SOME GOOD PERFORMANCES AND HORSES TO NOTE AT AYR

VICENTE SHOWS HIS WORTH ON GOOD GROUND

I’ve written previously about VICENTE (160) and his affinity for good ground conditions, and despite his fall at the first in the Grand National itself a few weeks ago, he made some amends by landing the Scottish version for the second year in a row.  Timing the race for the final 2.5m section gives the following sectionals:

Label Des Obeaux Vicente Difference
12.76 12.76 0
26.22 26.45 0.23
37.37 37.5 0.13
52.03 52.02 -0.01
79.94 79.04 -0.9
92.25 91.46 -0.79
104.1 103.03 -1.07
119.08 117.93 -1.15
173.3 172.28 -1.02
185.38 184.09 -1.29
197.97 196.86 -1.11
208.19 207.48 -0.71
221.6 221.36 -0.24
247.15 248 0.85
258.48 259.93 1.45
269.27 271.03 1.76
283.33 285.3 1.97
295.38 298.01 2.63

As you can see, they were going a decent pace in the marathon chase, in comparison with the mile shorter handicap chase earlier on the card.  At one stage they were 1.29s ahead but understandably the national runners lost some time as their efforts told later in the race, but this was still a smart performance from Vicente and he remains of interest for the National next season if he gets the decent ground he needs.  He clearly stays well, and if he can improve his jumping for the national fences I remain convinced he can land the big race.

 

CLOUDY DREAM FRANKS THE ARKLE FORM

In my Cheltenham review I’d written to look out for the vanquished runners behind the mighty Altior, and CLOUDY DREAM (166) duly landed the Future Champion Novice Chase in a decent time.

If we compare his time to that of Label Des Obeaux in the handicap chase we can see the merits of this race clearly:

Label Des Obeaux Cloudy Dream Difference
12.76 12.61 -0.15
26.22 25.88 -0.34
37.37 36.75 -0.62
52.03 51 -1.03
79.94 77.55 -2.39
92.25 89.27 -2.98
104.1 100.75 -3.35
119.08 115.55 -3.53
173.3 168.69 -4.61
185.38 180.49 -4.89
197.97 193.44 -4.53
208.19 203.46 -4.73
221.6 217.21 -4.39
247.15 242.59 -4.56
258.48 253.58 -4.9
269.27 264.13 -5.14
283.33 277.62 -5.71
295.38 289.7 -5.68

 

As you can see they went steadily faster all the way to the line, clocking a time 5.68s quicker.  It should be noted that this was done carrying 5lbs less, and over 4f less in distance, but even when adjusting for this it was still a top class performance from the winner.

I’d been worried about his ability to get this trip after his run at Aintree but he would now seem capable of thriving at 2 and 2.5 miles.  He went into this race with an official mark of 155 and he would be an interesting runner in any big handicap chase next season off that mark…maybe the Bet Victor Gold Cup?

He wouldn’t be the only potentially well handicapped horse to emerge from this race though, with THEINVAL (161) and OLDGRANGEWOOD (160) both looking well handicapped before their reassessment.  Theinval travelled well in this race but couldn’t quite go with the classy winner, it is interesting to note that he has solid form in big fields with a win in a 21 runner handicap hurdle at Aintree, and a 3rd place in the Grand Annual this year.  A big field gives him plenty of cover and the opportunity to travel in his races…he goes on the shortlist for big handicap chases next year.

The fourth placed horse CLAN DES OBEAUX (160) came under pressure as the pace quickened but stayed on well to finish just six lengths back.  Still only 5 years old, there is plenty of stamina in his pedigree and he looks an excellent prospect for staying handicap chases next season.  He jumped to his right at times here, but is unbeaten in two starts at Newbury and is at the top of my list of Hennessy Gold Cup prospects next year (or whatever they call it these days!).  He was rated 150 prior to this race, and could certainly have the required stone in hand to land a race of that ilk.

 

CHEEKPIECES (AND A FLAT TRACK) FIRE VANTIEUX BACK TO HIS BEST

To say VANITEUX (170) had been a frustrating horse this season would be an understatement, but in first time cheekpieces he bounced right back to his best to clock a fast time and land this handicap chase from some well handicapped horses.

Cloudy Dream Vaniteux Difference
11.48 11.03 -0.45
26.28 24.9 -1.38
79.42 77.14 -2.28
91.22 88.8 -2.42
104.17 101.32 -2.85
114.19 111.68 -2.51
127.94 125.14 -2.8
153.32 150.65 -2.67
164.31 161.92 -2.39
174.86 172.67 -2.19
188.35 186.53 -1.82
200.43 198.99 -1.44

Clocking them from the first jump in the two mile race, Vaniteux clocked a time 1.44s quicker than the top class Cloudy Dream did in the 2.5m contest.  Even allowing for the fact that this run from Vaniteux was over the minimum trip, it still merits a big number and one that is in line with some of his performances last season which culminated in his fall when going well alongside Douvan and Sizing John in the Arkle.

