CAMPING GROUND A THREAT IN STAYERS HURDLE…IF HE STAYS

When looking at the racing ahead of today I was expecting to write a glowing report on Any Second Now in the novice hurdle at Naas.  More on that race in a bit though, as the star performance of the whole weekend on the clock was put up by CAMPING GROUND (172) in the National Spirit Hurdle at Fontwell.

Leading from the off Camping Ground set a blistering pace that he maintained all the way to the line to win by 29lengths from LE ROCHER (135), giving him 8lbs.  I tend to be instinctively sceptical of these sort of results but I can find no other way to interpret this apart from as a monstrous performance from the winner.  You can see the scale of his dominance in the comparative sectionals of the two other hurdle races on the card as timed from the first jump in the race.

Camping Ground Crystal Lad Seas Of Green
13.21 14.89 14.93
60.39 66.1 66.84
79.84 86.84 87.88
119.78 126.64 128.51
133.62 141.11 143.04
181.58 189.9 193.15
200.16 209.17 213.19
237.29 246.35 252.9
251.86 260.83 267.98
268.97 278.61 285.66

 

He got to 3 out 9s quicker than the winner of the handicap hurdle over the same distance, and ran on from there with the handicap hurdle unable to make any inroads into his time.  Furthermore he did this carrying 1lb shy of a stone more in weight.  Make no mistake, the clock backs up the visual impression that this was a huge performance from the winner.

The question is where does he go from here?  He ran a similarly eye-catching race when winning the Relkeel Hurdle just over a year ago, but never really repeated that run.  He has now switched yards from Robert Walford to Gary Moore and seemingly been reinvigorated by the move.  There is though additional evidence that given the right conditions Camping Ground is very much a reliable performer.

Whilst connections felt he was a chaser in the making he has yet to convince in that field, so if we toss out his runs over fences we can perhaps get a better gauge on him.  Furthermore, horses who tend to run like him, i.e fairly headstrong and keen tend to take a lot out of themselves and are best fresh.  If we focus on his runs over hurdles and look at his first 2 runs after a break of 8 weeks or more he suddenly looks like a much more reliable individual.  He has run under such conditions 7 times in his career and won six of them, his only defeat when finishing a two lengths fourth under top weight in a red-hot renewal of the Imperial Cup (Thistlecrack was fifth) over a trip probably short of his best.  Also, his best run over fences came when second to Josses Hill on his comeback run this season, so this emphasises the need for him to be fresh to be at his best.   This run was off the back of an 8 week break, so he could have just about enough left in the tank for another big run.

He has two entries for Cheltenham, namely the Stayer’s Hurdle and Coral Cup.  He was rated 152 prior to winning this, and you’d imagine he’s going to be hiked up back into the 160s for this performance (previously rated 163).  This would leave him with top weight in the Coral Cup and giving up a lot of weight to the field, so you would presumably rule that out.  On this run he has to be a viable threat to Unowhatimeanharry in the Stayer’s Hurdle…the one question mark being the trip.  His previous runs over 3 miles have seen him well beaten in the Cleeve and falling over fences.  However, he wasn’t fresh enough to perform in that Cleeve Hurdle and was going well when falling in his effort over fences, so I wouldn’t rule it out altogether.  His pedigree wouldn’t scream out that he is destined for 3 miles to be at his best, but he won well at Cheltenham on heavy ground in the Relkeel over 2m4.5f so it is possible he will stay.

They could of course elect to skip Cheltenham and go for the Aintree hurdle over two and a half miles, he will be fresh there and the trip will suit.  But if he settles and stays and is fresh enough he can be a major threat in the Stayer’s Hurdle.

 

The disappointing performance of the day came in the novice hurdle, where ANY SECOND NOW (127) and JOEY SASA (122) fairly disappointed behind FORGE MEADOW (122).  The winner was entitled to win here having run well in a red hot renewal of the Royal Bond, and getting weight from the second and third.  However the time of the race shows how much they underperformed.

Morgan Adreamsstillalive Forge Meadow
16.76 16.49 15.16
66.05 65.75 63.99
97.28 96.5 96.06
138.23 136.78 136.93
155 152.91 152.79
190.19 187.41 186.78
204.5 202.18 202.12
220.37 217.49 218.84

 

The three hurdle races were happily run over the same distance, and surprisingly it was the handicap hurdle than yielded the fastest time of the three…and there were no excuses in pace of the races to explain this.  Either the handicap hurdle is a fertile spring for future winners or the other two races featured grossly under par performances from the winners.  I’ve gone for somewhere between the two.

I wouldn’t give up on Any Second Now, he put up excellent performances on the clock before and perhaps didn’t like the heavier ground here.  He may also be already after a step up in trip, and I still view him as a top class prospect for novice chasing next season, with the RSA appealing as a target for him with plenty of stamina in his pedigree.  This would also enable him to avoid the same owners Sutton Place, and also Apple’s Jade.

