CHELTENHAM 2017 REVIEW

DAY 1   

BUVEUR D’AIR A WORTHY CHAMPION

The build up to this year’s Champion Hurdle had seen plenty consider it a below par renewal, and I would confess to being in that camp myself.  However, the race produced a winner worthy of the Champion moniker in BUVEUR D’AIR (170) who readily cleared away from perennial Cheltenham runner-up MY TENT OR YOURS (166) and PETIT MOUCHOIR (163).

Despite flattening the hurdle 4 out, Buveur D’Air travelled well throughout the race and could be called the winner round the turn, backing up the view that last years Supreme was a vintage renewal (he was 3rd in it behind the monsters Altior and Min).

There were two other hurdle races on the card, the Supreme over the same distance, and the Mares over a half mile further.  The comparative sectionals from the time of the first in the 2 mile course are shown here, with the cumulative time alongside:

Labaik Buveur D’Air Apple’s Jade Labaik Buveur D’Air Apple’s Jade
42.84 43.37 45.84 42.84 43.37 45.84
45.9 44.38 45.5 88.74 87.75 91.34
24.17 23.52 25 112.91 111.27 116.34
21.09 20.69 21.41 134 131.96 137.75
37.07 36.15 37.63 171.07 168.11 175.38
16.52 16.37 16.78 187.59 184.48 192.16
24.6 25.47 25.08 212.19 209.95 217.24
13.64 14.16 13.95 225.83 224.11 231.19

 

They went a stronger gallop in the Champion in relation to the Supreme, reaching 2 out 3.11s quicker than the novices.  From there the novices were able to close the gap to 1.72s at the line, but even allowing for this the Champion is the superior race and backs up my earlier view that this year’s novices are not a vintage bunch.

BUVEUR D’AIR (170) won the race readily and is a deserving Champion.  Reverting back from chasing has certainly paid off and he proved able to handle the undulations of Cheltenham here, whereas previously his best form had been on flatter tracks.  Connections would have the option of going back chasing, but should he keep to hurdling he will be tough to beat next year.

That is largely due to the lack of candidates to challenge the winner.  MY TENT OR YOURS (166) ran a similar mark to last year but will be 11 next year.  PETIT MOUCHOIR (163) is probably better suited by a flatter track, and was going to go chasing this season before proving his worth in this sphere…one would assume that is his likely path next season.

FOOTPAD (160) stayed on well up the hill to take fourth, and will probably be suited by a step up in trip, which would also be the case for THE NEW ONE (159)SCEAU ROYAL (157) ran his usual admirable race but will be hard to place in being handicapped to his best, and beneath the top grade.

YANWORTH (156) seemed to get outpaced on this course, and again would be one to go up in distance…but even running up to his best form I think he would have been firmly put in his place by the winner.

WICKLOW BRAVE (155) remains an interesting horse…he was the only one travelling as well as the winner rounding the turn and seemed to run out of gas up the hill.  This was his first run since November 1st and Mullins had talked about trying to get him ready for this race in the run up.  With a better prep he could’ve run into the places based on his previous form.  I certainly wouldn’t discount him at the Aintree and Punchestown festivals.

The other runner to bear in mind for subsequent festivals is Ch’tibello.  A non-runner on the day of the race he has had his wind done since his last run at Wincanton, and if that improves him he can run to a mark in the mid 160s+ and be a contender.  I read that he is a likely runner for Punchestown previously, and if he goes there a fresh horse where others have run both here and at Aintree he could run a big race.

MOON RACER (?) seemed to put in a few sketchy jumps early on and was jumping out to his right before being pulled up coming down the hill.  Something surely went amiss with him here.  If connections can get him right one day then I’m sure he can run to a mid-160 number.

The only other horse I can see as a threat to the winner, bar the returning Champions, is in the same owenership…namely Campeador.  An unlucky faller at the last in two big handicap hurdles he has already proved capable of being a 160 horse.  With a mega high cruising speed, he is the most exciting prospect I can think of to lay down a threat to the winner.

 

The Supreme saw something of an upset with the previously recalcitrant LABAIK (158) winning for Gordon Elliott and the superb Jack Kennedy.  Having refused to race a few times, he was eventually cajoled into running last time finishing miles behind the winner, but was reportedly highly rated by connections and so this victory should not come as a massive shock.  He travelled well off the pace before making his move off the turn to win the race readily, beating the Mullins hype horse MELON (156).

This though was not a vintage renewal of the race with not much to take out of it at first glance.  LABAIK (158) will probably stay hurdling but needs to improve to be competitive at the top grade, and will always be a risky proposition considering his previous behaviour at the start of races.

MELON (156) had run a big number on his debut run for Mullins and confirmed that promise running a big race here.  Connections made noises intimating that he will go chasing next year and with some improvement to come he could make an impact in that sphere.