He has been tried over 2.5miles this season and I wouldn’t give up on that project with him, one thing that does seem necessary though is a flat track.  His form on such tracks since joining Henderson reads 41512111 with his defeats coming on ground that was probably too soft for him, and a second place to the top class Ar Mad.  On a flat track he is a very good horse, and the obvious race that comes to mind as a target next season is the Desert Orchid Chase at Kempton at Christmas.

ROMAIN DE SENAM (145) and SOMCHINE (148) both chased home the impressive winner, and clocked decent times in their own rights finishing 5 lengths behind him.  They should still be well handicapped once reassessed, running here off marks of 133 and 136 respectively and should pay their way next year in handicap chases.

 

FAIRYHOUSE REVIEW…YORKHILL AND OUR DUKE ARE TOP CLASS

YORHILL HAS TO STAY ON LEFT-HANDED TRACKS

This year’s renewal of the Grade 1 Ryanair Gold Cup saw a remarkable performance from YORKHILL (168+) where he jumped markedly left at his fences and went down by a neck to the classy ROAD TO RESPECT (164).  I’m not sure how much extra distance Yorkhill covered as a result of his wild jumping but I’ve estimated him as 4 lengths superior to the winner, in line with his form from Cheltenham.  With another few yards he would still have won the race, and we can see how classy a performance this was in comparing the sectionals with the other race over 2.5m on the card:

Road To Respect Killaro Boy Difference
22.3 21.65 0.65
34.1 33.32 0.78
49.44 48.36 1.08
87.14 88.96 -1.82
100.85 102.8 -1.95
118.51 121.43 -2.92
137.81 142.06 -4.25
155.92 160.86 -4.94
164.66 169.83 -5.17
190.09 196.32 -6.23
210.55 217.34 -6.79
233.44 241.3 -7.86
253.72 262.5 -8.78
264.54 273.64 -9.1
279.13 287.81 -8.68
289.95 298.44 -8.49

 

As you can see, ROAD TO RESPECT (164) clocked a time 8.5s quicker than Killaro Boy over the same distance when timed from the first jump, and did this carrying a stone more in weight.  I’ve rated the winner the same mark as I gave him at Cheltenham, and this points to him being a good novice chaser…he will need to improve though to challenge the current vintage crop of top class chasers at 2.5 or 3 miles next season.

Of more interest is to discuss the future of YORKHILL (168+).  The first obvious conclusion is that he must stay on left handed tracks.  Mullins mused in the aftermath that they may elect to go back over hurdles next season and if that is the case he can be a worthy adversary to the current champion Buveur D’Air.  Should they decide to stay over fences they have the choice of going back in trip to 2 miles, and this may suit as he is such a free going sort.  The downside of this though is that they already have Douvan and Min in that division.  Staying at this trip would see him clash with Un De Sceaux and Fox Norton and that would be an option, but on his pedigree though he should be a Gold Cup horse and with Might Bite set to go that route next season he has the perfect target to aim at.  Wherever he goes though he is top class, despite his idiosyncrasies.  The only condition I would insist on is going left-handed but I would be wary of opposing him over any trip over fences or hurdles going that way.

 

 

HURRICANE BEN AND DON’T TOUCH IT ARE WORTH FOLLOWING…AND SO IS GREAT FIELD

The other chase on the card was over 2 miles and saw a classy performance from HURRICANE BEN (156) who benefitted from getting weight to see off the top weight DON’T TOUCH IT (155).  We can see the merits of this performance when comparing the sectionals with the Grade 1 chase over half a mile further for the same section:

Hurricane Ben Road To Respect Difference
38.19 37.7 0.49
51.91 51.41 0.5
70.1 69.07 1.03
89.2 88.37 0.83
107.14 106.48 0.66
116.15 115.22 0.93
141.4 140.65 0.75
161.33 161.11 0.22
184.44 184 0.44
204.56 204.28 0.28
214.93 215.1 -0.17
228.81 229.69 -0.88
239.21 240.51 -1.3

 

As you can see, Hurricane Ben actually clocked a time 1.3s quicker than Road To Respect did, albeit over a shorter trip and carrying 7lbs less.  But this still merits a decent mark, and indeed he has been raised to a mark of 145.  I still feel this underestimates him and together with the runner-up (now rated 144) they are worth following going forward.

Don’t Touch It has some very strong form in particular, beating Petit Mouchoir over hurdles in a Grade 1 last season and running in behind Bleu Et Rouge and Great Field this year over fences.  He can land a handicap off his current mark for sure.

Hurricane Ben himself was slammed by Great Field before this race and that horse is a most exciting prospect, notably with an entry in a Grade 1 next week at Punchestown.  The winner here though has stacks of stamina in his pedigree and could be worth another try back up in trip.

 

OUR DUKE IN THE MIX FOR HOT GOLD CUP NEXT SEASON…ALONG WITH CONEY ISLAND!

The Irish Grand National is traditionally won by a lightly raced horse off a featherweight.  This year’s renewal was indeed won by a lightly raced horse, but he did so off a mark of 153 carrying 11st4, and did so slamming the field easily by 14 lengths.  That horse of course is OUR DUKE (174) and he is absolutely a worthy candidate for a Gold Cup next season that looks set to be a vintage renewal at this stage.