ADREAMSTILLALIVE (125) won the handicap hurdle on the card off a mark of 107.  The time was the best of the three races run, although he was only carry 10st 8lbs.  But this is a race to bear in mind for future winners in lower grade handicap hurdles.

 

Over fences EDWULF (158) put up an impressive display to slam a decent field include perennial runner-up SPACE CADET (137).  Jumping much better than previously he won comfortably and has a few targets at Cheltenham with the four miler the seemingly most likely.

The sectionals for the three chase races were as follows, with ALISIER D’IRLANDE (150) going off like a scalded cat before tiring late on, but still holding off PAIROFBROWNEYES (136).

Edwulf Alisier D’Irlande Mick The Jiver
16.73 15.17 17.2
69.25 64.71 71.76
93.95 88.74 96.81
113.34 107.13 116.42
149.1 143.52 154.31
163.05 156.88 168.26
178.01 172.71 184.71
211.3 208.42 220.64
227.93 226.53 236.5
251.09 251.13 257.81

 

As you can see, ALISIER D’IRLANDE (150) ran from the first to four out, 6.17s quicker than EDWULF (158) did over the equivalent distance, before tiring late on.  From that point Edwulf made up all of the time, and when adjusting for this and the weight and trip, it points to a big performance from him.  His mother won over 3 miles, so going up in trip should suit, and the four miler would seem a fairly logical proposal as he is handicapped out of the Kim Muir, and probably not good enough for the RSA.  SPACE CADET (137) ran a good race and is capable of landing a weak handicap should he drop in grade.

As said already, Alisier D’Irlande did his usual thing of running off out in front at a brisk pace, and in this instance managed to hold on.  He’s a good horse at this level and can dominate small fields should conditions be in his favour.  The runner-up is an admirable horse, having put in some excellent performances this season and deserves to win a big race.  PAIROFBROWNEYES (136) is entered in the Grand Annual and definitely comes into the equation off his current mark of 139.  It depends what the handicapper does with him, but he can certainly be competitive there as he is better than his mark for sure.

 

DID WE SEE THE GRAND NATIONAL WINNER AT KEMPTON? AND SOME INTERESTING HURDLERS ON BOTH SIDES OF THE IRISH SEA….

The BetBright Chase was run at a decent pace with the winner PILGRIMS BAY (135) held up out the back and fairly cruising through the field on the bridle to win a shade cosily at the line.  The winner clearly prospers from a strongly run race, with his only win before switching yards coming in a 16 runner handicap hurdle at Wincanton.  However, it was the performance of runner-up DOUBLE SHUFFLE (154) that caught my eye.

The sectionals for each race over fences as timed for from the first in the 2.5m contests were as follows:

Frodon

Pilgrims Bay Sir Note
11.84 12.37 11.77
25.31 25.94 24.97
35.64 36.57 35.18
69.84 71.59 70.62
82.81 84.78 83.92
96.31 98.76 97.91
140.2 142.59 142.06
149.85 152.28 151.19
187.32 189.21

187.77

199.18 201.07 199.58
212.28 214.43 212.94
222.45 224.72 223.35
254.43 257.41 259.97
267.09 270.26 273.36
281.32 283.89 287.37
292.29 293.84 298.65

 

PILGRIMS BAY (135) won the race nearly 5s quicker than the winner of the half mile shorter handicap chase later on the card, and was only 1.5s behind Frodon who won the Grade 2 Pendil Chase.  Adjusting for the different weights and distances, and the fact the last chase was run in deteriorating conditions points to a number of 135 for Pilgrims Bay.  Clearly this was an all-time best performance for the horse, who has transferred to Neil Mulhollands yard from David Pipe.  He travelled so well through this race that I wouldn’t rule him out going in again should he tackle another big field handicap, though he is clearly quirky….he is in the Ultima Handicap chase on day 1 of Cheltenham.

The runner-up DOUBLE SHUFFLE (154) raced much more prominently, and in fact took up the running once Cocktails At Dawn departed the race.  He made a shuddering mistake three fences out but regained momentum to power home and finish second off a mark of 149 carrying 11st 7lbs, giving 19lbs to the winner.  I confess to not being a huge fan of the horse previously, but it would seem that the key to him is a flat track (all his wins have been on such tracks) and now stepping up in trip seems to be bringing out the best in him.  Tom George ruled out running at Cheltenham and the target is to go straight to the National, where he runs off the same mark he ran off here, and assuming the weights go up about 4lbs will carry a traditionally nice weight of 10st 11lbs.  He is the brother to a point to point winner, and from the family of Eider Chase winner Nil Desperandum so there is plenty of cause for optimism regarding the marathon trip.  His style of racing prominently should suit the race and his price of 66/1 for the National makes plenty of appeal for a confirmed runner in the race who is likely still ahead of his mark. Despite his error 3 out he is a sound jumper, and could be marked higher still considering that mistake.

