215.29
236.74 230.5 228.9

This was a red hot performance from the winner, who actually clocked a time 1.5s quicker than Born Survivor did in the mile shorter race!  He goes for the Betfair Chase at Haydock with a live chance, and clearly relishes the soft ground that is typically found there.  Sizing John will have to be at his best to see off the young pretender.  The current prices are about right though and it’ll probably be just a race to savour.  Cue Card fell again but seemed to be going well at the time.  His best form is on soft ground as well and given his age will surely be primed for the Betfair Chase.

BLAKLION (161) just failed to collar the winner on the run in and was getting 6lbs in weight so is certainly the inferior animal.  To my eye his best runs have come on undulating tracks and I’d like to see him go for the Gold Cup before his seemingly intended target of the Grand National.  He can make the frame in the blue riband at a wild price (currently 66/1).

 

MELON STILL NEEDS TO IMPROVE TO THREATEN BUVEUR D’AIR

Friday at Down Royal saw the reappearance of MELON (152), but I confess to still not buying into the hype around him.  This was just in line with some of his previous numbers and he needs to be finding improvement soon to be a Champion Hurdle threat.

Poli Roi Just Janice Melon Alaliya
29.37 27.55 27.27 29.55
49.6 47.13 46.72 50.39
86.65 83.59 82.28 87.57
134.79 131.72 130.09 135.96
166.08 161.51 159.4 166.9
188.68 183.68 181.21 190.4
216.59 211.06 209.14 221.97
230.43 223.45 222.08 235.31

As we can see from the sectionals, he clocked a time just 1.4s quicker that Just Janice did over the same trip and whilst she is an admirable mare he needed to be showing more for me to merit Champion Hurdle talk.  He is entitled to improve on this reappearance but he will certainly need to!

 

SMAD PLACE ROLLS BACK THE YEARS

Back at Aintree there was a fine performance from SMAD PLACE (170) in landing the Old Roan Chase.

Vintage Clouds The Romford Pele Smad Place
17.23 17.68 15.36
29.74 30.06 27.07
41.89 42.57 38.43
67.41 67.65 63.07
90.21 90.56 85.42
103.05 103.89 98
125.5 127.08 120.19
168.2 169.23 161.49
185.71 185.62 177.59
198.53 197.69 189.09
211.04 209.06 200.86
236.94 233.15 224.35
260.07 254.24 245.74
272.64 266.68 258.38
294.75 289.55 280.73
309.15 303.55 294.29

They clocked a much better time than the other two chases on the card (run over half a mile further) and this was a run that ties in with some of Smad Place’s best form.  Now ten years old this was clearly a main target for him, and he was 110% fit for the race.  With that in mind the horse to take out of the race is the runner-up CLOUDY DREAM (165) who seemed to travel well but got outbattled by the super game winner.

I think the jockey would like another go at riding the race as he got tied up on the inside and had to switch round the winner.  He was closing at the finish but the line came to the rescue for the admirable grey winner.  But Cloudy Dream is only seven, and surely has bigger targets ahead of him this season…the first being the Bet Victor Gold Cup.  He is capable of running to a higher mark than this and if he can do so he can certainly land the big handicap race at Cheltenham.  Together with Waiting Patiently, Malcolm Jefferson has two of the most exciting horses around and can land big prizes this season with the pair.

 

FOXTAIL HILL AND LE PREZIEN CAN LAND BIG HANDICAPS

At Cheltenham the star performances of the Saturday went to FOXTAIL HILL (158) and LE PREZIEN (162) in the handicap chase over two miles.

Cogry Foxtail Hill Double Treasure
7.92 7.85 8.2
29.8 28.75 29.25
50.42 49.2 50.83
63.73 62.71 64.6
75.77 75.32 77.34
87.84 87.6 89.12
106.5 106.4 108.01
142.9 142.58 145.51
173.5 172.23 177.28
181.3 179.73 185.59
200.6 195.78 203.74

From where the courses overlap, we can see just how much faster Foxtail Hill was in winning this race, albeit over a shorter trip.  Clearly allowing him to bowl along over two miles has seen him excel.  With that in mind I would be hesitant about taking prices about him in the Bet Victor Gold Cup.  He is a likeable horse, but I would reserve judgement about him being able to sustain this sort of pace and form over half a mile further.  He could be more of a Grand Annual horse.

