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|
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|
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|
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:
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.