I’d given Our Duke some big numbers already this season based on his form with the classy Disko and Coney Island, but I was still sceptical of him being able to carry this weight in a big field over 3m5f, especially as he had showed some jumping weaknesses previously.  He dismissed those concerns with a savage performance here that backs up on the clock.

Our Duke White Arm Difference
9.39 9.04 0.35
35.04 33.68 1.36
56.45 54.22 2.23
82.23 80.53 1.7
104.38 102.79 1.59
116.94 115.65 1.29
133.04 131.85 1.19
172.48 172.99 -0.51
186.45 187.69 -1.24
204.81 207.35 -2.54
224.72 227.63 -2.91
243.78 246.43 -2.65
253.09 256 -2.91
277.77 280.96 -3.19
298.07 301.21 -3.14
323.29 325.68 -2.39
343.15 346.16 -3.01
354.55 357.58 -3.03
369.67 372.14 -2.47
381.21 384.08 -2.87

Comparing his run to White Arm over 4.5f shorter, we can see that he clocked a time 2.87s faster, despite the extra distance and carrying 21lbs more on his back.  We can also see that the pace steadily improved around halfway.  Racing prominently Our Duke pressed on and left his rivals for dead, with others that raced on the pace finishing tailed off…both Stellar Notion and Fletchers Flyer are classy horses in their own right, but just couldn’t live with the pace here and both pulled up a result.  Only Our Duke could go this pace over this trip.

His performance is perhaps even more remarkable when compared with that of Slowmotion in the Grade 3 chase over 2.5m on the card:

Our Duke Slowmotion Difference
22.15 22.25 -0.1
34.71 34.64 0.07
50.81 51.34 -0.53
90.25 92.82 -2.57
104.22 107.62 -3.4
122.58 127.51 -4.93
142.49 147.65 -5.16
161.55 166.14 -4.59
170.86 175.16 -4.3
195.54 199.62 -4.08
215.84 219.99 -4.15
241.06 243.82 -2.76
260.92 264.02 -3.1
272.32 275.64 -3.32
287.44 290.45 -3.01
298.98 301.96 -2.98

You can see in the sectionals that at one stage Our Duke was over 5s ahead of the race, despite running over a distance a mile further.  He inevitably lost some time from there, but still clocked a time 3s quicker, carrying 8lbs more.  It all points to a savage performance on the winner, and I’ve rated him 174 in line with his previous form this year.  He is a worthy Gold Cup candidate for next season.

Next year’s blue riband looks set to be a classic renewal should all the protagonists’ line up.  Might Bite, Our Duke, Sizing John, Thistlecrack, Yorkhill are all mid-170+ horses for me and I hope they all make the big race.  At this stage I would favour Might Bite, whose incredible performance in the RSA marks him out as potentially the best of these but it could be some spectacle all the same!

When flicking through the prices for the gold cup next year though, one horse leapt out as an interesting prospect.  Coney Island was just half a length behind Our Duke at Leopardstown at Christmas and himself won a hot renewal of the Drinmore (Road To Respect was 4th) prior to that.  He missed Cheltenham with a bruised foot, but as long as he makes a satisfactory recovery from that he can take high rank in the staying chase division next year.  He is out of a half-sister to Wichita Lineman and so should have the stamina in his genes to make a Gold Cup horse.  He certainly shouldn’t be 50/1 for the Gold Cup next year and seems a bit of a forgotten horse.

AINTREE REVIEW

DAY 1

BUVEUR D’AIR SET TO BE ONE OF THE GREATS

It occurred to me that there is a degree of irony in the year everyone was denouncing the Champion Hurdle as sub-standard, that the winner could turn out to be one of the very best hurdlers in recent times.

BUVEUR D’AIR (172+) confirmed the form of his Champion Hurdle win and then some, when fairly romping away with the Aintree Hurdle.  Always travelling best, he won going away under a hands and heels ride to confirm his superiority over the current (injury free) hurdlers.

The other hurdle race on the card was the juvenile race over a half mile shorter, and the sectionals compare as follows, when comparing times from the first jump in the shorter race:

Defi Du Seuil Buveur D’Air Difference
9.96 9.91 -0.05
25.92 25.95 0.03
83.58 83.77 0.19
97.06 97.34 0.28
113.92 113.98 0.06
165.28 164.66 -0.62
174.21 173.56 -0.65
188.58 188.17 -0.41
208.56 207.86 -0.7

 

As you can see, Buveur D’Air clocked a time 0.7s faster over the same section as the juvenile race and did this despite running over half a mile further, carrying 7lbs more and doing so well within his comfort zone.  It was a pure top class performance and underlines my view from Cheltenham that he is a Champion Hurdler worthy of the moniker.  When adjusting for the weight and race distances I give the winner a mark of 172, and considering the manner of his win and that he is only a 6 year old there is scope for him to improve from this mark.

