There have been few novice hurdle debuts as eagerly anticipated as the one made by SAMCRO (150+) last week.

Samcro Lex Talionis Ben Dundee
37.94 37.66 38.01
51.2 50.88 51.03
75.43 75.61 74.53
107.65 108.82 106.56
122.79 125.58 122.55
159.45 162.88 158.91
195.37 200.55 197.3
208.66 213.79 211.6

There were two other hurdle races on the card, one over the same trip and the other over half a mile further.  You can see from the sectionals above that Samcro clocked the fastest time as timed from the first flight on the two mile course, and he did this carrying 21lbs and 15lbs more in weight than the other two winners.  When adjusting for this I have awarded Samcro a mark of 150…clearly he is the real deal and justified the hype surrounding him.  Putting in this sort of number of debut marks him down as out of the top drawer.

Inevitably the mind wonders about Cheltenham targets and it seems to be between the Supreme and Ballymore for the horse, with preference for the latter based on the betting markets.  I noted that the excellent Johnny Ward tweeted after that Elliott said he almost jumps too well for a two miler, and it was noticeable that he jumped with a fair degree of elan throughout the contest.  That said though he is clearly not devoid of pace.  He clocked 85.87s from three out to the line, compared to 88.21s and 89.05s in the other two races, and did so seemingly within his comfort zone.  On pedigree though there are plenty of 2.5 and 3 milers in his family.  He is by Germany, the same sire as Faugheen, and he could be a similar type in having stamina in his genetics but can sustain a fast pace as well.  Wherever he ends up he is going to be hard to beat.



I’d been impressed by DEATH DUTY (161) on his debut as he settled so well to the point of falling asleep, and once woken up by a mistake at the last readily picked up a fair rival.  He stepped up on that debut at Punchestown later on the card to impressively beat TOUT EST PERMIS (141) and WOODLAND OPERA (145).

Death Duty Road To Respect King’s Song
13.21 14.17 14.84
42.74 45.29 46.44
59.91 63.27 65.18
90.64 95.07 97.76
104.1 109.21 112.41
128.73 135.17 139.22
144.47 151.43 155.52
157.09 164.67 169.19
188.22 196.55 201.78
204.77 213.65 219.4
230.33 239.43 247.15
242.86 251.84 260.08
255.47 263.79 273.13

The other two races over fences on the card were over 3m1f, and you’d expect Death Duty to clock a faster time for the course over 2m2f that he did.  Yet the scale of the time over the respective distances points to a red hot number of 161 for Death Duty once accounting for the weights carried.  He clearly has plenty of pace and at this stage the JLT would seem a logical target for him where prices of 12/1 look generous enough if one is happy to play the guessing game!



On the same card there was a strong looking Grade 3 won by ROAD TO RESPECT (160).  The race was notable for the enterprising ride given to KILCARRY BRIDGE (149) who set relatively sedate fractions in trying to steal the race from the front.  As you can see from the sectionals there were as much as 9s slower than Death Duty for the same part of the course.  This was over 7f further, but goes some way towards showing the difference in pace…even weaker horses can then compete over a shorter sprint finish as Kilcarry Bridge was nearly able to do here.  They were half a second quicker from 3 out to the line than Death Duty was over the shorter trip.

Road To Respect won the Plate at Cheltenham last season before defeating Yorkhill in an extraordinary race at Fairyhouse.  I’d given him a figure of 164 in victory last year, and he didn’t quite match that here.  Still only six it is possible that he can step up but in a potentially vintage staying chase division he is on the second tier as things stand.

I’d been keen on the chances of SUB LIEUTENANT (152) beforehand who had clocked big numbers from me last season in defeat to top class rivals like Sizing John and Un De Sceaux.  A half-brother to Lord Windermere he seems to also have a liking for undulating tracks and I felt that it was worth another try at three miles for him.  Alas, it didn’t seem to work and it is time to abandon that ship and stick to 2.5miles with him and probably another go at the Ryanair.  He got to within a length and a half of Un De Sceaux in the race last year and can no doubt go well again.

