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|
|13.23||12.51||Bigbadjohn||Tenor Nivernais||Cue Card|
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|
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:
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.