Le Prezien was the only one to come out of the chasing pack and challenge the game winner.  Backed off the boards here he was clearly at his very best and may need time to recover from this run.  Only raised 6lbs to 150 he can win a big handicap off that mark.

Interestingly I rated SIZING PLATINUM (152) just 1lb higher than when he was runner-up in this race last year.  Of course last year he was beaten by Fox Norton, and whilst I don’t think the two horses are quite in that class they are certainly decent individuals.

 

 

GIGGINSTOWN MONSTERS UNLEASHED

SAMCRO IS THE REAL DEAL

There have been few novice hurdle debuts as eagerly anticipated as the one made by SAMCRO (150+) last week.

Samcro Lex Talionis Ben Dundee
37.94 37.66 38.01
51.2 50.88 51.03
75.43 75.61 74.53
107.65 108.82 106.56
122.79 125.58 122.55
159.45 162.88 158.91
195.37 200.55 197.3
208.66 213.79 211.6

There were two other hurdle races on the card, one over the same trip and the other over half a mile further.  You can see from the sectionals above that Samcro clocked the fastest time as timed from the first flight on the two mile course, and he did this carrying 21lbs and 15lbs more in weight than the other two winners.  When adjusting for this I have awarded Samcro a mark of 150…clearly he is the real deal and justified the hype surrounding him.  Putting in this sort of number of debut marks him down as out of the top drawer.

Inevitably the mind wonders about Cheltenham targets and it seems to be between the Supreme and Ballymore for the horse, with preference for the latter based on the betting markets.  I noted that the excellent Johnny Ward tweeted after that Elliott said he almost jumps too well for a two miler, and it was noticeable that he jumped with a fair degree of elan throughout the contest.  That said though he is clearly not devoid of pace.  He clocked 85.87s from three out to the line, compared to 88.21s and 89.05s in the other two races, and did so seemingly within his comfort zone.  On pedigree though there are plenty of 2.5 and 3 milers in his family.  He is by Germany, the same sire as Faugheen, and he could be a similar type in having stamina in his genetics but can sustain a fast pace as well.  Wherever he ends up he is going to be hard to beat.

 

DEATH DUTY STEPS UP ON HIS DEBUT RUN

I’d been impressed by DEATH DUTY (161) on his debut as he settled so well to the point of falling asleep, and once woken up by a mistake at the last readily picked up a fair rival.  He stepped up on that debut at Punchestown later on the card to impressively beat TOUT EST PERMIS (141) and WOODLAND OPERA (145).

Death Duty Road To Respect King’s Song
13.21 14.17 14.84
42.74 45.29 46.44
59.91 63.27 65.18
90.64 95.07 97.76
104.1 109.21 112.41
128.73 135.17 139.22
144.47 151.43 155.52
157.09 164.67 169.19
188.22 196.55 201.78
204.77 213.65 219.4
230.33 239.43 247.15
242.86 251.84 260.08
255.47 263.79 273.13

The other two races over fences on the card were over 3m1f, and you’d expect Death Duty to clock a faster time for the course over 2m2f that he did.  Yet the scale of the time over the respective distances points to a red hot number of 161 for Death Duty once accounting for the weights carried.  He clearly has plenty of pace and at this stage the JLT would seem a logical target for him where prices of 12/1 look generous enough if one is happy to play the guessing game!

 

ROAD TO RESPECT PROBABLY NOT GOLD CUP CLASS

On the same card there was a strong looking Grade 3 won by ROAD TO RESPECT (160).  The race was notable for the enterprising ride given to KILCARRY BRIDGE (149) who set relatively sedate fractions in trying to steal the race from the front.  As you can see from the sectionals there were as much as 9s slower than Death Duty for the same part of the course.  This was over 7f further, but goes some way towards showing the difference in pace…even weaker horses can then compete over a shorter sprint finish as Kilcarry Bridge was nearly able to do here.  They were half a second quicker from 3 out to the line than Death Duty was over the shorter trip.