MINELLA ROCCO (140) was sent off a short priced favourite here but never really landed a glove, probably not being suited by the slowish pace and fast finish.  He stayed on well in the Gold Cup last year to finish second and all roads presumably lead back to there….and then onto the Grand National.  In Phil Smith’s last year handicapping the race it’ll be interesting to see what mark the currently 166-rated horse ends up on!



As if the Thursday wasn’t exciting enough for Gigginstown, the day beforehand they unleashed the top class hurdler PETIT MOUCHOIR (159) over fences for the first time.  As a general rule I tend to be a bit anti horses who stay another season over hurdles before chasing, but Petit Mouchoir was very impressive in victory here.  Unsurprisingly for a de Bromhead trained horse he jumped well throughout and saw off a couple of fair rivals in BRELADE (148) and BURGAS (137).

Petit Mouchoir A Sizing Network Difference
28.65 30.77 -2.12
45.51 48.81 -3.3
74.98 80.87 -5.89
88.35 94.54 -6.19
113.25 120.42 -7.17
128.66 136.29 -7.63
141.36 149.54 -8.18
172.84 180.54 -7.7
189.63 197.59 -7.96
214.64 224.06 -9.42
226.7 236.59 -9.89
238.64 249.44 -10.8

The other race on the card was won by A SIZING NETWORK (137) over 2m6.5f, but Petit Mouchoir showed the merit of his performance on the clock as you can see from the sectionals above.  Faster throughout the two races, he clocked a time 10.8s faster from the first flight on the two mile course.  Adjusting for the distances I reach a number of 159.

For a debut over fences this was top class and marks him down as an Arkle contender without question.  However, both runs at the festival have ended in defeats in 8th (Supreme) and 3rd (Champion Hurdle) and one would be wary about siding with him at a short enough price when his best form has come at a flat track like Leopardstown.



I haven’t held my breath for such a long time as when CAMPEADOR (154) headed down to the last at Punchestown on Wednesday.  Having fallen at the last when looking the winner in two big handicap hurdles previously it was nice to see the likeable grey get safely over this time and win.  And win in an impressive time!

Espoir D’Allen Campeador Cracking Smart Arctic Pearl
37.99 36.3 38.77 40.97
51.49 48.9 52.44 54.81
74.47 72.06 76.57 79.83
105.54 103.19 108.72 112.59
120.83 118.07 124.92 128.73
157.2 154.42 160.93 165.87
195.12 191.87 198.8 203.26
209.06 205.45 212.4 216.99

Of the four hurdle races run (two over half a mile further) he clocked the fastest overall time from the first flight by 3.5s and did so carrying 11st 12lbs.  Travelling well throughout this has to help his confidence after a horror fall when last seen.  I think he is still capable of better than this and it will be interesting to see if he can develop into a Champion Hurdle horse.  That said though, this strong traveller could be well suited by a race like the County.  Rated 145 prior to this he would likely end up with top weight in that race…but Arctic Fire managed to win the race this year off a big weight so don’t rule out the prospect of lightning striking twice.

Back in fourth was TULLY EAST (117) who won the novice handicap chase at the festival.  This had all the hallmarks of blowing the cobwebs away for the horse and he still looks potentially well handicapped over fences on 144 and surely goes for the BetVictor Gold Cup next.



On the subject of the Bet Victor Gold Cup, ROMAIN DE SENAM (151) defied a penalty to win for the second weekend running, this time at Stratford.  The manner of the victory wasn’t as eye-catching as last weekend but the clock still pointed to a decent number.

Romain De Senam Tara Mac Difference
22.33 23.02 -0.69
35.88 36.85 -0.97
63.87 66.75 -2.88
93.68 98.54 -4.86
130.11 136.91 -6.8
143.78 151.47 -7.69
156.05 164.36 -8.31
177.68 187.17 -9.49
190.47 200.56 -10.09
216.85 228.29 -11.44
244.95 257.92 -12.97
280.4 294.01 -13.61
294.94 309.71 -14.77

Comparing the race to the one won by Tara Mac over a furlong and a half further we can see that they clocked a time 14.77s faster from the first flight in the shorter race.  Even adjusting for the fact Romain De Senam was carrying 11lbs less this still arrives at a number of 151 for the winner.

