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|
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.
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|
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.