RIVER WYLDE (148) ran to the same number I gave him at Kempton, and would look one for the big 2 mile handicap hurdles next season, though is already rated 144 so would need to improve somewhat to land one of those.

BALLYANDY (147) ran a bit below his Betfair Hurdle form on my numbers, and probably left his race behind there.

One horse who caught the eye in preliminaries was PINGSHOU (124) who had won a hot novice hurdle here back in December.  He is a huge horse, who can make an exciting chaser if connections can nurse him right as has reportedly bled in the past.

 

MARES RACE WAS THE RIGHT CALL FOR THE BIG THREE

There was plenty of talk about the Mares race taking runners away from the Champion Hurdle and there would be some truth in that, as the big 3 mares can make an impact in that race receiving weight.  However, the time of their runs in the longer race they ran in would indicate that they were probably suited by running here.

APPLE’S JADE (145++) won the race with a well-executed front running ride from Bryan Cooper, but they clocked a time 7s slower than the Champion Hurdle winner when timed from the equivalent first jump in that race, and didn’t make up any significant time in the latter stages despite this slower pace.  She is probably best at this sort of trip.

That said though, the winner is top class and is capable of running a much better number than this (I rated her 166 in her Aintree romp last season).  She was pulling clear of her rivals at the end and can certainly progress from this as she thrives on her racing.  Indeed, looking at her form off a recent run she has only seen defeat in such conditions when going down by a nose in the Fighting Fifth over a trip and course probably on the short and tight side.  With just 23 days to the Aintree Hurdle and getting 7lbs from her male counterparts she will surely be the one to beat in that race.  (Something I hadn’t noticed before was how she jumps, as she is surely one of the best hurdlers around and was taking lengths out her rivals with her nimble jumping).

VROUM VROUM MAG (144) and LIMINI (143) were both readily beaten by the winner here.  Vroum Vroum Mag has benefitted from being well placed previously and has always been a bit below the top grade on my numbers.  Limini failed to confirm form with Apple’s Jade and is likely best fresh.  Should she run at both or either the Aintree and Punchestown festivals she is probably worth opposing, and would then be one to be with first time out next season as she can run a stone better than this mark and receiving any weight from her rivals she can be a threat when fresh.

 

ALTIOR VS DOUVAN WOULD BE TOO CLOSE TO CALL

Over fences, there was a stellar performance from ALTIOR (180+) who blasted away from his rivals to record a comfortable win in the Arkle.

Altior Un Temps Pour Tout Tiger Roll Tully East
8.12 8.57 8.03 8.59
29.02 29.27 30.22 30.29
49.29 48.9 50.78 50.7
62.64 62.3 64.62 64.69
74.89 74.29 76.88 77.49
86.73 86.03 89.26 89.96
105.38 104.99 108.32 109.96
140.53 141.33 145.15 147.47
168.74 172.26 174.99 178.07
176.12 180.12 183.6 185.76
191.68 196.51 203.73 202.08

 

The sectionals above show the times taken from the first fence over the 2 mile course to each fence and the finishing line.  As you can see Altior clocked a time 4.83s faster than the top class Un Temps Pout Tout (more on him in a bit) but perhaps more stunning was the fact he was 10.4s quicker than Tully East in the novices handicap chase over just half a mile further.

From 3 out to line Altior clocked a time 4s quicker than Un Temps Pour Tout, and when adjusting for this and the distances of the race it points to number of 180 for Altior.  He was well touted as being the next superstar and duly delivered the goods.  However, we are unlikely to get rich steaming into him at short prices so there are a few things to consider.

The first is the potentially mouth-watering clash between himself and Douvan.  At their best I believe both can run to a mid-180 potentially 190 figure and should Douvan recover from his injury this is one of the biggest clashes in our sports history.  At this stage one would probably go with Altior as we await to see how Douvan recovers.

The second issue I would have would be with how this horse is now campaigned.  Despite what the press would have you believe, these animals are not machines and whilst Henderson is a top class trainer I still haven’t quite forgiven him for what he did to Sprinter Sacre in running him at both Aintree and Punchestown after his Cheltenham win.  These horses that clock such big numbers take a lot out of themselves despite the visual impression of doing this easily, and if Henderson elects to take a similar route with this horse I would be worried about history repeating itself and these performances eventually take their toll on him.  Only freaks like Kauto Star and Cue Card have been able to produce big performances alongside longevity and if they are aggressive in their campaigning of Altior the rest of this season, be wary of getting involved at a short price either at Punchestown or perhaps next season.

Last season’s Arkle saw Douvan clock a big number and I was perplexed at some of the ratings given to those in behind who had also run big numbers on the clock.  Of those behind last year, Sizing John has gone on to win the Gold Cup, Fox Norton won a handicap chase and nearly the Champion Chase itself and Aso won a handicap chase before placing in the Ryanair.  When rating this race I can’t help if there will be a bit of history repeating, and I feel the vanquished horses in this race are worth following going forward.