I saw a tweet that said the horse had won as much in these two races as he would’ve done for finishing second in the BetVictor.  Nicholls is a master at placing horses and no doubt has an expected returns spreadsheet to aid him in placing his horses with such effect.  The horse is now due a lumpy jump up the handicap and although he is favourite for the race at Cheltenham it seems that isn’t on the cards.

The race may still provide a live contender for the BetVictor Gold Cup as BURTONS WELL (149) went down all guns blazing and did well to only go down by a neck to a rival that was near enough a stone well in.  A faller in the novice handicap at the festival this was an excellent comeback run and he can progress from it.  Venetia Williams went close with Aso in the big handicaps last year and looks to have another live contender this year with this horse.



This is an exciting time of year for jumps fans as some of the big names unleash novice chasers seemingly on a weekly basis.  CAPITAINE (158) was a well touted horse last year winning a Grade 2 at Ascot before going down to Finian’s Oscar in the Tolworth.  He looks to have stepped up a level now switched to chasing and put in a good time at Market Rasen to slam is rivals by 22 lengths.

Capitaine Sporting Boy Difference
10.16 10.31 -0.15
60.87 65.19 -4.32
69.71 74.73 -5.02
78.83 83.71 -4.88
126.9 133.46 -6.56
143.32 149.8 -6.48
155.53 161.96 -6.43
165.04 171.81 -6.77
213.1 221.07 -7.97
221.93 229.64 -7.71
230.5 238.48 -7.98
246.99 255.81 -8.82

The other race on the card was over 3miles, but Capitaine still clocked a time 8.82s quicker than some fair sorts in the longer race.

The next target muted was the Henry VII at Sandown and he must go there with a live chance, and looks a nice type for the Arkle where prices of 33/1 look generous.  Nicholls skipped the big festivals last year to give him time to develop and that decision looks to have paid dividends already.



I’d love to own a horse like THE NEW ONE (164) that gets so much criticism yet wins just shy of a million pounds in his career!

Woolstone One Eragon De Chanay The New One
17.01 17.47 16.25
79.12 80.87 74.42
102.56 106.16 96.68
123.72 129.49 116.99
172.28 177.87 162.85
190.88 195.91 182.76
206.18 211.94 199.3
221.68 229.45 215.52

In winning the Welsh Champion Hurdle off a mark of 160, I have The New One running to the same sort of mark he has been for the last few years.  You can see how much faster they went in this race when compared to the other two races run over the same trip on the card.  Note that The New One carried more weight as well.

There isn’t much really to say about him though.  The Champion Hurdle would have to cut up in the extreme for him to have a chance, admirable though he is.  The fact that he clocked such a good time here on desperate ground would imply that a step up in trip is within his compass though.  But the mighty Nichols Canyon lies in wait in the staying division so there probably isn’t much to be gained going that way either!



Whilst Thistlecrack takes steps back on the road to recovery, it was nice to see his half-brother WEST APPROACH (158) make a nice start over fences at Ffos Las.

West Approach Patricks Park Difference
12.59 12.52 0.07
61.34 61.14 0.2
74.1 74.4 -0.3
87.79 88.09 -0.3
101.86 102.01 -0.15
158.61 162.07 -3.46
170.82 174.46 -3.64
182.94 186.74 -3.8
195.46 199.2 -3.74
207.51 211.91 -4.4
251.32 260.21 -8.89
263.76 273.51 -9.75
277.23 286.65 -9.42
291.22 299.77 -8.55
305.42 313.19 -7.77

Comparing the performance to the other race over 2m5f on the card won by Patricks Park, we can see that the winner clocked a time 7.77s faster. They were 4.4s ahead before the long run into the straight and the came home even faster from there.  This was an excellent debut from the winner and shows that he has translated his ability over hurdles to the larger obstacles.

He had similar strong travelling mannerisms to his brother, and I’d be inclined to stick to 2.5miles with him at this stage.  And he did have a tendency to run down his fences to the left, but this was still an excellent start and he can go on from here.



The novice chase at Chepstow on Saturday has been won by Cue Card and Thistlecrack in previous runnings, and Colin Tizzard unleashed another potential star in FINIAN’S OSCAR (148+) in this year’s renewal.