THEATRE GUIDE (155) ran another exemplary race as he always seems to do but is probably handicapped to his best now.  Similarly ASO (154) who ran a good race in his first attempt at 3miles, he is probably one to bear in mind for a handicap chase next season on soft ground.  The other horse of note was THREE MUSKETEERS (151) who was running an eye catching race before making a mistake down the back and dropping back through the field, before staying on towards the finish.  The Skeltons have always thought highly of this horse, and 3 mile chases should suit as he is from the family of Hennessy winner Strong Flow.  All his wins have come in small fields though, and the fact he wears cheekpieces backs up the view that he will be better in such races.  Seemingly likely to sidestep Cheltenham, he could be one to bear in mind for the Aintree Bowl over 3 miles should they get a small field.  His performance on the clock in the JLT last year still makes me think there is more under the bonnet.

In the Grade 2 Pendil Chase, FRODON (152) won his sixth race of the season over fences, and put up a strong performance on the clock. Still only a five year old, he would look open to some progress from this sort of mark, though he could be difficult to place as he doesn’t scream out to be a 3 mile chaser and he could be one for middle distance Grade 2 chases such as this.

The hurdle races on the Kempton card revolved around CHARLI PARCS (130) who was running a strange race before falling 2 out in the Adonis hurdle.  Pushed along down the back, he looked to be coming back on the bridle before falling.  I have rated him as if just being beaten by the winner MASTER BLUEYES (131) who was going through the race much better, but I admit that is conjecture, and he could’ve won but Charli Parcs had beaten the winner comfortably here last time they met, and should’ve been able to win this easily based off that run.  Should he appear at all at Cheltenham he would still be of interest based on the impression of his UK debut win.  The winner would be one more for the Fred Winter for me.

The best hurdle performance at Kempton on the clock ending up coming from RIVER WYLDE (148) who won the Dovecote 2.2s quicker than the juvenile hurdle over the same trip when timed from the first flight, with the difference coming from 3 out having got there in roughly the same time.

River Frost Master Blueyes River Wylde
14.59 14.71 14.39
63.69 65.05 64.08
72.98 74.56 73.32
116.05 116.15 115.44
139.11 138.65 138.46
186.54 186.1 183.76
201.1 199.75 197.26
215.65 213.87 211.65

 

River Wylde put up a decent performance here, he was getting weight from the runner-up ELGIN (148) and whilst both are admirable novices, it would have to be sub-standard renewals of the novice hurdles at Cheltenham for either to win and they would be perhaps of more interest in handicap hurdles in the future.  Elgin was of course beaten by Neon Wolf, who has to be one of the leading contenders for whatever race he ends up in at Cheltenham.

RIVER FROST (141) won the opening handicap hurdle, where they went a stronger pace to start with before tiring slightly over the longer trip than the Graded races, as you can see from the sectionals above.  The winner looks set to miss Cheltenham but is probably on the upgrade and one to bear in mind for another handicap hurdle.

The best hurdle performance on Saturday though came at Fairyhouse where EX-PATRIOT (149) had the race taken away and awarded to DENARIA DES OBEAUX (142) in the steward’s room.

Ex-Patriot Peace N’ Milan Presenting Percy
46 47.83 48.82
61.29 63.29 64.53
111.17 115.82 115.82
141.75 148.13 146.99
173.1 181.71 179.71
205.79 216.23 213.43
224.59 234.58 232.31
238.75 248.71 245.69

 

As you can see from the sectionals taken for the equivalent 2 mile sections of each race, Ex-Patriot clocked by far the fastest time.  This would be expected as it was over half a mile shorter, but even adjusting for this it points to a decent performance from the “winner”.  It also pays a complement to the form of the Spring Juvenile won by Mega Fortune.  I think these two horses are probably towards the top of the second tier of juvenile hurdlers.  Ex-Patriot was giving weight to Denaria Des Obeaux here and could be a live contender for the Fred Winter considering he was only rated 132 before winning this.  Denaria Des Obeaux put up a visually impressive performance on debut, before running well in the Spring Juvenile and making a horror error three out.  Getting 7lbs in the Triumph could give her an outside chance, but Mega Fortune, Bapaume and especially Defi De Seuil should still have enough to beat her.

LIMINI WOULD GO CLOSE IN THE CHAMPION HURDLE, APPLE’S JADE A FUTURE CHASING STAR

Today saw the return of LIMINI (156) in an all too rare high profile clash between herself and APPLE’S JADE (154) in the race won by Annie Power last year.  Despite going off a short priced favourite, Apple’s Jade was firmly put in her place by Limini, though she may have set the race up for the winner by setting a strong enough pace.