CLOUDY DREAM (172) was runner-up and deserves credit for getting to within 6 lengths of the winner.  Interestingly he was also second to Buveur D’Air in one of that horses chase runs, and was an unlucky second to Ch’tibello in the Scottish Champio Hurdle… I think he is a top class chaser for Malcolm Jefferson.  His dam is a half-sister to smart 2m chaser Get Real, and I think this horse is an exceptional chaser going forward.  Should he find an opportunity to avoid Altior he can get a deserved victory, and he could also be capable of giving weight in a big handicap chase (only rated 147 before reassessment).

That handicap chase prospect is probably more applicable to ORDINARY WORLD (164) who confirmed the promise of his run behind Min at Leopardstown.  Indeed this horses last 3 runs have now been behind Altior, Min and Identity Thief, and before that he put up and impressive display at Fairyhouse.  Rated just 146 prior to this, even after he is reassessed he can land a big handicap chase over 2 miles for connections, though he seems to be at his best on good ground.

CHARBEL (172) was running a huge race before coming down at the second last and is another worth following going forward.  5th in last years vintage supreme he has improved for going chasing and been given time to do so by Kim Bailey.  Connections had previously debated going to the JLT and that would be an option to step up in trip in the future.  There isn’t much stamina in his pedigree to my eye though, and they may be better sticking to two miles.  Certainly together with Cloudy Dream and Ordinary World, Charbel is one to keep onside in the future….previously trained in Ireland I wonder if they may go to Punchestown with him as they did last season, and as long as he is none the worse for this fall he can run a big race there.

 

UN TEMPS POUR TOUT (165) put up and excellent display to win the Ultima for the second season running and see of the well handicapped SINGLEFARMPAYMENT (152) by a short head.  They were going a similar pace to the Arkle over 2 miles here, and whilst that effort took its toll from 3 out they still put up a good time in this race.   The winner may go for the top grade 1 chases now, but would be a bit below that grade on my ratings.  Depending on how the handicapper assesses Singlefarmpayment he can win a big handicap chase at Aintree or Punchestown.

THE YOUNG MASTER (135) ran a nice race in 6th, and this should put him right for the Grand National after previously running over hurdles in the Cleeve.  Rated 150 for that, on previous form he can run to a 160+ number and could go well for Sam Waley-Cohen in the big race.  He won the bet365 last season off 148 with subsequent winner Just A Par just touched off in second and has surely been trained with just the big race in mind this season.

 

The other run of note was that of TIGER ROLL (147) in the National Hunt Chase.  He tanked through the race, and stayed on well up the hill to win this race, proving his love of undulating tracks.  Indeed, on undulating tracks and yielding ground or better he is a tough horse to beat.  Throw out some runs off short breaks and ones where he was running in big grade 1 hurdles and he has now won 5 times from 6 runs under such conditions, including the Triumph hurdle and pulling up lame in his one defeat.  It would be a leap of faith to suggest he could go well in a Gold Cup, but big priced horses have hit the frame in that race (and indeed last years 1-2 in this race, placed in this years Gold Cup).  The logical thing to do though would be to run in unsuitable conditions next season in Ireland and hope to scrape in at the top of the handicap in the Kim Muir!

 

DAY 2

MIGHT BITE IS CRAZILY GOOD….LITERALLY!

There is only one place to start when looking at Day 2 of Cheltenham 2017, and that is with MIGHT BITE (176+).  In all the races I’ve seen live at Cheltenham this must rank as one of the most extraordinary races I’ve ever seen.

Before we get to his antics after the final fence, let’s start with the mental gallop that Might Bite went to that point.  There’s a few things to look at when showing how crazy fast the eventual winner went.  First let’s look at how he ran compared to the close runner-up WHISPER (170).

Might Bite Whisper Difference
20.34 20.91 -0.57
39.64 40.13 -0.49
52.41 53.54 -1.13
64.45 65.86 -1.41
76.43 78.02 -1.59
95.28 96.94 -1.66
131.19 133.25 -2.06
162.09 164.52 -2.43
170.37 172.58 -2.21
192.09 194.09 -2
212.35 213.65 -1.3
225.26 226.68 -1.42
237.37 238.91 -1.54
249.3 250.5 -1.2
268.09 269.39 -1.3
303.05 304.57 -1.52
332.38 334.06 -1.68
340.76 342.16 -1.4
360.67 359.99 0.68

 

The sectionals above show the times the two horses took from the first flight to the finish line.  One thing this does show is the mastery of Davy Russell round Cheltenham…there’s no coincidence that he is a heavy level stakes winner at the festival!  As a result of efficient riding, Whisper actually clocked a faster time from the first fence to the line.  The reason for this is that Might Bite just went savagely fast.  At one stage he was 2.43s ahead of Whisper in their relative times, equivalent to about 12 lengths on this ground.  We can gain a further insight into the crazy time set when comparing it to that of Un Temps Pour Tout the previous day:

Might Bite Un Temps Pour Tout Difference
20.34 21.05 -0.71
39.64 41.13 -1.49
52.41 54.61 -2.2
64.45 67.05 -2.6
76.43 79.3 -2.87
95.28 98.31 -3.03
131.19 134.93 -3.74
162.09 167.37 -5.28
170.37 175.94 -5.57
192.09 196.64 -4.55
212.35 216.27 -3.92
225.26 229.67 -4.41
237.37 241.66 -4.29
249.3 253.4 -4.1
268.09 272.36 -4.27
303.05 308.7 -5.65
332.38 339.63 -7.25
340.76 347.49 -6.73
360.67 363.88 -3.21

 

As you can see, before two out Might Bite was a crazy 7.25s faster than Un Temps Pour Tout.  Even when accounting for the ground and rail movement this is still bonkers.

What then evolved up the run in, I still couldn’t believe when watching the replay.  Might Bite appeared to be tiring, and if he had been beaten a few lengths by Whisper we could all have gone away and said, “yes Nico went too fast, Scorpion’s don’t get up the hill blah blah blah” but with the loose horse and Whisper running up to him the winner then picked up and got back up on the line.  After what he had done previously, I was flabbergasted to see him get back up and win.  I’ve given the winner 176+ as I’m sure if they can get him settled better and run a bit more efficiently from the front he can be one of the best horses of recent times and record a mid-180 figure.  The obvious target has to be the King George, and it will take a fair horse to beat him there….though there may be one or two as we shall come on to!

The runner-up WHISPER (170) benefitted from a crazily good ride from Russell to get so close to the freak winner, and I’ve adjusted the ratings as a result.  He is an admirable horse but 10 next year I find it difficult to see him successful against the raft of good horses around at the moment, perhaps Aintree will be his best chance and last chance saloon to land a big race pot….he has won the last two times he has run there.

BELLSHILL (160) ran to the sort of mark I’ve been giving him all season, and this is just as good as he is I feel.  It was interesting to hear in his brilliant interview on  the Final Furlong Podcast that Grah Wylie said he could be a National horse one day and that could be the way to go with him down the line.

 

DOVUAN WOULD’VE WON THE CHAMPION CHASE

The Champion Chase saw a shock result as SPECIAL TIARA (172) and FOX NORTON (172) fought out the finish with the hot favourite DOUVAN (160) unable to land a blow and pull up lame suffering from a stress fracture.

Let’s be clear that if the favourite had run up to his best he would’ve won by about 8 lengths or more.  But as previously discussed these animals are not machines and things go wrong…and they went wrong in a big way here.  I had the binoculars on him from the outset and his jumping was unrecognisable, being big and long instead of the low and efficient jumping we are used to from him.  It was clear from an early point that Ruby wasn’t happy and I don’t know why he didn’t pull him up…maybe it was down to the results they had had up to that point.  We can only hope that no lasting damage was done.  Better experts than I inform me that the injury should be resolvable but I will have to see evidence first.  If he does get back to his best, the clash between him and Altior would be awesome.

This was always an each way scumbag race (my kind of race!) and the result will make their Christmas party a big one this year.  SPECIAL TIARA (172) beat FOX NORTON (172) a head and was undoubtedly suited by the prevailing ground conditions.  If we compare him to the efficiently ridden Whisper we can assess the scale of the performance:

Whisper Special Tiara
8.06 7.82
29.57 28.58
49.13 47.83
62.16 60.95
74.39 72.86
85.98 84.34
104.87 102.93
140.05 137.73
169.54 167.64
177.64 176.14
195.47 194.28

 

He clocked a time 1.19s faster over the equivalent distances they covered, and when adjusting for the 2mile/3mile difference I get a number of 172 for the winner and runner-up.  This is fractionally ahead of their previous bests so I am happy to go with it.  They are both admirable horses, but if the favourite had run his race they would’ve been put in their places.  With Altior looming on the scene both will need luck to be successful at the top grade.

SIR VALENTINO (166) ran a nice race in third, just beating the supplemented TOP GAMBLE (166).  Sir Valentino gave 6lbs to the winner at Kempton, and on that running could’ve won this race, but I was left with the impression that he is better suited to right-handed tracks (his last two wins have been at Exeter and Market Rasen) and I hope that Tom George now skips Aintree and targets Punchestown with the horse.  He could also run GOD’S OWN (165) there, and having had previous success at the meeting I would be keen on both their chances.  Top Gamble ran a big race here and I have previously given him a big number for his run at Newbury last season, back on soft ground and a flat track he can win a race.

 

NOTHING SPECIAL IN THE NEPTUNE, BUT MORE EVIDENCE THAT SUTTON PLACE IS A TOP PROSPECT!