There were three chases run on the card, with the other two over the near three mile trip.  The sectionals as timed from the first jump in the novice chase were:

Finian’s Oscar Rock The Kasbah Definitly Grey
11.71 12.45 12.32
25.52 26.95 26.71
35.77 37.67 36.89
46.59 49.18 48.52
115.17 122.72 121.38
125.2 133.15 132.17
132.97 140.97 140.02
144.95 153.22 152.02
158.14 166.7 165.66
169.05 177.53 176.81
221.32 228.71 230.13
233.93 239.79 242.25
249.26 252.81 256
261.04 262.59 265.82
274.3 273.68 277.06
292.28 290.06 295.04

Settled at the back of the four runner field by his new pilot, Bryan Cooper, Finian’s Oscar struck me as a professional enough jumper for his first run over fences, and he was given a nice education by Cooper.  At one stage he was ten lengths or so off the leading pair but once encouraged he picked up the leader AINTREE MY DREAM (133) fairly readily and travelled all over him up the straight to win eased down.

The fact he was eased down presents a bit of a conundrum in trying to accurately rate him.  Even with that he clocked a time just 2.22s slower than Rock The Kasbah, and a quicker time than Definitly Grey.  But he was so far in ascendancy at one point (8 or 9s ahead of both), and still seemed to have so much left in the tank at the end that I’ve upgraded him a fair bit to arrive at a mark of 148.

It was no secret that he was a potential top notch novice chaser, but he impressed me here on his debut.  The end of season choice would seem to be between the Arkle and the JLT… Coming from the family of Champion Chase winner Finian’s Rainbow and the way he picked up decent horses here suggests there is plenty of pace in his make-up so I can see connections going for the shorter race.  With his point to point background though his long term future is probably the 2019 Gold Cup and I wonder if he could follow Kicking King, War Of Attrition and Sizing John in finishing runner-up in the Arkle and then going onto Gold Cup glory?



The other performance of note on the chase front was from ROCK THE KASBAH (152) who won the handicap chase off a mark of 142 in a nice style.  He clocked a time 5s quicker than the winner of the other race over the same distance, but it was the impressive finish that caught my eye.  Up to seven out they clocked roughly the same time of around 177s, but from there Rock The Kasbah came home 6s quicker.  Adjusting for this points to a nice performance from the winner that goes some way towards fulfilling his potential.  He was carrying 15lbs less than the winner of the other race but this still merited a number 10lbs higher than the mark he won off.

I notice he has been raised to a mark of 149 as a result of this win.  He can still pose a threat off that mark should connections elect to go for the Ladbroke Gold Cup at Newbury.  Though considering he has good form here at Chepstow and on soft ground, the Welsh National has to be tempting for connections.  He’ll need to find some more improvement…but that is certainly possible for the seven year old.



COURT MINSTREL (147) won the Silver Trophy for the second time at the age of 10.  He had dropped to a nice mark, and with the ground in his favour and his excellent jockey claiming 7lbs he was able to get his head in front ahead of SAM SPINNER (140).  However, it is the preceding race also won by Mitch Bastyan that I think is seriously worth following.

Silver Streak Court Minstrel Difference
72.1 71.83 0.27
88.73 88.82 -0.09
102.45 102.63 -0.18
174.39 175.78 -1.39
185.78 186.92 -1.14
196.17 197.09 -0.92
215.41 215.93 -0.52
227.33 228.39 -1.06

SILVER STREAK (142) won the race in fine style, travelling well before pulling 4.5 lengths away from DOLOS (150).  As you can see from the sectionals above, he clocked a time just over a second quicker from the first flight.  Adjusting for the lower weight carried and distance run and looking at the other races on the card I reach a number of 142 for the winner.  He was winning here off a mark of just 122, and has only been put up to 130.  I was interested to see his trainer talk about the Greatwood Hurdle as a potential target, and he would certainly be of interest there should he get in.  He looks on an upward curve, and ahead of his new mark.

DOLOS (150) seemed to get outpaced at the end by the winner and despite the fact he has yet to be successful beyond two miles he looks worth trying up in trip.  On pedigree he could well improve for it and he looks well ahead of his mark of 135.

FLASHING GLANCE (140) won a Stratford novice by 20 lengths in September, and has some smart bumper form in behind Irish Prophecy, Cap Soleil and Pym.  He is another worth following.