Road To Respect won the Plate at Cheltenham last season before defeating Yorkhill in an extraordinary race at Fairyhouse.  I’d given him a figure of 164 in victory last year, and he didn’t quite match that here.  Still only six it is possible that he can step up but in a potentially vintage staying chase division he is on the second tier as things stand.

I’d been keen on the chances of SUB LIEUTENANT (152) beforehand who had clocked big numbers from me last season in defeat to top class rivals like Sizing John and Un De Sceaux.  A half-brother to Lord Windermere he seems to also have a liking for undulating tracks and I felt that it was worth another try at three miles for him.  Alas, it didn’t seem to work and it is time to abandon that ship and stick to 2.5miles with him and probably another go at the Ryanair.  He got to within a length and a half of Un De Sceaux in the race last year and can no doubt go well again.

MINELLA ROCCO (140) was sent off a short priced favourite here but never really landed a glove, probably not being suited by the slowish pace and fast finish.  He stayed on well in the Gold Cup last year to finish second and all roads presumably lead back to there….and then onto the Grand National.  In Phil Smith’s last year handicapping the race it’ll be interesting to see what mark the currently 166-rated horse ends up on!

 

PETIT MOUCHOIR A LIVE ARKLE CONTENDER IF HE CAN HANDLE THE COURSE

As if the Thursday wasn’t exciting enough for Gigginstown, the day beforehand they unleashed the top class hurdler PETIT MOUCHOIR (159) over fences for the first time.  As a general rule I tend to be a bit anti horses who stay another season over hurdles before chasing, but Petit Mouchoir was very impressive in victory here.  Unsurprisingly for a de Bromhead trained horse he jumped well throughout and saw off a couple of fair rivals in BRELADE (148) and BURGAS (137).

Petit Mouchoir A Sizing Network Difference
28.65 30.77 -2.12
45.51 48.81 -3.3
74.98 80.87 -5.89
88.35 94.54 -6.19
113.25 120.42 -7.17
128.66 136.29 -7.63
141.36 149.54 -8.18
172.84 180.54 -7.7
189.63 197.59 -7.96
214.64 224.06 -9.42
226.7 236.59 -9.89
238.64 249.44 -10.8

The other race on the card was won by A SIZING NETWORK (137) over 2m6.5f, but Petit Mouchoir showed the merit of his performance on the clock as you can see from the sectionals above.  Faster throughout the two races, he clocked a time 10.8s faster from the first flight on the two mile course.  Adjusting for the distances I reach a number of 159.

For a debut over fences this was top class and marks him down as an Arkle contender without question.  However, both runs at the festival have ended in defeats in 8th (Supreme) and 3rd (Champion Hurdle) and one would be wary about siding with him at a short enough price when his best form has come at a flat track like Leopardstown.

 

CAMPEADOR GETS THE WIN HE DESERVES

I haven’t held my breath for such a long time as when CAMPEADOR (154) headed down to the last at Punchestown on Wednesday.  Having fallen at the last when looking the winner in two big handicap hurdles previously it was nice to see the likeable grey get safely over this time and win.  And win in an impressive time!

Espoir D’Allen Campeador Cracking Smart Arctic Pearl
37.99 36.3 38.77 40.97
51.49 48.9 52.44 54.81
74.47 72.06 76.57 79.83
105.54 103.19 108.72 112.59
120.83 118.07 124.92 128.73
157.2 154.42 160.93 165.87
195.12 191.87 198.8 203.26
209.06 205.45 212.4 216.99

Of the four hurdle races run (two over half a mile further) he clocked the fastest overall time from the first flight by 3.5s and did so carrying 11st 12lbs.  Travelling well throughout this has to help his confidence after a horror fall when last seen.  I think he is still capable of better than this and it will be interesting to see if he can develop into a Champion Hurdle horse.  That said though, this strong traveller could be well suited by a race like the County.  Rated 145 prior to this he would likely end up with top weight in that race…but Arctic Fire managed to win the race this year off a big weight so don’t rule out the prospect of lightning striking twice.