Over hurdles, the view that this seasons novices are a mediocre crop was backed up with the win of WILLOUGHBY COURT (151) who put in a good front-running performance to see of hot favourite NEON WOLF (151) by a head.  The winner is a likeable type and a nice horse to go novice chasing with but I feel he is below the top grade 1 grade at this stage.

I would say the same sort of thing for Neon Wolf.  On his Haydock run he probably should’ve won this race, but a sloppy jump at the last put paid to his chances.  He may well be suited by softer ground, but I can’t help but think he is a bit overhyped on his Haydock run…ratings there sometimes don’t follow elsewhere, and in the back of my mind I don’t know why Mullins didn’t purchase him as Mags Mullins trained him and Paddy rode him in his point to point – they wouldn’t let a potential superstar slip through their fingers.  I think this is just as good as he is.

In the Coral Cup, SUPADSUNDAE (158) paid a complement to Sutton Place by winning the big handicap hurdle with a nice performance.

Willoughby Court Supasundae Difference
18.56 18.16 -0.4
70.28 66.43 -3.85
117.15 111.46 -5.69
163.42 158.01 -5.41
187.58 182.37 -5.21
208.38 203.8 -4.58
244.58 240.37 -4.21
260.81 256.87 -3.94
286.07 282.15 -3.92
300.85 296.37 -4.48

 

He clocked a time 4.48s quicker than Willoughby Court, although most of this difference was made early on, and when adjusting for this I get a number of 158 for Supadsundae, which ties in nicely with numbers I gave him previously.  I’m not sure where the winner goes from here, as I looked at him beforehand as a Stayers Hurdle candidate and thought he didn’t have the requisite stamina.  He is probably just below the top grade but can run well in 2.5m hurdles.

Of more interest is the extra excitement he creates about Sutton Place, a horse who could be a monster over fences next season.  Sutton Place comfortably beat Supasundae in his last two runs, and if translating that sort of form to fences he can be the star novice chaser next season.

They went a good pace in this race and clocked a good time so bear in mind the beaten horses going forward…there are literally too many to name here, but WHO DARES WINS (152) and SCOIR MEAR (142) would be two who leap off the page as potential handicap hurdle winners in the near future.

 

The Fred Winter was as usual a very competitive race and was won by FLYING TIGER (143) in a tight finish from DIVIN BERE (148) and NIETSCHE (138).  There will be plenty of winners out of this race but one that caught my eye was PERCY STREET (125).  He had run to a RPR of 104 on the flat and ran here off a mark of just 124, having struggled to adjust to the hurdling game.  He travelled well in this race and maybe failed to handle the climb to the line…running off his rating he just has to have a handicap hurdle success in him down the line, maybe on a flat track, so could be one for Aintree.

 

 

DAY 3

YORKHILL GOLD CUP, UN DE SCEAUX KING GEORGE?  BUT COULD SUB LIEUTENANT BE A GOLD CUP DARK HORSE?!

Maybe not on the same bonkers scale as Might Bite, YORKHILL (168+) won the JLT in his typically unique style…travelling like the wrath of God, and then doing nothing more.  I have given him 168+ here, as he was by far the best horse in the race, and just only does enough when in front as seen in his previous runs.  I will come onto the sectionals when looking at the Ryanair, but they are largely redundant with this horse as he just keeps so much to himself and only does enough.  He got to the last fence on the bridle against two top class horses in TOP NOTCH (167) and DISKO (164) and then held them off without ever looking like getting beaten.

Inevitably we have to look at where this horse goes from here with 3 options for next season…Champion, Ryanair or Gold Cup.  I’m going to stick my neck out and say this is the Gold Cup horse for next season.  There’s just too much stamina in his pedigree for him not to be able to get the trip, and I don’t feel dropping back in trip and meeting Altior will be of any use.  He settled much better in this race than previously and will continue to settle better with racing I feel.  He just can’t hit the front too soon, and he may be lucky in having just the horse to run against in next seasons Gold Cup…Might Bite.   You could not design a better “bunny” for Yorkill to run at in a Gold Cup than Might Bite…sure to set a good gallop to settle off, and a question mark about seeing out the trip!

He wasn’t the only top class chaser on the card for Mullins though as UN DE SCEAUX (176) put up a stunning performance in the Ryanair.  This is evidenced in the sectional comparison with Yorkhill here:

Yorkhill Un Se Sceaux Difference
14.92 14 -0.92
52.94 50.97 -1.97
64.46 61.71 -2.75
84.84 80.58 -4.26
96.89 92.22 -4.67
132.71 126.13 -6.58
146.22 140.27 -5.95
157.37 151.63 -5.74
167.82 162.48 -5.34
183.04 177.88 -5.16
197.04 192.29 -4.75
213.94 209.25 -4.69
233.5 228.97 -4.53
261.29 257.75 -3.54
271.98 269.07 -2.91
288.83 287.07 -1.76