FIDUX (141), DINO VELVET (133) and PERCY STREET (130) all look capable of winning from their marks.  The two Alan King horses perhaps needed the run, and Percy Street looks well handicapped on the best of his flat form.  Having been gelded recently, Henderson is just the trainer to unlock the potential that looked to be there when he travelled well in the Fred Winter.



Paul Nicholls wasn’t the only one devastated when ROMAIN DE SENAM (148) didn’t get into the novice handicap chase at the festival, as I’d made him one of the best bets of the week for that race.  Alas, there was some recompense as he slammed his rivals on Sunday at Chepstow from a mark of 133.

Mia’s Storm Bob Ford Romain De Senam
12.66 12.2 11.44
26.93 26.92 25.43
37.47 37.7 35.82
48.89 49.32 47.07
122.16 119.94 117.63
132.29 130.44 127.85
140.36 138.52 135.77
152.37 150.68 147.8
166.03 165.02 161.58
177.23 176.43 172.65
226.75 227.93 223.15
237.62 239.48 234.03
250.4 253 247.43
260.17 263.37 257.68
270.66 274.43 268.58
285.17 290.49 284.85


The other two chases on the card were over 4f further than this race, and Romain De Senam unsurprisingly was able to clock a faster time than both the other winners even after being well eased in the closing stages.

I was somewhat surprised to hear that the BetVictor Gold Cup wasn’t being considered for the winner.  It looks the obvious race, and assuming he goes up to a mark of around 142 after this and with further improvement he must have a big chance for the race.  Nicholls mentioned that he may not have sufficient experience, but this was his 8th run over fences….he just has to go for the race (unless the owner has another candidate, which I’ll come to later!)

DOUBLE SHUFFLE (157) was well beaten by the pacier winner, but this was a fine comeback run for him.  Back up in trip to another go at three miles and I think he can land a nice prize this year even from his mark of 151.



With hurricanes hitting the British Isles it seemed MIA’S STORM (145) was an appropriately named winner of the novice chase on the card.  As we saw from the sectional’s the time she clocked was only just behind Romain De Senam despite the longer trip and carrying 6lbs more.  She was a progressive hurdler last year but looks to have kicked on again now moving to the bigger obstacles.  Unbeaten on good ground, she could be one to bear in mind for better ground in the spring should she get turned over on a softer surface over the winter months.

ELEGANT ESCAPE (149) has been a well touted horse having been beaten in his point to point days by the hype machine Samcro.  Now moved to the bigger obstacles he made an excellent debut here and looks a nice prospect for novice chasing, perhaps an RSA type, with stablemate Finian’s Oscar likelier to thrive at shorter trips.



Seeing a Terry Warner owned, Phillip Hobbs trained grey stirs the emotions as one reminisces about the mighty Detroit City.  And it looks like connections have another fine prospect in GUMBALL (136).

Gumball Poetic Rhythm Misterton
75.79 70.22 70.17
92.46 86.49 86.39
106.06 99.89 99.26
179.47 172.06 172.57
191.33 184 184.49
201.64 195.44 194.91
220.48 215.57 214.55
233.06 228.45 227.45

They clocked the slowest time in this race, as you can see above, but most of this can be accounted for at the start of the race, and perhaps explains the winners scratchy and clumsy jumping.  In a stronger run race he should jump better, as he had done on debut, and he looks a fine Triumph Hurdle prospect at this stage.

The runner-up MALAYA (126) had a fair reputation from France but was no match for the winner here.  She should step up from this and looks a nice prospect herself.

SPEEDO BOY (104) is an interesting horse from the flat where he has been rated as high as 100.  He bumped into two smart horses here and if connections place him right he could end up on a nice mark for the Fred Winter.



POETIC RHYTHM (142) won the novice hurdle in fine style, but it was the third placed horse VISION DES FLOS (136) that is the one to take out of the race.  The winner and runner-up were having their fifth and ninth starts over hurdles, yet Vision Des Flos travelled well in the race and just looked in need of the run here.  He should step up nicely from this and be on the scene in the big end of season novice hurdles.  This race was 3.5f further than the other two races on the card, yet they clocked a time just a second slower than the race won by Misterton.