Back in fourth was TULLY EAST (117) who won the novice handicap chase at the festival.  This had all the hallmarks of blowing the cobwebs away for the horse and he still looks potentially well handicapped over fences on 144 and surely goes for the BetVictor Gold Cup next.

 

ROMAIN DE SENAM NOT GOING TO BETVICTOR, BUT WILL BURTONS WELL?

On the subject of the Bet Victor Gold Cup, ROMAIN DE SENAM (151) defied a penalty to win for the second weekend running, this time at Stratford.  The manner of the victory wasn’t as eye-catching as last weekend but the clock still pointed to a decent number.

Romain De Senam Tara Mac Difference
22.33 23.02 -0.69
35.88 36.85 -0.97
63.87 66.75 -2.88
93.68 98.54 -4.86
130.11 136.91 -6.8
143.78 151.47 -7.69
156.05 164.36 -8.31
177.68 187.17 -9.49
190.47 200.56 -10.09
216.85 228.29 -11.44
244.95 257.92 -12.97
280.4 294.01 -13.61
294.94 309.71 -14.77

Comparing the race to the one won by Tara Mac over a furlong and a half further we can see that they clocked a time 14.77s faster from the first flight in the shorter race.  Even adjusting for the fact Romain De Senam was carrying 11lbs less this still arrives at a number of 151 for the winner.

I saw a tweet that said the horse had won as much in these two races as he would’ve done for finishing second in the BetVictor.  Nicholls is a master at placing horses and no doubt has an expected returns spreadsheet to aid him in placing his horses with such effect.  The horse is now due a lumpy jump up the handicap and although he is favourite for the race at Cheltenham it seems that isn’t on the cards.

The race may still provide a live contender for the BetVictor Gold Cup as BURTONS WELL (149) went down all guns blazing and did well to only go down by a neck to a rival that was near enough a stone well in.  A faller in the novice handicap at the festival this was an excellent comeback run and he can progress from it.  Venetia Williams went close with Aso in the big handicaps last year and looks to have another live contender this year with this horse.

 

CAPITAINE JUMPS INTO THE ARKLE PICTURE

This is an exciting time of year for jumps fans as some of the big names unleash novice chasers seemingly on a weekly basis.  CAPITAINE (158) was a well touted horse last year winning a Grade 2 at Ascot before going down to Finian’s Oscar in the Tolworth.  He looks to have stepped up a level now switched to chasing and put in a good time at Market Rasen to slam is rivals by 22 lengths.

Capitaine Sporting Boy Difference
10.16 10.31 -0.15
60.87 65.19 -4.32
69.71 74.73 -5.02
78.83 83.71 -4.88
126.9 133.46 -6.56
143.32 149.8 -6.48
155.53 161.96 -6.43
165.04 171.81 -6.77
213.1 221.07 -7.97
221.93 229.64 -7.71
230.5 238.48 -7.98
246.99 255.81 -8.82

The other race on the card was over 3miles, but Capitaine still clocked a time 8.82s quicker than some fair sorts in the longer race.

The next target muted was the Henry VII at Sandown and he must go there with a live chance, and looks a nice type for the Arkle where prices of 33/1 look generous.  Nicholls skipped the big festivals last year to give him time to develop and that decision looks to have paid dividends already.

 

THE NEW ONE WINS A CHAMPION HURDLE!

I’d love to own a horse like THE NEW ONE (164) that gets so much criticism yet wins just shy of a million pounds in his career!

Woolstone One Eragon De Chanay The New One
17.01 17.47 16.25
79.12 80.87 74.42
102.56 106.16 96.68
123.72 129.49 116.99
172.28 177.87 162.85
190.88 195.91 182.76
206.18 211.94 199.3
221.68 229.45 215.52

In winning the Welsh Champion Hurdle off a mark of 160, I have The New One running to the same sort of mark he has been for the last few years.  You can see how much faster they went in this race when compared to the other two races run over the same trip on the card.  Note that The New One carried more weight as well.