 

As you can see, at one stage Un De Sceaux was 6.58s ahead of Yorkhill.  Understandably, Yorkhill closed the gap in the latter stages to be only 1.76s behind at the finish, but adjusting for this points to a huge performance from Un De Sceaux and one that poses a few interesting options for the future.  The fact he was able to hold off some strong rivals in SUB LIEUTENANT (172), ASO (166) and EMPIRE OF DIRT (165) after setting a blistering gallop shows that he is well capable of handling this step up in trip.  One though would have to be worried about him stepping up further to the Gold Cup, and I would be tempted to stick to this Ryanair Chase for the next few years.  Though I would understand connections wanting to have a go at the big one, and the thought of Might Bite and him taking each other on in a Gold Cup is an almost laughably entertaining prospect….and one that would set the race up for Yorkhill!!!  The more likely place for Might Bite and Un De Sceaux to meet would be the King George, with Yorkhills propensity to jump left leading to the Lexus being the more suitable race for him.

SUB LIEUTENTANT (172) sat off the place and got closest to threatening the trail blazing winner.  He is a top class horse and could be the Gold Cup horse to take out of this race!  Running on well here off a strong pace, he has the pedigree of a Gold Cup horse being related to Gold Cup winner Lord Windermere and shares that relations love of undulating tracks.  His form on undulating tracks over jumps reads 143341311322 and he got to within a few lengths of both Djakadam and Sizing John this season at Punchestown and Thurles over two and half miles.  If he can handle the step up in trip, and there would be optimism for that based on his run here and his pedigree he could be in the Gold Cup mix next season.  By my reckoning Gigginstown may be struggling for a runner with Don Poli injured, Empire Of Dirt already 10 years old, Outlander bombed in the race and only Disko emerging from their novice chasers this season, and so this one could be an ante post play at big prices.

In the handicap chase, ROAD TO RESPECT (164) backed up his big time figure behind Min at Leopardstown in winning this race with something in hand.  It is worth looking at that form briefly as Min had Arkle 3rd Ordinary World well beaten in that race as well, and I gave him a number of 178.  At the time I was wary of the mark but with the runner-up and third performing so well subsequently, I have to hope that Min returns in one piece and he can show his worth in the two mile chase division.  Min, Altior and Douvan would be akin to Well Chief, Moscow Flyer and Azertyuiop and I hope they all take each other on at some stage.  Though that is probably wishful thinking.

Road to Respect is a decent horse, but may be just below the top grade…he would be obviously similar to Empire Of Dirt who won this race last season, but Road To Respect is only 6 years only and with some improvement can be a fixture in Grade 1 chases next season.

Of the beaten horses, depending on what the handicapper does with BARON ALCO (159) and BOUVREUIL (156) they would be high on my list for Bet Victor Gold Cup prospects next season should the ground be on the good side.  They clocked a good time in this race, and could still have something in hand of the handicapper.

 

 

NICHOLS CANYON LANDS THE BIG RACE HE DESERVES

Over hurdles, we saw a top class ride from Ruby Walsh to see NICHOLS CANYON (172) over the line victorious in the Stayers Hurdle.  But don’t read too much into the ride as explanation for the win, this horse deserves all the accolades he can get and then some.  As I had written previously, I thought Nichols Canyon was top class and could win this race and so it proved.  They rode him as if stamina was a question mark, but I would hope now that his stamina is proven they can ride him with more confidence and he can replicate Inglis Drever and win the next two renewals of this race.

Presenting Percy Nichols Canyon Difference
12.98 13.41 0.43
24.26 24.79 0.53
52.53 51.99 -0.54
102.69 99.53 -3.16
145.29 140.85 -4.44
184.69 180.65 -4.04
197.59 194.22 -3.37
208.41 205.19 -3.22
234.59 232.04 -2.55
280.83 278.77 -2.06
318.88 316.85 -2.03
333.87 331.36 -2.51

 

When comparing his run to that of Presenting Percy over the same trip, we can see that he clocked a time 2.51s faster than that race.  The mark I reach as a result is 172, and this ties in with his best previous form so I am happy to go with it.  This horse is so underrated, but is top class when fresh and not on good ground over the minimum distance.  He should win the next two renewals of this race, as I can’t see anything on the horizon to trouble him at this stage.

LIL ROCKERFELLER (171) ran an admirable race and is one of the most likeable horses in training.  Only 6 years old, he deserves to win a big race at some stage.

The favourite UNOWHATIMEANHARRY (168) ran in line with his previous form, and had no obvious excuses on the day.  Ten next year, I would worry that this was his big chance.

 

 

DAY 4

DON’T UNDERESTIMATE SIZING JOHN

It never ceases to amaze me how the racing press label a horse with a tag and stick to it.  In this case the trip was a huge question mark in the media for SIZING JOHN (180), but he had put up a big performance the first time he had tackled 3 miles in the Irish Gold Cup and duly went and showed that was no fluke in winning the big race here.