There were three hurdle races on the card run over the 2m4f distance of this race, the time for each race timed from the first hurdle to the finish were as follows, with the time Limini was ahead of each race shown alongside:

Limini Mossback Graphic Legacy Mossback Graphic Legacy
28.44 28.77 30.2 -0.33 -1.76
46.41 46.61 48.52 -0.2 -2.11
72.02 74.02 75.88 -2 -3.86
103.19 107.41 109.04 -4.22 -5.85
127.31 132.59 134.38 -5.28 -7.07
167.57 174.29 176.39 -6.72 -8.82
195.27 202.99 205.02 -7.72 -9.75
212.39 220.77 222.52 -8.38 -10.13
238.2 245.44 248.47 -7.24 -10.27
253.88 260.15 264.07 -6.27 -10.19
283.54 290.14 295.91 -6.6 -12.37
297.89 306.33 314.2 -8.44 -16.31

 

As you can see, they went a much faster pace in the mare’s race, before steadying the pace around 4 out, before Limini fairly motored home from the last.  She clocked 14.35s from the last jump to the finish, with the next best being 16.07s run by Kilfenora in the shorter 2 mile race that opened the card.  It was very impressive to show such a turn of foot on this ground.

Apple’s Jade was on the pace all the way and in my view set the race up to an extent for the winner who travelled well in behind and was able to show a better turn of foot to scoot away after the final hurdle.  I wouldn’t rule her out overturning this form should the two meet again.

Limini herself would go close in the Champion Hurdle should connections in the end elect to supplement her.  Getting 7lbs from the rest of the field would put her right in amongst them based on this running, and given it was her first run back there would be scope for some progression from this.  Indeed she seemed to surprise connections with her performance, so you would have to think they have left something to work on.   She certainly seems to have an affinity for undulating tracks with her only defeat on one coming at Punchestown last season after having run at both Cheltenham and Aintree beforehand.

Apple’s Jade would also have a good chance in the Champion Hurdle with the weight concession for mares.  I think both horses are capable of running better than the marks I have allotted them today and with that in mind they would run with big chances in the big one in March.  The Gigginstown horse though looks an exciting chasing prospect, more so than the winner and she is one certainly to look forward to next season.  From a selfish point of view I would perhaps elect to skip Cheltenham altogether, run at Aintree where she was so impressive last season and then put her away for novice chasing and a potentially mouth-watering clash with Sutton Place!

SUTTON PLACE A FUTURE STAR, JUST HOW GOOD IS ACAPELLA BOURGEOIS AND THE REST OF THE WEEKEND…

There was a plethora of racing over the weekend so let me focus on a couple of the big horses.  The obvious place to start is with SUTTON PLACE (163), who fairly romped away with the Grade 2 Boyne Hurdle at Navan on Sunday.  The sectionals in the four hurdle races ran are shown here, with the cumulative times taken for the equivalent 2 mile sections in the table after.

Miss Mardan Sutton Place Mad Brian Miles To Memphis
16.89
21.58 23.27
63.75 67.23
12.89 12.34 12.5 12.76
18.38 18.54 19.06 19.08
37.84 37.87 37.1 39.27
28.46 28.29 28.69 28.97
16.8 16.05 15.9 16.57
21.94 22.74 21.93 23.1
62.88 59.55 59.76 61.03
10.96 10.78 11.81 11.55
16.36 15.77 17.64 16.47
17.39 15.65 18.65 17.09

 

Miss Mardan Sutton Place Mad Brian Miles To Memphis
12.89 12.34 12.5 12.76
31.27 30.88 31.56 31.84
69.11 68.75 68.66 71.11
97.57 97.04 97.35 100.08
114.37 113.09 113.25 116.65
136.31 135.83 135.18 139.75
199.19 195.38 194.94 200.78
210.15 206.16 206.75 212.33
226.51 221.93 224.39 228.8
243.9 237.58 243.04 245.89

 

As you can see Sutton Place clocked by far the fastest time for the 2 mile section.  This is hardly surprising considering the average fayre of the other races but it was the manner of his victory that was most impressive.  He came home from 3 out in 42.2s, with the next best time 44.71s recorded by Miss Mardan, and it wasn’t as if they went a slow pace in the Boyne Hurdle….they in fact clocked the second fastest time to that point (195.38s).  Furthermore, Sutton Place was only fractionally cajoled into the straight and fairly cruised up to DE PLOTTING SHED (157) and with one crack of the whip bolted away from his rivals.  I would say he is capable of a fair bit better than the number I have given him here, in fact I gave him a bigger number in his previous victory.  To this day I will never understand why they didn’t run him in the Betfair Hurdle, I guess connections thought they had the race covered with Movewiththetimes.  If this horse ran in the Champion Hurdle I would fancy him but it sounds as if that won’t be on the cards.  Either way he is a top prospect for novice chasing next year.