It must then follow to look at his prospects for next season.  First of all, I hope they skip Punchestown as his last two runs will have taken a lot out of him and I would worry about another one leaving its mark.  Next season though must revolve around him defending his crown at Cheltenham and I confess to being slightly surprised that he is as big as 4/1 to accomplish that task.  On my marks even a fully fit Annie Power getting weight would struggle to match him, and it remains to be seen if either she or Faugheen return to the track.  Only the soon to be 9 year old Arctic Fire would have the tools in his locker to lay a glove on the Champion on my numbers.  Considering Altior is half the price at 2/1 when potentially having to lock horns with Douvan, Min or Yorkhill…the 4/1 about Buveur D’Air would make some appeal as he likely just has to get to March in one piece.

MY TENT OR YOURS (166) and THE NEW ONE (164) are both now getting on in years and have been firmly dismissed by the winner now.  My Tent Or Yours deserves to win a big race and I would be interested in his prospects at Punchestown should they decide to go there.  The New One has always been just below the top grade, and he can pick up his usual assortment of Champion Hurdle trials next season and finish 5th in the big one….again!

I was keen on the prospects of RASHAAN (147) in this race, mostly due to his form in small fields on good ground.  Before this run, his form in single figure fields on ground soft or better read 1121211.  He is below Grade 1 level and was found out here, but can run to a number in the mid-150s on my figures and if he gets a small field race in Ireland as they often do he can win races.

 

DEFI DU SEUIL SOME WAY OFF CHAMPION HURDLE CLASS….AT THIS STAGE

If there is a worse antepost price than the 8/1 currently available about DEFI DU SEUIL (153) for the Champion Hurdle then I’d like to see it.  The sectionals of his win on the same card as Buveur D’Air show just how inferior he is, and he would need to take a massive step up to challenge next season.  Not only that but the record of 4 years olds shows how tough it is, and the fact he is in the same ownership and the option of chasing on the table must surely extinguish any enthusiasm in his chances.  He could improve for sure but just keeps hitting the same mid-150s numbers without progressing to me, and he makes no appeal as a betting prospect for the big race.

DIVIN BERE (152) continued his progression after just getting touched off in the Fred Winter at Cheltenham.  Already rated 145 he is likely to go up further after this, and could be in a difficult position to place next season as a result.  I wouldn’t discount him in handicap hurdles as with improvement he can be a threat in that sphere having shown affinity for a big field already.

The interesting horse to take out of the race to me was the third place runner BEDROCK (147).  Trained by Dan Skelton this was just his second start over hurdles after finishing down the field in 5th on his debut in the Adonis when jumping poorly.  The fact that he was put in there on his debut surely shows the high regard he is held in my connections, and this 90 rated 10f flat performer improved markedly here and is a nice prospect to go to war with next season.  That he could finish 6 length 3rd in a Grade 1 on just his second start over obstacles is admirable and with his trainers record in big handicap hurdles he rates a horse to keep on the right side of next season when all those big handicaps are surely on his agenda.

 

FLYING ANGEL AND TEA FOR TWO WOULDN’T HAVE CHALLENGED AT CHELTENHAM

There was an interesting double of sorts as two horses who were perceived as unfortunate at Cheltenham were victorious at Aintree.

FLYING ANGEL (160) was badly hampered in the JLT and then nursed home to finish a long way behind the protagonists.  It was more to do with not fully racing at Cheltenham than his class though that enabled him to win here.  This is shown in the lower numbers run by CLOUDY DREAM (159) and TOP NOTCH (155).

Cloudy Dream travelled well in this race but there are two reasons for his lower rating here…the trip and his big performance at Cheltenham taking it out of him.  I believe a combination of the two and meeting a rival who hadn’t fully raced at Cheltenham that perhaps had the stamina edge on him contributed to his demise.  He remains an exciting prospect for next season.

Top Notch ran below par and again the effort of Cheltenham probably took its toll.  As a result Flying Angel was able to prevail, but don’t kid yourself that he was capable of winning the JLT.  For starters Yorkhill had plenty in the tank to see off any challenge, and at best he could have hit the frame….in all likelihood he would have finished an admirable 4th.

 

In remarkably similar circumstances TEA FOR TWO (160) prevailed in the Bowl after unseating Lizzie Kelly early on in the Gold Cup.  Not fully racing at Cheltenham aided his victory here…even more so when considering the pace that CUE CARD (160) went.

Flying Angel Tea For Two Difference
15.97 15.75 -0.22
27.93 27.42 -0.51
39.45 39.03 -0.42
65.68 64.48 -1.2
88.98 87.53 -1.45
101.62 99.99 -1.63
123.88 122.89 -0.99
165.46 164.49 -0.97
180.9 179.75 -1.15
192.24 191.08 -1.16
203.19 202.22 -0.97
227.3 226.52 -0.78
249.17 248.5 -0.67
260.9 260.88 -0.02
281.92 284.16 2.24
294.88 298.65 3.77

 

When looking at the sectional comparison of the two races, you can see that they went harder in the longer race won by Tea For Two.  Cue Card was given an aggressive ride, and they understandably tired towards the end to clock a time 3.77s slower than the shorter race, having been 1.63s ahead early on.  Adjusting for this and the longer distance I am happy to rate both winners around the 160 mark…they are both good horses on their day but rivals running below par or too aggressively when combined with the lack of racing they had at Cheltenham allowed them to prevail.