There isn’t much really to say about him though.  The Champion Hurdle would have to cut up in the extreme for him to have a chance, admirable though he is.  The fact that he clocked such a good time here on desperate ground would imply that a step up in trip is within his compass though.  But the mighty Nichols Canyon lies in wait in the staying division so there probably isn’t much to be gained going that way either!

 

WEST APPROACH FOLLOWS IN THE FAMILY FOOTSTEPS

Whilst Thistlecrack takes steps back on the road to recovery, it was nice to see his half-brother WEST APPROACH (158) make a nice start over fences at Ffos Las.

West Approach Patricks Park Difference
12.59 12.52 0.07
61.34 61.14 0.2
74.1 74.4 -0.3
87.79 88.09 -0.3
101.86 102.01 -0.15
158.61 162.07 -3.46
170.82 174.46 -3.64
182.94 186.74 -3.8
195.46 199.2 -3.74
207.51 211.91 -4.4
251.32 260.21 -8.89
263.76 273.51 -9.75
277.23 286.65 -9.42
291.22 299.77 -8.55
305.42 313.19 -7.77

Comparing the performance to the other race over 2m5f on the card won by Patricks Park, we can see that the winner clocked a time 7.77s faster. They were 4.4s ahead before the long run into the straight and the came home even faster from there.  This was an excellent debut from the winner and shows that he has translated his ability over hurdles to the larger obstacles.

He had similar strong travelling mannerisms to his brother, and I’d be inclined to stick to 2.5miles with him at this stage.  And he did have a tendency to run down his fences to the left, but this was still an excellent start and he can go on from here.

CHEPSTOW REVIEW

FINIAN’S OSCAR DESTINED FOR THE TOP

The novice chase at Chepstow on Saturday has been won by Cue Card and Thistlecrack in previous runnings, and Colin Tizzard unleashed another potential star in FINIAN’S OSCAR (148+) in this year’s renewal.

There were three chases run on the card, with the other two over the near three mile trip.  The sectionals as timed from the first jump in the novice chase were:

Finian’s Oscar Rock The Kasbah Definitly Grey
11.71 12.45 12.32
25.52 26.95 26.71
35.77 37.67 36.89
46.59 49.18 48.52
115.17 122.72 121.38
125.2 133.15 132.17
132.97 140.97 140.02
144.95 153.22 152.02
158.14 166.7 165.66
169.05 177.53 176.81
221.32 228.71 230.13
233.93 239.79 242.25
249.26 252.81 256
261.04 262.59 265.82
274.3 273.68 277.06
292.28 290.06 295.04

Settled at the back of the four runner field by his new pilot, Bryan Cooper, Finian’s Oscar struck me as a professional enough jumper for his first run over fences, and he was given a nice education by Cooper.  At one stage he was ten lengths or so off the leading pair but once encouraged he picked up the leader AINTREE MY DREAM (133) fairly readily and travelled all over him up the straight to win eased down.

The fact he was eased down presents a bit of a conundrum in trying to accurately rate him.  Even with that he clocked a time just 2.22s slower than Rock The Kasbah, and a quicker time than Definitly Grey.  But he was so far in ascendancy at one point (8 or 9s ahead of both), and still seemed to have so much left in the tank at the end that I’ve upgraded him a fair bit to arrive at a mark of 148.

It was no secret that he was a potential top notch novice chaser, but he impressed me here on his debut.  The end of season choice would seem to be between the Arkle and the JLT… Coming from the family of Champion Chase winner Finian’s Rainbow and the way he picked up decent horses here suggests there is plenty of pace in his make-up so I can see connections going for the shorter race.  With his point to point background though his long term future is probably the 2019 Gold Cup and I wonder if he could follow Kicking King, War Of Attrition and Sizing John in finishing runner-up in the Arkle and then going onto Gold Cup glory?