 

There was a somewhat controversial renewal of the Ten Up Novice won by ACAPELLA BOURGEOIS (142), with him seemingly strolling away from some decent rivals to record a remarkable 32 length winning margin.  The clock provides some insight into the renewal, though the only comparison available on the day is the 3 runner novice chase over a shorter trip where the favourite fell.  The sectionals for the equivalent 2m1f sections are as follows:

Ball D’Arc Acapella Bourgeois Ball D’Arc Acapella Bourgeois Difference
20.8 21.35 20.8 21.35 0.55
18.57 19.26 39.37 40.61 1.24
33.57 35.57 72.94 76.18 3.24
30.34 31.72 103.28 107.9 4.62
11.14 11.8 114.42 119.7 5.28
12.97 13.29 127.39 132.99 5.6
24.98 26.05 152.37 159.04 6.67
25.75 25.31 178.12 184.35 6.23
30.24 29.47 208.36 213.82 5.46
18.98 19.69 227.34 233.51 6.17
18.08 18.65 245.42 252.16 6.74
12.62 12.01 258.04 264.17 6.13

 

As you can see, Acapella Bourgeois was always around 5-6s behind BALL D’ARC (153).  Adjusting this for the relative difference in distances points to a number of 142 for Acapella Bourgeois.  However, considering that both horses were seemingly under little pressure to record these figures I wanted to get a better handle on Acapella Bourgeois.  Happily, his last run was over the same course, albeit over 4 furlongs shorter last month.

Feb Jan Difference
27.41 27.54 -0.13
60.72 59.88 0.84
82.07 81.95 0.12
101.33 101.99 -0.66
136.9 137.59 -0.69
168.62 170.33 -1.71
180.42 182.06 -1.64
193.71 195.35 -1.64
219.76 221.11 -1.35
245.07 246.78 -1.71
274.54 276.71 -2.17
294.23 296.97 -2.74
312.88 316.28 -3.4
324.89 328.93 -4.04

 

As you can see, he was clocking faster sectionals this weekend, and this was done on softer ground and a longer trip….but carrying 9lbs less.  Adjusting for all of this I rate him 10lbs better than his run in January, putting him on the same number 142.  So, I am happy to go with this figure for this performance.  He is though clearly capable of better considering how well he travelled here and does rate a solid chaser on soft or heavy ground…though he would likely bump into Our Duke in such conditions who would be in a different league altogether.

It follows then to ask just what were the other jockeys doing….horses like Haymount and Anibale Fly should’ve been able to lay up with the winner comfortably here and the conclusion has to be that they gave the winner too much of a lead.

 

JEZKI (148) was beaten in the Red Mills Hurdle by TOMBSTONE (152), and would now look likely to go for the Stayers Hurdle at Cheltenham.  He hated the heavy ground here and would be a different prospect back on better ground.  That said though, I only gave him a mark of 155 for his comeback win and the conclusion would have to be that he is just not the horse he was.

BACHASSON (152) won an interesting Beginners Chase at Gowran, travelling well and easily winning this race from some decent horses.  The winner himself was a decent novice hurdler and got off the mark here over fences impressively, though connections seemed unsure as to his Cheltenham prospects.  There were three races over fences over the same trip and Bachasson clocked the slowest time of the 3 but they went much slower in this race as shown in the table below:

Bachasson Ballycasey Killaro Boy
15.7 14.45 14.12
34.35 31.61 31.55
91.58 83.02 84.42
104.23 94.69 97.65
114.4 104.37 108.65
174.58 161.95 167.19
188.56 176.19 181.8
203.02 190.97 195.62
217.59 206.63 210.79
235.3 226.04 228.8
285.85 280.84 280.68
296.68 292.63 292.7
305.48 302.58 303.51
318.35 315.63 317.59

 

They ran to 6 out in 203.02s here, much slower than the other two races, but came home from there in 115.33s, 9.33s quicker than BALLYCASEY (154) over the same distance.  Bachasson is capable of stepping up from this and rates yet another strong Irish novice chaser.

There were a couple of horses to note in behind, namely MALL DINI (136) and JETT (129).  It would seem to be a rather poorly kept secret that Mall Dini is a dark horse for handicaps at the festival and his chances are obvious considering his Pertemps win over 3m on good ground, wherever he runs at Cheltenham he is of interest.  Like his full brother Jezki, Jett fairly hated the heavy ground here and considering that his run was impressive, and it was nice to see him travel well enough but not being able to pick up in the ground.  He ran a huge number in behind the awesome Yorkhill last time out, and back on better ground he is a top class novice chaser that one shouldn’t ignore.  He is 50/1 for his only entry at the festival, the JLT chase and he is much better than that and the place part of that would be of interest.  Equally, if he ran in the 2.5m handicap chase on the same day he would be way ahead of whatever mark Phil Smith chooses to give him.

 

In Britain there was a key Grand National trial run at Haydock and won by VIEUX LION ROUGE (155), who beat BLAKLION (158) over 3m4.5f.  Comparing this with the other chases on the card over the equivalent 20f distance they all covered the sectionals are as follows:

Vieux Lion Rouge Captain Redhead Wonderful Charm
11.6 11.06 11.79
42.16 41.98 44.63
15.39 15.07 16.16
14.09 14.02 14.66
14.69 14.67 15.14
52.94 53.16 53.85
12.74 12.5 12.7
12.48 12.37 12.9
11.83 12.37 12.08
11.47 11.47 11.54
40.72 41.86 42.53
15.27 14.74 15.87
15.15 13.93 14.1
16.53 14.14 14.84
15.49 14.68 14.73

 

They went a good pace in the Grand National trial before understandably tiring towards the end over 8.5f further.  Adjusting for this and the weights points to a strong performance by both the winner and runner up, who would both look to have about 6lbs in hand on their national marks based on this run.  I would’ve thought there will be something better handicapped but they are both likeable sorts who should run well in the big race.