CUE CARD (160) was given an aggressive ride, as discussed, but he himself fell 3 out in the Gold Cup.  Last year he was able to bounce back and romp to victory in this race…I am afraid to say he just looks to be on the downgrade now at 11.  Perhaps with a more efficient ride he could have won here, and perhaps there is one last big race in the great horse…but the percentage play would have to be to take him on next season should he race again.  There are monsters on the scene ready to take over his crown as we shall come onto later.

 

TWO MILE HANDICAP CHASE WORTH FOLLOWING

The two mile handicap chase that closed the card was run at a decent pace…they were 3.5s ahead of Flying Angel at one stage in their run.  They understandably tired from there but I think this race will throw up plenty of winners.  DOUBLE W’S (152), THEINVAL (156), BUN DORAN (147), YORKIST (141) and ROMAIN DE SENAM (140) should all be well handicapped enough to land big handicaps in the near future.  Bun Doran especially could be interesting in a big field 2.5m handicap chase next season, he was 6th in the novice handicap chase at the festival and would rate a fair Bet Victor Gold Cup prospect at this stage.

 

DAY 2

FOX NORTON JOINS THE CHASING TOP TABLE

Colin Tizzard had a quiet festival, and so it was especially encouraging that FOX NORTON (174+) was able to go so close in the Champion Chase there.  Stepping up to 2.5miles here he progressed further and clocked an excellent time when slamming some strong rivals impressively.

When comparing his run with that of Might Bite in the longer novice chase we can see how impressive Fox Norton was on the clock.

Fox Norton Might Bite Difference
15.42 15.77 -0.35
26.95 27.58 -0.63
38.02 38.92 -0.9
62.65 63.74 -1.09
85.29 86.17 -0.88
97.91 98.95 -1.04
120.13 121.74 -1.61
161.67 163.05 -1.38
177.47 178.45 -0.98
189.3 189.8 -0.5
200.82 200.86 -0.04
224.77 224.07 0.7
245.79 245.63 0.16
257.05 257.67 -0.62
276.86 279.67 -2.81
289.82 293.36 -3.54

 

Running at a stronger pace he was able to clock a time 3.5s quicker than Might Bite when timed from the first jump in the 2.5m race.  Understandably they tired a bit in the longer race, but this was still an exceptional performance from Fox Norton, who now looks set to stay at this distance or even go up further to 3 miles in the King George.  On his pedigree I wouldn’t be crazy about his chances of thriving at 3 miles, and so the option of dominating the 2.5m division would be my choice (the owner already owns the Gold Cup winner).  In all likelihood I would say they will attempt to test his stamina at Kempton and get beaten there, before reverting to the Ryanair along with Un De Sceaux.  That clash is a mouth-watering prospect already.

SUB LIEUTENANT (166) ran another good race but just couldn’t match the impressive winner in the closing stages.  I wrote in my Cheltenham review that he seems to thrive on undulating tracks, and so was somewhat surprised to see him go off favourite here.  His form on undulating tracks over 2.5m reads 13111322 with defeats coming against Un De Sceaus, Sizing John and Djakadam.  I’d still like to see them try him at 3 miles again though, he is related to Lord Windermere, and would be a likely candidate on pedigree.  He couldn’t go the pace of the winner here and was staying on in a strongly run Ryanair chase…with connections lacking an obvious Gold Cup candidate and his love of undulating tracks there are crazier outsiders for the blue riband next season.

 

MIGHT BITE FEELING THE EFFECTS OF MONSTROUS CHELTENHAM RUN

Plenty has been written about MIGHT BITE (170) and his remarkable run at Cheltenham.  He wasn’t up to his brilliant best here, and I think that is down to the Cheltenham run taking so much out of him just 3 weeks ago.  He was much more composed and measured here, jumping well throughout and always holding his old rival WHISPER (168) on the run in.

There were glimpses of his maverick brilliance in the race as he would step on the gas and have all of his rivals in trouble in behind making mistakes.  But he wasn’t at his top level here, and understandably so considering the effort he put in at Cheltenham.  Fortunately, it sounds like connections are drawing stumps on this season and then his campaign largely writes itself…Betfair Chase, King George and Gold Cup.  Cue Card and Bristol De Mai lie in wait in the first of those, and he should have enough to see them off with the former on the downgrade and the latter probably not in his league (though he would be a danger considering his form at Haydock).  The King George will probably see him take on doubtful stayers Fox Norton and Un De Sceaux and I’m always against horses returning from injury as Thistlecrack will be.  Which should then leave him to try and run his rivals ragged in the Gold Cup to land the million pound bonus.  He promises to be some sight next season and I would be keen to take big odds about him landing the huge bonus and landing all 3 races.

Whisper chased him home again, and connections intriguingly eyed up the National as his target for next season.  Only rated 155 before this run, and given his excellent form at this meeting, that would make sense to me as he will have to run against an array of top class horses next season at the top table.  I’d like to see him go for the Hennessy to start with to prove that he can handle the stamina test of the national, but assuming that he passes that test then he is of interest in the big race next year.