 

ROCK THE KASBAH STARTS TO FULFIL POTENTIAL

The other performance of note on the chase front was from ROCK THE KASBAH (152) who won the handicap chase off a mark of 142 in a nice style.  He clocked a time 5s quicker than the winner of the other race over the same distance, but it was the impressive finish that caught my eye.  Up to seven out they clocked roughly the same time of around 177s, but from there Rock The Kasbah came home 6s quicker.  Adjusting for this points to a nice performance from the winner that goes some way towards fulfilling his potential.  He was carrying 15lbs less than the winner of the other race but this still merited a number 10lbs higher than the mark he won off.

I notice he has been raised to a mark of 149 as a result of this win.  He can still pose a threat off that mark should connections elect to go for the Ladbroke Gold Cup at Newbury.  Though considering he has good form here at Chepstow and on soft ground, the Welsh National has to be tempting for connections.  He’ll need to find some more improvement…but that is certainly possible for the seven year old.

 

WINNERS GALORE FROM THIS HURDLE RACE!!!

COURT MINSTREL (147) won the Silver Trophy for the second time at the age of 10.  He had dropped to a nice mark, and with the ground in his favour and his excellent jockey claiming 7lbs he was able to get his head in front ahead of SAM SPINNER (140).  However, it is the preceding race also won by Mitch Bastyan that I think is seriously worth following.

Silver Streak Court Minstrel Difference
72.1 71.83 0.27
88.73 88.82 -0.09
102.45 102.63 -0.18
174.39 175.78 -1.39
185.78 186.92 -1.14
196.17 197.09 -0.92
215.41 215.93 -0.52
227.33 228.39 -1.06

SILVER STREAK (142) won the race in fine style, travelling well before pulling 4.5 lengths away from DOLOS (150).  As you can see from the sectionals above, he clocked a time just over a second quicker from the first flight.  Adjusting for the lower weight carried and distance run and looking at the other races on the card I reach a number of 142 for the winner.  He was winning here off a mark of just 122, and has only been put up to 130.  I was interested to see his trainer talk about the Greatwood Hurdle as a potential target, and he would certainly be of interest there should he get in.  He looks on an upward curve, and ahead of his new mark.

DOLOS (150) seemed to get outpaced at the end by the winner and despite the fact he has yet to be successful beyond two miles he looks worth trying up in trip.  On pedigree he could well improve for it and he looks well ahead of his mark of 135.

FLASHING GLANCE (140) won a Stratford novice by 20 lengths in September, and has some smart bumper form in behind Irish Prophecy, Cap Soleil and Pym.  He is another worth following.

FIDUX (141), DINO VELVET (133) and PERCY STREET (130) all look capable of winning from their marks.  The two Alan King horses perhaps needed the run, and Percy Street looks well handicapped on the best of his flat form.  Having been gelded recently, Henderson is just the trainer to unlock the potential that looked to be there when he travelled well in the Fred Winter.

 

ROMAIN DE SENAM HAS TO GO FOR BETVICTOR GOLD CUP

Paul Nicholls wasn’t the only one devastated when ROMAIN DE SENAM (148) didn’t get into the novice handicap chase at the festival, as I’d made him one of the best bets of the week for that race.  Alas, there was some recompense as he slammed his rivals on Sunday at Chepstow from a mark of 133.

Mia’s Storm Bob Ford Romain De Senam
12.66 12.2 11.44
26.93 26.92 25.43
37.47 37.7 35.82
48.89 49.32 47.07
122.16 119.94 117.63
132.29 130.44 127.85
140.36 138.52 135.77
152.37 150.68 147.8
166.03 165.02 161.58
177.23 176.43 172.65
226.75 227.93 223.15
237.62 239.48 234.03
250.4 253 247.43
260.17 263.37 257.68
270.66 274.43 268.58
285.17 290.49 284.85

 

The other two chases on the card were over 4f further than this race, and Romain De Senam unsurprisingly was able to clock a faster time than both the other winners even after being well eased in the closing stages.