AQUA DUDE (142) travelled like much the best horse in the novice handicap chase before going down by the narrowest of margins to the ultra tough CAPTAIN REDBEARD (143).  Depending on what the handicapper does (they were 20 lengths clear of the third), they would be of interest should they sneak into the novice handicap chase at Cheltenham.  Aqua Dude especially is certainly well handicapped (ran here off 130).

WONDERFUL CHARM (131) fairly cruised away with the Foxhunters Chase and is well fancied for the Cheltenham equivalent.  I remember in previous years, connections being convinced he needed a flat track to be at his best so that would be a concern even given his obvious class in this sphere.

Over hurdles at Haydock there some interesting runs.  DADSINTROUBLE (144) won the Pertemps from BIG RIVER (141), and THEO’S CHARM (146).  All three look progressive and capable of running well in the equivalent race in March.  They ran a good time in comparison to the other races on the card when timed from the first hurdle (though there is a long run to this which I have accounted for).

Zarkandar Dad’s In Trouble The World’s End
14.32 14.86 14.06
35.76 36.5 35.19
83.53 83.53 83.28
98.39 98.28 97.24
112.66 112.44 111.26
170.88 171.81 169.8
184.84 185.91 183.38
205.94 206.72 204.4
251.63 251.59 250.14
264.95 264.99 263.88
278.78 278.42 278.3
299.36 299.52 300.22

 

As you can see, the three races over the same trip were ran remarkably similarly and so the Pertemps runners come out well and worth bearing in mind in the Cheltenham version.

ZARKANDAR (152) has been around for it seems a lifetime, and is best fresh as he was here.  He is capable of running this sort of solid figure and could pick up another soft race when lined up for one.  AUX PTITS SOINS (148) hasn’t lived up to the hype Nicholls has lavished on him, and remains a frustrating horse.  He’s always run to this sort of number, but if anyone can unlock the potential in him it is Nicholls.  AGRAPART (156) has long been a horse I’ve loved, though probably prefers softer ground…he comes out the best horse at the weights here and if it was a bog at Cheltenham he could run a big race when others might not fancy it so much.

THE WORLD’S END (146) won the novice hurdle on the card, and ran with credit going a faster pace than the other two races before tiring.  The Albert Bartlett seems to be his target and he would be the type to run well in that race.

DON BERSY (139) won the juvenile hurdle that opened the card, which was a strongly run affair.  It would seem connections aren’t thinking of running at Cheltenham, though he would be of major interest in the Fred Winter should they change their mind.  He could be one to bear in mind for Aintree, as he is capable of running better than this mark.

 

At Ascot BEYOND CONCEIT (140) just beat TOPOFTHEGAME (140) and DE DOLLAR MAN (140) in the novice hurdle.  Topofthegame is the one to take out here, and is a smashing chase prospect for next season.

 

YANWORTH PREVAILS, BUT IS CH’TIBELLO OVERPRICED?

There were four hurdle races at Wincanton on Saturday with the Kingwell hurdle featuring Yanworth, Ch’tibello and Sceau Royal

The sectionals from the first hurdle to the finishing line in each race were as follows:

Yanworth Persian Delight Arden Denis Dreamcatching
28.12 27.94
11.44 11.21
63.32 62.71
20.66 20.95 20.78 20.79
58.43 59.47 58.69 60.27
26.49 27.33 27.56 27.55
10.56 11.13 11.33 11.68
56.29 59.34 61.84 59.07
18.72 20.32 20.59 19.84
13.7 14.79 14.96 14.74

 

With the cumulative times for the equivalent 2m section of each race coming out like this:

Yanworth Persian Delight Arden Denis Dreamcatching
20.66 20.95 20.78 20.79
79.09 80.42 79.47 81.06
105.58 107.75 107.03 108.61
116.14 118.88 118.36 120.29
172.43 178.22 180.2 179.36
191.15 198.54 200.79 199.2
204.85 213.33 215.75 213.94

 

As we would hope, the Kingwell produced by far the quickest time over the 2 mile trip, the other three winners coming out with relatively lowly ratings with PERSIAN DELIGHT (126), ARDEN DENIS (104), and DREAMCATCHING (112).  So, how do the Kingwell runners emerge from this in light of their Champion Hurdle prospects?

For starters they ran their sectionals consistently faster than the other races, always putting time into their superiority as we would hope from potential champion hurdlers.  Their cumulative superiority over each race from the first hurdle to the finishing line is shown here.