 

HURDLE RACES THROW UP INTERESTING PROSPECTS

I’ll tackle the 3 hurdle races on the card together, and you can see their sectionals here for the same 2 mile section they all covered.

Rather Be Pingshou The World’s End
10.22 10.15 9.99
26.72 26.18 26.03
84.82 83.52 83.06
98.46 97.59 96.52
114.69 114.21 113.41
164.57 164.4 166.47
174.01 173.65 175.9
189.14 188.41 191.83
209.05 208.57 213.57

 

RATHER BE (148) won the opening 2.5m handicap hurdle from the two JP McManus horses DREAM BERRY (145) and GEORDIE DES CHAMPS (146).  Rather Be was one of my handicap horses to follow at Cheltenham and I was devastated when he was hampered and unseated in the Martin Pipe race…he would’ve gone close there for sure.  He was beaten a head by Couer De Lion at Sandown in February when trying to give that rival a stone (before weight allowances) and ran to a big number that day in the 150s.  Couer de Lion backed up my opinion of the race when running well in the Triumph and happily Rather Be was able to hold off two well handicapped JP horses to prevail here.  They clocked a time just 0.6s slower than the grade 1 novices, despite going half a mile further and the three of them can be a threat in handicap hurdles next season.  Rather Be is a half-brother to Sign Of A Victory, he won this off a mark of 136, and is capable to being a mid-150s+ horse.  Similarly, both Dream Berry and Geordie Des Champs are capable of holding their own in big handicap hurdles off their likely revised marks in the low 140s.

(On a side note, the horse that finished 3rd behind Couer De Lion and Rather Be that day is rated just 118.  That horse is the David Bridgwater trained ACCORD, and I was interested that he was entered in a plethora of handicap hurdles before Cheltenham and in fact in the Supreme itself before not running in any of them.  Wherever he goes next he looks to be well handicapped on my ratings…he was also close in behind Thomas Campbell at Cheltenham earlier in the season).

 

I wrote in my Cheltenham review that PINGSHOU (149) was an eye catching horse in the parade ring, and he duly proved his previous form at Cheltenham was no fluke by winning cosily here.  A simply massive horse, he is the epitome of a chaser in the making, and he should make a fair one based on this run.  Below par at Cheltenham, Tizzards horses were under a cloud there, he bounced back to his best form to beat some useful novices.  He should be an exciting recruit over the larger obstacles if they can keep him sound (he has bled in the past).

Pingshou clocked a time 0.6s faster than Rather Be did in the handicap hurdle, but this was over a shorter trip albeit carrying 2lbs more.  Adjusting for this I reach a mark of 149 which shows him to be an able novice.  If he can improve for fences as he should he can be a top novice chaser.

The winner travelled prominently and kicked on up the run in away from MOUNT MEWS (145) who backed up his excellent win last time out at Kelso.  That was on heavy ground, and long term he may prove better on a softer surface but he was still able to run a good race here.  He rates an outstanding prospect for Trevor Hemmings.

MOON RACER (132) disappointed again after pulling up at Cheltenham, he clearly has his problems and much as I hope they can unlock his talent down the line, this fragile sort may never show his full potential.  The Greatwood Hurdle next season may be the last throw of the dice!

 

THE WORLD’S END (148) won the Grand Sefton in a close finish from BEYOND CONCEIT (148), DEBECE (147) and CONSTANTINE BAY (147).  They tired up the run in after a pace that was faster than the two shorter races earlier on the card, and when adjusting for this it points to smart performances from the four main protagonists.  That said though, they need to improve 20lbs to challenge Nichols Canyon, who like Buveur D’Air looks head and shoulders above his rivals looking ahead to next season in the staying hurdle division.

 

 

DAY 3

YANWORTH HANDLES STEP UP IN TRIP

YANWORTH (166) proved able to handle the step up in trip to 3 miles when landing the Grade 1 Liverpool hurdle.  Well beaten in the Champion Hurdle he perhaps lacks the pace for 2 miles at the very top level, but was able to run up to his best marks here up in trip.

Fountain’s Windfall Yanworth Difference
57.59 55.79 -1.8
74.4 71.58 -2.82
89.62 86.19 -3.43
141.68 137.06 -4.62
154.14 148.99 -5.15
170.38 165.02 -5.36
227.97 222.31 -5.66
243.61 238.3 -5.31
257.7 252.84 -4.86
304.4 303.39 -1.01
316.28 315.09 -1.19
332.21 329.9 -2.31
353.74 351.2 -2.54

 

When comparing his run to the handicap hurdle over the same trip earlier on the card, we can see that they went a much stronger pace in the Grade 1, reaching a maximum of 5.66s ahead.  The pace then slower and handicap hurdle closed to within a second. But the Grade 1 horses were still able to come up the run-in faster than FOUNTAIN’S WINDFALL (144), extending their advantage from 1.01s to 2.54s at the line.  Making this more impressive was the fact they were carrying 9lbs more.