I was somewhat surprised to hear that the BetVictor Gold Cup wasn’t being considered for the winner.  It looks the obvious race, and assuming he goes up to a mark of around 142 after this and with further improvement he must have a big chance for the race.  Nicholls mentioned that he may not have sufficient experience, but this was his 8th run over fences….he just has to go for the race (unless the owner has another candidate, which I’ll come to later!)

DOUBLE SHUFFLE (157) was well beaten by the pacier winner, but this was a fine comeback run for him.  Back up in trip to another go at three miles and I think he can land a nice prize this year even from his mark of 151.

 

MIA’S STORM AN APPROPRIATE WINNER

With hurricanes hitting the British Isles it seemed MIA’S STORM (145) was an appropriately named winner of the novice chase on the card.  As we saw from the sectional’s the time she clocked was only just behind Romain De Senam despite the longer trip and carrying 6lbs more.  She was a progressive hurdler last year but looks to have kicked on again now moving to the bigger obstacles.  Unbeaten on good ground, she could be one to bear in mind for better ground in the spring should she get turned over on a softer surface over the winter months.

ELEGANT ESCAPE (149) has been a well touted horse having been beaten in his point to point days by the hype machine Samcro.  Now moved to the bigger obstacles he made an excellent debut here and looks a nice prospect for novice chasing, perhaps an RSA type, with stablemate Finian’s Oscar likelier to thrive at shorter trips.

 

GUMBALL A TRIUMPH HURDLE PROSPECT

Seeing a Terry Warner owned, Phillip Hobbs trained grey stirs the emotions as one reminisces about the mighty Detroit City.  And it looks like connections have another fine prospect in GUMBALL (136).

Gumball Poetic Rhythm Misterton
75.79 70.22 70.17
92.46 86.49 86.39
106.06 99.89 99.26
179.47 172.06 172.57
191.33 184 184.49
201.64 195.44 194.91
220.48 215.57 214.55
233.06 228.45 227.45

They clocked the slowest time in this race, as you can see above, but most of this can be accounted for at the start of the race, and perhaps explains the winners scratchy and clumsy jumping.  In a stronger run race he should jump better, as he had done on debut, and he looks a fine Triumph Hurdle prospect at this stage.

The runner-up MALAYA (126) had a fair reputation from France but was no match for the winner here.  She should step up from this and looks a nice prospect herself.

SPEEDO BOY (104) is an interesting horse from the flat where he has been rated as high as 100.  He bumped into two smart horses here and if connections place him right he could end up on a nice mark for the Fred Winter.

 

VISION DES FLOS LOOKS ANOTHER NICE PROSEPECT FOR TIZZARD & POTTS

POETIC RHYTHM (142) won the novice hurdle in fine style, but it was the third placed horse VISION DES FLOS (136) that is the one to take out of the race.  The winner and runner-up were having their fifth and ninth starts over hurdles, yet Vision Des Flos travelled well in the race and just looked in need of the run here.  He should step up nicely from this and be on the scene in the big end of season novice hurdles.  This race was 3.5f further than the other two races on the card, yet they clocked a time just a second slower than the race won by Misterton.

 

COULD OLDGRANGEWOOD BE THE REASON ROMAIN DE SENAM ISN’T BETVICTOR GOLD CUP BOUND?!

MISTERTON (144) won the final hurdle race on the card in a good time but it was the horse in third, OLDGRANGEWOOD (144) that caught the eye.  He travelled well, but looked to get a bit outpaced at the end of the race and perhaps also in need of the run (was a drifter on the day)  He was just 5 lengths behind Cloudy Dream at Ayr over 2.5miles at the end of last season and looks dangerously handicapped on a mark of 147.  The benefit of this run, and going back up to 2.5miles should see improvement as should moving back over the larger obstacles.

With Nicholls so quick to dismiss the BetVictor Gold Cup in the aftermath of the race for Romain De Senam, I wonder if the owner has the race in mind for Oldgrangewood already!