MISTERTON (144) won the final hurdle race on the card in a good time but it was the horse in third, OLDGRANGEWOOD (144) that caught the eye.  He travelled well, but looked to get a bit outpaced at the end of the race and perhaps also in need of the run (was a drifter on the day)  He was just 5 lengths behind Cloudy Dream at Ayr over 2.5miles at the end of last season and looks dangerously handicapped on a mark of 147.  The benefit of this run, and going back up to 2.5miles should see improvement as should moving back over the larger obstacles.

With Nicholls so quick to dismiss the BetVictor Gold Cup in the aftermath of the race for Romain De Senam, I wonder if the owner has the race in mind for Oldgrangewood already!


The jumps season stepped up a gear in the last week with some big names reappearing and some smart prospects laying down their markers for the season ahead.


The Munster National run at Limerick on Sunday looked like a decent betting heat, with a Willie Mullins horse heading the market and a big field giving favourable place terms.  However, it was turned into a procession as the Mullins hotpot TOTAL RECALL (154) made an absolute mockery of his handicap mark of 129.  Previously trained by Sandra Hughes it is scarcely believable how much improvement Mullins has managed to eek out of the horse, albeit he had run with promise from such a mark last season.

Total Recall Jury Duty Attribution
10.6 10.38 10.02
21 20.81 20.05
31.5 31.45 30.85
46.04 46.13 45.14
103.45 104.75 103.02
113.51 115.48 112.91
176.95 180.46 173.13
187.38 189.98 182.71
197.95 200.58 192.47
208.42 211.48 202.49
222.62 225.58 215.94
275.95 279.21 270.13
285.45 289.38 280.04
298.02 299.53 293.14

The sectionals as taken from the first jump in the shorter races are shown in the table above.  The race won by Jury Duty was run at a relative crawl, but Total Recall still clocked a time 1.5s quicker despite travelling two furlongs further.  He was heavily eased in the closing stages and was in fact 4s quicker to the final flight!  Attribution ran a quicker time as can be seen above but this was over 4.5f further, and once adjusting for this it points to a big number for Total Recall.  He will rightfully get murdered by the handicapper off the back of this, presumably to a mark in the mid to high 140s, but he can go in again of such a mark…perhaps even in the Ladbrokes Gold Cup at Newbury.

I bet ALPHA DES OBEAUX (160) in the race and although he was well handicapped he was unfortunate to bump into the winner.  That said it was good to see him return back to form, having put up some big numbers for me in the past, most noticeably behind Thistlecrack in the Stayers Hurdle and behind Coney Island in the Drinmore.  His problems were well reported last season, and having bled it is possible he will always be hit and miss and perhaps even need to be fresh to be at his best.

The other two chases on the card saw a smart introduction to chasing for JURY DUTY (140) over 2m6f.  Well fancied when third in the Pertemps last season he was given a straightforward enough introduction to chasing here and was relatively untroubled in success.  He can take decent rank in the staying novice chase division, and looks a RSA horse at this stage.

ATTRIBUTION (151) and CHILDRENS LIST (154) fought out the finale of the other chase on the card, with the former coming out on top.  He ran some nice races in defeat last year, and seemed suited by this step up to 2.5m in fending off his rival who was travelling better.  A former 3m pointer he could be worth trying up to 3 miles in future.

The runner-up travelled menacingly in behind but perhaps their relative match fitness paid its toll in the ground.  This was Childrens List first run since beating Edwulf on New Year’s Eve last year, and he confirmed the promise of that run with a decent first showing this season.  Another from the point to point field, he is actually a half-brother to Schindlers Hunt and could pay his way in Grade 2/3 races over 2.5miles for connections.  Although considering those connections are the Mullins/Ricci/Walsh triumvirate his odds may not be appealing.


Over hurdles we saw a stunning performance from ROBIN DES FORET (156) to win the listed race over 2m5f.

Balakani Robin Des Foret Drakaina Crown Of Gold
9.81 9.65 9.12 9.67
71 67.52 68.44 71.23
80.36 76.69 77.45 80.53
90.02 86.37 87.07 90.54
99.61 96.3 96.67 100.51
160.72 156.26 158.57 161.2
171.06 165.03 167.54 170.35
184.32 178.13 180.09 183.19

As you can see from the sectionals above, taken from the first jump in the two mile race, Robin Des Foret clocked the fastest time despite racing over further than two of the other races on the card and carrying at least 6lbs more than the winners of those other races.  It was a stunning performance as he travelled well throughout to dispatch his well fancied stablemate FABULOUS SAGA (149).