Persian Delight Arden Denis Dreamcatching
-0.29 -0.12 -0.13
-1.33 -0.38 -1.97
-2.17 -1.45 -3.03
-2.74 -2.22 -4.15
-5.79 -7.77 -6.93
-7.39 -9.64 -8.05
-8.48 -10.9 -9.09

 

Adjusting for distances the ratings come out with YANWORTH (165) confirming the form of the Christmas hurdle giving 4lbs and a length beating to CH’TIBELLO (160), with SCEAU ROYAL (158) back in third.  Interestingly these numbers put MELODIC RENDEZVOUS (139) just 1lb over his rating, and with conditions in his favour this would make sense that the old boy performed close to that number.

YANWORTH (165) was fitted with first time cheekpieces, and perhaps gave his short priced favourite backer followers a few heart palpitations as he seemingly struggled to shake off CH’TIBELLO (160) and SCEAU ROYAL (158).  But he was giving the second and third 4lbs, and on their Christmas hurdle form the runner-up had every right to run the winner this close.  This was a solid performance from Yanworth, but perhaps leaves him just shy of being the winner in three and half weeks time, though he can certainly place.  His jumping still lacks fluidity and others make more appeal in the race.  Indeed before Jezki got beaten, talk was of Yanworth likely going up in trip to the Stayers hurdle as originally planned this season.  You’d also have to be concerned that reverting Buveur D’Air to the race, means connections aren’t wholly convinced of his credentials.  There doesn’t seem to be much juice in his price of 5/1 which is probably about right.

CH’TIBELLO (160) again ran a good race on my numbers, travelling well and just failing to beat the winner to the line.  He ran a good race in the Christmas Hurdle when running on late, and I was surprised connections didn’t opt to run in the Betfair Hurdle off 149, though he would probably have only been third at best in hindsight.  I wonder whether they may adopt similar tactics at Cheltenham and drop him in, and hope there is a decent pace though I wouldn’t be averse to them making more use of him.  He travels well in his races and whilst he probably won’t win the Champion Hurdle he is no back number.  Indeed Christmas Hurdle placed horses have a decent record in the subsequent Champion Hurdle and he can be thereabouts come the big day.  His Scottish Champion Hurdle win reads well and he deserves to run in the big race, prices of 40/1 with 10/1 the place make some appeal, especially if Skelton can eke some improvement from the six year old.

SCEAU ROYAL (158) again ran a good race hitting the same sort of number he has been all season for me.  He deserves to line up in the big race in a wide open renewal.

 

 

CUE CARD BACK ON TRACK

CUE CARD BACK ON TRACK, AND A REMARKABLE PERFORMANCE FROM TENOR NIVERNAIS

There were three chases run at Ascot on Saturday, two over 3 miles and the Ascot chase over 2m5f.  The sectional splits are shown below, with times starting from the first fence jumped, and the cumulative times for all 3 races from the equivalent first in the Ascot Chase.

Bigbadjohn Tenor Nivernais Cue Card
11.86 11.63
17.55 17.13
13.23 12.51 Bigbadjohn Tenor Nivernais Cue Card
34.59 32.11 32.82 34.59 32.11 32.82
10.47 10.1 10.68 45.06 42.21 43.5
10.46 10.64 10.81 55.52 52.85 54.31
11.46 11.19 11.15 66.98 64.04 65.46
29.12 28.61 28.67 96.1 92.65 94.13
15.85 15.68 16.12 111.95 108.33 110.25
40.77 41.5 41.28 152.72 149.83 151.53
12.09 11.66 11.41 164.81 161.49 162.94
17.34 17.41 16.57 182.15 178.9 179.51
12.93 12.84 12.36 195.08 191.74 191.87
33.44 32.59 31.69 228.52 224.33 223.56
10.16 10.37 9.7 238.68 234.7 233.26
10.63 10.73 10 249.31 245.43 243.26
11.22 11.16 10.44 260.53 256.59 253.7
28.5 28.26 27.39 289.03 284.85 281.09
16.9 15.77 16.68 305.93 300.62 297.77
14.89 15.06 15 320.82 315.68 312.77

The first thing to note is the remarkable performance put in by Tenor Nivernais in the handicap chase.  Comparing him directly with Bigbadjohn in the Reynoldstown we can see that he consistently ran faster throughout the contest to clock a time 6.51s faster.