The sectionals for the 3 chases from where they overlap were as follows:

Sizing John Pacha Du Polder Rock The World
12.26 11.69 12.32
46.27 46.24 46.22
59.7 60.15 59.59
70.5 70.97 70.4
80.76 81.83 81.28
95.76 96.89 96.46
110.03 111.29 110.42
126.27 128.7 126.88
145.83 148.25 145.99
173.64 176.82 173.26
185.09 188.56 184.09
202.69 207.01 200.62

 

As you can see, Sizing John clocked a similar time to 2 out that Rock The World did in the Grand Annual.  Having travelled over a mile further at that stage, it is understandable that the two milers came home quicker, but it just shows that the pace they went was strong in the Gold Cup, and that Sizing John is a worthy winner.  Overall he clocked a time 7.37s faster than Pacha Du Polder over the same course and distance, and all this points to a red hot number of 180 for the winner.  Make no mistake about it, he is a top class winner of the race and even the renegades Might Bite, Un De Sceaux and Yorkill will have to be at their absolute best to topple him next season.

MINELLA ROCCO (177) and NATIVE RIVER (177) both came from the four miler last season to fill the frame here.  The former has a Grand National entry and would have an obvious chance off a mark of 158.  Native River proved me wrong, stepping up on his previous form this season to run a huge race.  Whilst he is an admirable horse, I can’t help feel he will always find one too good at the very top level of staying chases.

DJAKADAM (177) again got desperately close to landing the prize for connections.  He came here a fresh horse and again ran up to the same sort of mark he had previously, with no obvious excuse for not landing the pot.

Both SAPHIR DU RHEU (174) and MORE OF THAT (170) have National entries and would be of interest there.  That race is now looking more like a Grade 2 Gold Cup these days, so these sort of horses have to be of interest.

BRISTOL DE MAI (160) ran alright without seeming to get up the hill.  As discussed previously, Haydock form doesn’t always translate to elsewhere and the obvious target for him would be the Betfair Chase next season.

This could especially be the case as CUE CARD (170?) could be on the downgrade by then.  Incredibly he fell at the same fence he did last season but was being niggled at that stage this year.  I think he left his race behind at Ascot when he put up a big number, similarly to how Kauto Star did in 2008 in the same race.  That meeting just comes too damn close to Cheltenham and I wish trainers wouldn’t run their big staying chasers at it.  It’s sad to think that Cue Card could be on the decline now, and I would be happy to be proved wrong…they should’ve come here a fresh horse and on my numbers he would’ve won this race.  With better luck I think he could’ve won three Gold Cups, and it is sad to think he won’t get the full recognition he deserves.  He deserves to be compared to horses like Kauto Star in my eyes.  Maybe there is one last swansong for him in the Betfair Chase next season?!

 

ARCTIC FIRE COULD’VE WON THE CHAMPION HURDLE

Over hurdles ARCTIC FIRE (170) ran a stunning race to land the County Hurdle off top weight in his first run in over a year.

Defi Du Seuil Arctic Fire
43.95 45.5
82.36 83.29
95.26 96.78
105.95 107.28
131.79 134.2
177.91 180.35
217.33 217.32
232.05 231.31

 

As you can see Artic Fire clocked a time 0.74s quicker than Defi Du Seuil in the Triumph Hurdle, despite being 2.44s behind 2 out.  Put simply, making up that sort of time off top weight is a top class performance from the winner.  He loves good ground and a strong pace and I feel he could’ve run well in the Champion Hurdle this season…it begs the question why connections ran Wicklow Brave instead!  Though I guess connections thought the best ground and faster pace was guaranteed in the County.  With not much else coming through the novice ranks this season, Nichols Canyon being on the stayers scene, and the likely hike in the weights he will get for winning here I would like to see the winner back in the Champion Hurdle next season.  He could run in the Aintree Hurdle, but would have to give weight to Apple’s Jade there, and a small field may not play to his strengths.

L’AMI SERGE (163) has been called a lot of names this season, but has run some big numbers on my ratings.  A big field suits him best as he can get plenty of cover, and he could land a handicap hurdle off a big weight in the near future.

The same could be said for any of the others in behind as this was a hot race in my eyes.  Special interest though goes to AIR HORSE ONE (149), WINTER ESCAPE (149), IVANOVICH GORBATOV (159) and WAIT FOR ME (142).  Wait For Me especially looks crying out for a step up in trip both on looks and pedigree…he ran here off 135 and could have a stone in hand going up to two and half miles.

DEFI DU SEUIL (155) won the Triumph hurdle in fair style but as ever would need to find plenty of improvement to challenge in the Champion Hurdle next season.  CHARLI PARCS (145) travelled with some menace down the hill but didn’t get up the other side.  He could be a morning glory horse, but is so well thought of I’m sure he can live up to the promise of his debut run that would’ve seen him go close here.  Maybe a flatter track will suit him better and so Aintree could be a play for him especially as this run was on the back of a heavy fall.