The winner has been on the go throughout the summer and continues the previous Mullins trend of running his decent horses “out of season”.  He looks a top prospect for the Neptune or Albert Bartlett novice hurdles.

The runner-up had similarly been on the go throughout the summer and maybe set the race up for his stablemate here.  He is an exciting horse for the remainder of the season and on pedigree and point to point background could go well up in trip to 3 miles and the slower pace of race there could suit.  He seemed exuberant in front and if he can settle over that sort of trip he would be a live threat.  But as ever with Mullins, we have to keep all trip options open at this stage!

It would be appropriate to mention MEGA FORTUNE (150) at this stage.  He was set to take the opening hurdle race in fine style on his seasonal reappearance before succumbing to a horrendous fall two from home.  It was horrible to watch and served a reminder to us all of the risks involved in racing, and that is something we should all wrestle with in our minds.  These animals are treated like kings, but accidents like this are still hard to take.  Mega Fortune had proved a brilliant acquisition from the flat and had adapted into a top juvenile hurdler.  He was set to clock a decent time here and with some improvement would not have been out of place in Grade 1s this season, or the big handicap hurdles.  He will be sorely missed.


There are three horses I want to talk about here, the first being the Champion Bumper horse of last season FAYONAGH (117+).

Fayonagh Russian Roulette Difference
28.27 28.98 -0.71
43.54 44.61 -1.07
76.67 78.05 -1.38
92.87 93.79 -0.92
122.79 123.65 -0.86
153.49 153.03 0.46
171.26 169.68 1.58
198.35 196.65 1.7
211.99 210.78 1.21
225.26 225.26 0

There was one other race on the Fairyhouse card run over 2miles, and this was won by Russian Roulette in a handicap hurdle off a mark of 108.  Fayonagh clocked the same time from the first flight to the line and carried 7lbs less in doing so!

I played around with the numbers and comparisons with the other races on the cards, and a mark of 117 was all I could give last season’s bumper heroine.  Sure, she was relatively untroubled in defeating her rivals and one would expect her to progress a lot from here, but it backed up the underlying view I have that last season’s bumper horses weren’t a vintage crop.  Samcro and Lalor were the two that looked the ones to take out of last year for me, and it will be interesting to see how Fayonagh progresses.  At this stage, Elliots call to target the mares novice would look to be appropriate.

SHATTERED LOVE (120+) was another that falls into this category.  She was untroubled in despatching weaker rivals but didn’t clock a time of any note.

Bamako Moriviere Shattered Love Fenlon’s Hill
18.39 19.62 19.73
51.88 56.18 55.59
63.46 69.61 67.81
76.43 84.39 81.42
112.85 122.3 118.83
139.94 149.33 145.77
163.08 172.14 168.76
187.55 196.94 195.09
204.34 213.96 213.31
220.93 231.23 229.72

As we can see she was consistently the slowest of the three winners when timed from the first flight in the two mile race, and on the clock her performance only merits a number of 120.  That said though, she looks a big imposing horse and clearly well suited to chasing.  There will be tougher engagements than this down the line and hopefully she will be up to the task.

Whilst the two mares are horses I feel can leave the marks I’ve given them well behind, I confess to not buying into the hype around PALMERS HILL (118+) who won a 2 mile maiden hurdle at Uttoxeter.  A staggeringly expensive purchase from the point to point field this horse has featured in many a “horses to follow feature” in the build up to this season.

Palmers Hill Dusky Raider Difference
16.48 15.86 0.62
39.49 38.44 1.05
53.39 51.58 1.81
100.76 97.56 3.2
121.29 117.47 3.82
172.53 170.48 2.05
192.67 192.58 0.09
205.03 206.04 -1.01
218.07 219.75 -1.68

The other two mile race on the card was a handicap won off a mark of 97 by Dusky Raider.  Although there was a slow pace in the maiden hurdle, Palmers Hill still only clocked a time 1.68s quicker and did so carrying 9lbs less.  Even adjusting for the quicker finish I still only give him a mark of 118.  Again, you would expect him to progress someway from here and he did travel well in this race.  His long term future presumably lies in staying chases, but better point to point judges than I have similarly balked at the £310,000 fee paid for him and I can’t help feeling he will turn into a costly horse for connections and probably a costly horse to follow.