Yanworth now looks set to tackle fences next season.  I’m never a huge fan of horses having an extra season over hurdles prior to chasing, and though he is likely to be a player in the novice chase division next year he could be worth opposing.  Trip wise at this stage the JLT must be the favourite as his intended target to my eye.

SUPASUNDAE (165) confirmed the promise of his excellent win in the Coral Cup, and was only narrowly eclipsed here by the winner.  Seemingly able now to handle this longer trip he looks a likely candidate for the Stayers Hurdle next season, with good ground seemingly a prerequisite.  Nichols Canyon lays in wait though!

Likewise for SNOW FALCON (164) who adds to the Irish staying hurdling contingent next season.  A strong traveller in his races, he didn’t find much off the bridle here.  He was going well when falling behind Unowhatimeanharry earlier in the season and clearly rates a contender in the top staying hurdles next year should connections elect to go down that route.

 

 

 

 

FINIAN’S OCAR AND CAPTAIN FOREZ ARE EXCITING NOVICE CHASERS

FINIAN’S OSCAR (152) won the Mersey Novices Hurdle for Colin Tizzard and Alan Potts, and rates a fine novice chase prospect for next season.  Having missed Cheltenham, this was his second Grade 1 hurdle win of the season, despite starting it in the point-to-point field.  With a summers improvement likely he can take high rank in the novice chase division next season.  Together with Pingshou, the Potts look like reaping the reward their investment deserves.

Finian’s Oscar Chesterfield Difference
12.63 11.58 -1.05
28.43 26.22 -2.21
85.76 83.43 -2.33
101.03 99.28 -1.75
114.81 114.02 -0.79
163.53 163.48 -0.05
174.94 174.97 0.03
189.83 189.5 -0.33
211.11 210.83 -0.28

 

They went a decent early pace in the Grade 1 race when compared to the handicap hurdle run over half a mile shorter later on the card.  Their overall time was just 0.28s quicker, but with the longer distance and extra weight I’m happy to award Finian’s Oscar 152 for this run.

He wasn’t the only exciting novice chaser in the race though, as he was chased home by CAPTAIN FOREZ (149) who looks crying out for fences next year.  To my eye he would look a 3 mile chaser in the making, so he did well to get so close to the perhaps speedier winner here on decent ground and a tight flat track.  His dam was a half-sister to a 3 mile winner and surely that’s where his future must lie next year…the RSA 2018, the Gold Cup 2019?!

 

ONE FOR ARTHUR AN EXCELLENT NATIONAL WINNER

I don’t do times for races over the National fences as there is only one a day, and I’m not a big fan of cross card analysis.  That said though the winner of this years looked exceptional, travelling well and winning impressively.

Rating the race through BLAKLION (158), I have both him and CAUSES OF CAUSES (160) on their marks I had them prior to the race, so this makes sense to me.  ONE FOR ARTHUR (163) gets a big number as a result and he followed up his eye catching win in the Classic Chase at Warwick over 3m5f confirming him as a classy staying chaser.  It may be a jump to argue the winner as a Gold Cup horse but still only 8 years old this was just his 11th chase start he could still improve.  National horses have run well in the blue riband before and he could stay into a place if Might Bite lines up and sets a crazy pace in the race next year!

VICENTE CAN LAND NICHOLLS THE TRAINERS CHAMPIONSHIP….AGAIN!!!

I’m not a huge stats fan, but the uniqueness of the Grand National means they have a degree of merit and over the years I’ve used a few to narrow the monster field down.  The stats I like to use to help find the winner are as follows:

8-11 years old

Had at least 10 runs over fences

Won over 3miles or more

Placed over 3m2f or more

Run to RPR of 148+

Best RPR is at least 4lbs ahead of OR

Had 3-6 runs this season

Won in a field of 14 or more

Placed in a field of 18 or more

Run in the last 3 to 8 weeks.

 

I’ve gone down as far as Goodtoknow for the likely field at this stage, and the stats leave the following candidates: THE LAST SAMURI, CAUSE OF CAUSES, HOUBLON DES OBEAUX, SAINT ARE, VICENTE, JUST A PAR, THE ROMFORD PELE and GAS LINE BOY.

The Last Samuri is probably too high in the weights.

Houblon Des Obeaux and Saint Are have both had 31 chase starts and are probably too exposed at this stage.

Just A Par has a nice profile, but I’m not sure he’s that well thought of out of the Nicholls entries, and rather fell in last time as the pace of the race caused a “pace collapse” as he came from the back of the field.  He could run a big race though on a course that suits.

The Romford Pele has pulled up on his last 3 starts and I’m happy to rule him out on that.  And Gas Line Boy is probably not good enough.

So, this leaves us with two: CAUSE OF CAUSES and VICENTE.

 

CAUSE OF CAUSES (160) has a really nice profile for this race.  He ran to a mark of 160 on my numbers when winning the four miler a few years back, and runs here off a mark of 150 here.  Winner of the Cross Country race at Cheltenham last time, it is interesting to note that Gordon Elliott used that race as a prep when Silver Birch was a narrow runner-up before winning the big race.  Jamie Codd has expressed concerns that he is on the small side and may not be ideally suited to the race, but with the fences now a bit easier and the fact he was 8th in the year Many Clouds won the race I think alleviates those concerns.  In short, he stays, likes the ground, handles big fields, is in form and has had an ideal prep for the race….he looks to have a massive chance to me.