Bigbadjohn Tenor Nivernais Bigbadjohn Tenor Nivernais Difference
11.86 11.63 11.86 11.63 -0.23
17.55 17.13 29.41 28.76 -0.65
13.23 12.51 42.64 41.27 -1.37
34.59 32.11 77.23 73.38 -3.85
10.47 10.1 87.7 83.48 -4.22
10.46 10.64 98.16 94.12 -4.04
11.46 11.19 109.62 105.31 -4.31
29.12 28.61 138.74 133.92 -4.82
15.85 15.68 154.59 149.6 -4.99
40.77 41.5 195.36 191.1 -4.26
12.09 11.66 207.45 202.76 -4.69
17.34 17.41 224.79 220.17 -4.62
12.93 12.84 237.72 233.01 -4.71
33.44 32.59 271.16 265.6 -5.56
10.16 10.37 281.32 275.97 -5.35
10.63 10.73 291.95 286.7 -5.25
11.22 11.16 303.17 297.86 -5.31
28.5 28.26 331.67 326.12 -5.55
16.9 15.77 348.57 341.89 -6.68
14.89 15.06 363.46 356.95 -6.51

Now BIGBADJOHN (143) is an interesting horse in his own right, having run second behind Thistlecrack at Newbury before going off favourite for the Sky Bet handicap chase at Doncaster where he unfortunately slipped up.  He was running there off a widely perceived favourable mark of 136.  If we rate this race through the second and third, namely FLINTHAM (139) and FLETCHERS FLYER (144) they have run right to their respective marks, with Fletchers Flyer coming out the best horse at the weights.  This points to Bigbadjohn running to a mark of 143 which seems fair, as he is clearly a smart chaser who has progressed from a solid hurdling campaign and now just won a Grade 2, albeit a potentially weak one.  He was rated pre-race at 136, and was clearly felt well handicapped enough to go off favourite for one of the big season handicap chases.  ARPEGE D’ALENE (137) seemed to struggle to go the pace here, and is reportedly targeted at the National Hunt Chase at Cheltenham over four miles.  Whilst the pace of that race is potentially more suitable, he clearly needs to progress from here, and there will be more likely candidates for that race in my view.

Now turning our eye to TENOR NIVERNAIS (169).  He has won this race by a huge margin off a mark of 152 at the age of 10.  He’d run a smart race earlier this season over course and distance in behind Regal Encore, but this was clearly an altogether different performance.  Leading from the front and setting fast sectionals that compare favourably with the Grade 2 chase, he finished 6.51s ahead of Bigbadjohn when timing them from their first jump to the finishing line.  This points to him being 26 lengths ahead of that horse and so I have marked him to 169.  This does mean that the others ran no sort of race in behind him, although I wouldn’t give up on SAUSALITO SUNRISE (137) as a Grand National horse.  Tenor Nivernais himself is entered in that race and quotes of 50/1 are clearly grossly too big, though connections seemed reluctant to commit to the race in the post-race interviews.  He also has an entry in the BetBright Chase next weekend but I wouldn’t underestimate how much this performance has taken out of him.  Whilst one could question the performance, the clock backs up the visual impression as he was consistently faster than the Grade 2 Chase throughout.

CUE CARD (177) proved he is still one of the leading staying chasers around even at the age of 11.  Reported to have come out of Kempton with a “fat leg” this was a performance getting back towards his best, though I still have it a bit below his Betfair Chase romp earlier in the season (186).  I have a theory that the ground was just too quick for him at Kempton over a tight 3 miles and he just got a bit outpaced there before staying on towards the finish to keep hold of second place.  Back on soft ground here he blasted apart some solid enough rivals, and the extended 3m2f on the galloping New Course at Cheltenham will suit him perfectly whether the ground is soft or not.  He clocked a time here 8s quicker than Bigbadjohn over the equivalent section of that race, and even 2.9s quicker than Tenor Nivernais.  Adjusting this for the shorter distance of his race leads me to a mark of 177.  This horse is now an out and out stayer (his mother actually ran in the Grand National) and he was putting time between himself and the other races towards the end of his race as shown here in the time comparisons:

Bigbadjohn Tenor Nivernais
-1.77 0.71
-1.56 1.29
-1.21 1.46
-1.52 1.42
-1.97 1.48
-1.7 1.92
-1.19 1.7
-1.87 1.45
-2.64 0.61
-3.21 0.13
-4.96 -0.77
-5.42 -1.44
-6.05 -2.17
-6.83 -2.89
-7.94 -3.76
-8.16 -2.85
-8.05 -2.91

He has run to a mark a shade below his best in my view here, which would make sense as this is potentially a trip a bit too sharp for him these days.  He goes to the Gold Cup with a great chance in my view to right the wrong of last year, the one caveat I have being that this race is less than four weeks from the big day and one could be concerned about that sort of turnaround, remembering Kauto Star bolting up here before underperforming at Cheltenham.

SHANTOU FLYER (162) and ROYAL REGATTA (158) are both solid horses, but not in the same league as the winner here.  Shantou Flyer ran to the same figure I gave him for his Cheltenham handicap win on New Year’s day and Royal Regatta has run 1lb ahead of his mark of 157 so the numbers do sense check.  It is hard to know where to go with either of these horses as they are probably fully handicapped now and below the top grade.  TAQUIN DU SEUIL (158) ran a funny race, getting seemingly outpaced before staying on.  His win in the BetVictor was top class, and I wouldn’t rule him out putting together another big performance at Cheltenham in the Ryanair, albeit he would perhaps need softer ground.