 

APPENDIX

All the sectionals I’ve taken are listed here, if you want to play around with the numbers!  All taken from the first flight in their respective races to the finishing line.

DAY 1 HURDLES:

Labaik Buveur D’Air Apple’s Jade
10.14
39.8
42.84 43.37 45.84
45.9 44.38 45.5
24.17 23.52 25
21.09 20.69 21.41
37.07 36.15 37.63
16.52 16.37 16.78
24.6 25.47 25.08
13.64 14.16 13.95

 

DAY 1 CHASES:

Altior Un Temps Pour Tout Tiger Roll Tully East
12.23
14.91
39.58
11.26
25.38
8.1 8.68
21.05 22.83
20.08 21.27
13.48 14.26
12.44 13.01 11.68
12.25 12.93 14.72
19.01 20.26 36.8
10.98 36.62 38.91 11.48
22.94 32.44 32.62 23.87
8.12 8.57 8.03 8.59
20.9 20.7 22.19 21.7
20.27 19.63 20.56 20.41
13.35 13.4 13.84 13.99
12.25 11.99 12.26 12.8
11.84 11.74 12.38 12.47
18.65 18.96 19.06 20
35.15 36.34 36.83 37.51
28.21 30.93 29.84 30.6
7.38 7.86 8.61 7.69
15.56 16.39 20.13 16.32

 

DAY 2 HURDLES:

Willoughby Court Supasundae Flying Tiger
18.56 18.16
51.72 48.27
46.87 45.03 43.27
46.27 46.55 45.6
24.16 24.36 24.4
20.8 21.43 21.99
36.2 36.57 38.01
16.23 16.5 16.97
25.26 25.28 25.73
14.78 14.22 13.93

 

DAY 2 CHASES:

Might Bite Whisper Special Tiara
20.34 20.91
19.3 19.22
12.77 13.41
12.04 12.32
11.98 12.16
18.85 18.92
35.91 36.31 10.59
30.9 31.27 22
8.28 8.06 7.82
21.72 21.51 20.76
20.26 19.56 19.25
12.91 13.03 13.12
12.11 12.23 11.91
11.93 11.59 11.48
18.79 18.89 18.59
34.96 35.18 34.8
29.33 29.49 29.91
8.38 8.1 8.5
19.91 17.83 18.14

 

DAY 3 HURDLES:

Presenting Percy Nichols Canyon Let’s Dance
12.98 13.41
11.28 11.38
28.27 27.2
50.16 47.54
42.6 41.32 43.17
39.4 39.8 39.54
12.9 13.57 13.09
10.82 10.97 11
26.18 26.85 27.48
46.24 46.73 47.39
38.05 38.08 37.48
14.99 14.51 14.4

 

 

DAY 3 CHASES:

Yorkhill Un Se Sceaux Road To Respect Domesday Book
11.71
35.79
14.15
11.15
11
11.97 11.38 16.26
14.92 14 13.78 14.63
38.02 36.97 36.86 18.26
11.52 10.74 11.2 21.15
20.38 18.87 19.84 31.4
12.05 11.64 12.06 12.41
35.82 33.91 36.16 35.52
13.51 14.14 13.23 13.95
11.15 11.36 10.62 11.01
10.45 10.85 10.75 11.45
15.22 15.4 15.55 16.28
14 14.41 14.25 14.53
16.9 16.96 17.17 17.05
19.56 19.72 19.99 19.52
27.79 28.78 27.62 29.04
10.69 11.32 10.82 12.81
16.85 18 17.82 19.76

 

 

DAY 4 HURDLES:

Defi Du Seuil Arctic Fire Penhill Champagne Classic
13.54
11.19
28.01 9.94
49.75 39.73
43.95 45.5 42.55 46.69
38.41 37.79 40.32 40.73
12.9 13.49 12.97 13.22
10.69 10.5 10.95 10.81
25.84 26.92 26.14 26.52
46.12 46.15 45.44 46.44
39.42 36.97 37.99 38.06
14.72 13.99 13.85 14.47

 

DAY 4 CHASES:

Sizing John Pacha Du Polder Rock The World
11.92 11.63
34.35 34.97
13.82 14.1
11.13 11.33
10.69 11.11
14.93 15.59
14.11 14.67
17.1 17.34
20.63 20.88 11.38
30.79 30.9 19.98
12.26 11.69 12.32
34.01 34.55 33.9
13.43 13.91 13.37
10.8 10.82 10.81
10.26 10.86 10.88
15 15.06 15.18
14.27 14.4 13.96
16.24 17.41 16.46
19.56 19.55 19.11
27.81 28.57 27.27
11.45 11.74 10.83
17.6 18.45 16.53

 

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