The other runner I am really keen on is VICENTE (163).  He helped Paul Nicholls land the trainer’s championship last season when winning the Scottish National last season and I think he can land the biggest pot of all to help him secure it again this season.

He has the right age, experience, stamina, big field form and prep to be nigh on the ideal National candidate to me.  I like horses to have “National” form, Auroras Encore was second in the Scottish version, and Rule the World likewise in the Irish National before winning this and Vicente just ticks all the boxes for me.

Furthermore, there is evidence that this is the time to catch him.  Looking at his form the thing that leaps off the page for me is his love of good ground.  If we focus on his runs on genuine good ground or in the spring months his form reads 1P1113151.  Of his defeats, he was pulled up in a handicap hurdle and found to be suffering from a fibrillating heart and was left off until the following season as a result.  His 3rd, was a 1½ length defeat in a decent Cheltenham novice chase, and his 5th was a good run in a red hot renewal of the four miler at the Festival (trainer later confirmed it was a prep for his Scottish National win and he was hampered in the race).  He is unbeaten all other times he has met genuine good ground or run in the spring months.

Two of his victories under such conditions include giving 8lbs and a beating to dual Cheltenham Festival winner Un Temps Pour Tout, and the other came in the Scottish National last season.

This season Nicholls has been quoted that this race has been the target all season and they have been working backwards from there.  He fell in the Hennessy, was then 6th on soft ground in the Welsh National, 6th over an inadequate trip at Doncaster and down the field on softer ground last time at Haydock.  In short, this race has been the target all season and you can be sure they have left plenty to work with on every occasion he has run this season.

He is a French bred which traditionally isn’t ideal for a National horse, but he is by the same sire as Neptune Collonges and Dom Alco’s seem to relish stamina tests so I’m not duly concerned about that.  Also, he hasn’t had a hurdles prep this season, but his mark has dropped from 151 to 147 for this so he hasn’t been “hiding a mark” and he now runs off just 1lb higher mark than his win at Ayr last season.  In that race I gave him a big number that suggests he could have at least a stone in hand on his official mark if getting back to his best.  And conditions and preparation lead me to think that is very much on the cards.

Interestingly, he has been bought by Trevor Hemmings, and not that it is of any major significance to his chances, it would give the “National Story” side to things should he win given that connections lost the brilliant Many Clouds earlier in the year.  Vicente is currently number 35, runs off a mark of 147 and is set to carry 10st9lbs…everything looks right for him, and at 25/1 with extra place offers around he has to be a bet.

 

I don’t like to be bound religiously by the stats though, and there are a few “stat busters” that I feel could run big races.

MORE OF THAT (166) is an eye catching runner, and ran a nice race in the Gold Cup.  Riddled with problems the last few years, Jonjo has never hidden his love for this horse and I feel he has something in hand on his official mark here of 157.  Probably the classiest runner in the field, he could be the selection of Geraghty and go off fav on the day.  Worth getting him onside now at 16/1 and 20/1.

THE YOUNG MASTER (160) was a really good novice chaser a few seasons ago, and has started to live up to that promise after landing the Bet365 Gold Cup last season.  He fell in the Becher this season, before having a run over hurdles in the Cleeve.  He then ran a nice race to finish 6th in the handicap chase on day one of the festival and can go well here for Sam Waley-Cohen who has a good record over these obstacles.

The other one I like at a wild price is DOUBLE SHUFFLE (156+) who would be a big stats buster!  Perhaps this will be too soon for him, being a 7 year old, but coming from the family of Nil Desperandum I feel going up in trip is what this horse has been crying out for and he has shown improved form after getting stepped up to 3 miles this season. Yet to run over a real marathon trip, stamina is taken on that pedigree link rather than form, but he is a young progressive chaser who looks to have something in hand on his mark.  He likes good ground and travels well in his races, he can be a cheap each way play at 50/1.

Conclusion

  1. VICENTE
  2. CAUSE OF CAUSES
  3. MORE OF THAT
  4. THE YOUNG MASTER
  5. DOUBLE SHUFFLE
  6. JUST A PAR

 

Vicente and Cause of Causes look to have everything going for them for me and they are my two main fancies for the race.  The other three are runners that have something to find on the stats but look well handicapped sorts that can go well in the race.

Of the head of the market Vieux Lion Rouge looks to have lots going for him but has only had 2 runs this season, and may lack the overall experience despite having form over these fences.  Either way, he is short enough now at the head of the market.

Definitly Red is another one that may lack the required experience of the fancied runners, and I’m not sure he will relish this big field.  An accusation that can be thrown at Blaklion as well.

Hopefully these 6 can go well at decent prices.  Contrary to popular belief this is a decent betting race, and the place market will be overbroke so backing a few to have running for you has plenty of merit.