Although perhaps a bit disappointing in the novice hurdles at the backend of last season (though his run behind Bacardys and Finian’s Oscar shouldn’t be underestimated), it was good to see DEATH DUTY (134+) make a winning start to his chase career at Tipperary.

Death Duty Miss Eyecatcher Crocodile Dundee
22.21 22.99 21.59
44.3 45.74 44.03
62.59 65.84 63.76
97.56 100.46 99.93
116.13 119.36 118.98
147.13 149.65 149.39
169.12 172.02 171.69
190.9 193.68 193.08
209.62 211.93 210.05
242.67 242.87 241.28
260.18 259.38 258.05
270.34 270.11 269.12

Timed from the first flight in the two mile race won by Crocodile Dundee, we can see the three races were won in remarkably similar times.  However, Death Duty did his winning over the longest trip (just short of 3miles), carried 5lbs and 8lbs more in weight than the other two winners, and seemingly did so while half asleep.  In fact it seemed the horse had nearly sent Davy Russell to sleep as they approached the last and seemed set to be outrun to the line by CAP D’AUBOIS (133) in an enterprising ride from Ruby Walsh.

At the last Death Duty slowed into the jump and flicked over, losing a degree of momentum.  However, once woken up and shaken up he picked up the runner-up with some comfort and wasn’t asked another question in the run to the line.  Connections mentioned the Drinmore as a first target and that looks just fine by me!  He should take high rank in the novice chase division this season, with perhaps the JLT a likely end of season target.




With the colour of the leaves changing, and the temperature dropping by the day the excitement only goes in the opposite direction for us jump fanatics, and it was good to see an old favourite return to winning ways alongside some other good performances at the weekend.

JEZKI (150) may only be a nine year old but seems to have been around for ages, and he bounced back here with a bang from a campaign last year that appeared to fizzle out with a whimper in beating five rivals by four lengths at Tipperary in a Grade 3 hurdle over two miles.  Happily for us sectional fans all three races were over hurdles were run over the same two mile trip and the times from the first hurdle in each race are shown here:

Jezki Sayar Persistent
9.29 8.32 9.09
52.78 48.6 52.43
70.81 65.14 70.26
102.04 95.91 102.18
150.32 144.05 151.31
158.4 152.65 159.85
196.33 191.89 198.8
211.62 209.1 215.08
221.92 221.05 225.99

The handicap hurdle was won by Persistent who I’ve rated 115, and Jezki, as one would expect, clocked a time 4s quicker, with the gap ever widening from early on in their respective races.  Allowing for the differing weights I’ve rated Jezki 150 as a result, which is actually 5lbs lower than I rated him on his reappearance last season at Navan in January.  Given how his season failed to progress from there it would have to be a concern that he can get back to where he was, but it was good to see him back in the winner’s enclosure all the same.  He didn’t reappear until January last year so the fact that he is back so early in the season would give cause for optimism that his preparation has been better this year.

The more interesting race to compare his run to was with the novice hurdle on the card won by the Willie Mullins trained SAYAR (141).

Jezki Sayar Difference
9.29 8.32 -0.97
52.78 48.6 -4.18
70.81 65.14 -5.67
102.04 95.91 -6.13
150.32 144.05 -6.27
158.4 152.65 -5.75
196.33 191.89 -4.44
211.62 209.1 -2.52
221.92 221.05 -0.87

As we can see from the table above, they went a much stronger pace in the novice hurdle, being a full 6.27s ahead at one stage.  Unsurprisingly they were able to finish much quicker in the Grade 3 race as a result and it is with this adjustment that I rate that race higher despite the relatively similar finishing times.

But make no mistake this was a smart performance from SAYAR (141) who backed up the eye-catching run he put in on his hurdling debut at Kilbeggan where he was an easy sixteen length winner.  Putting in this sort of number on his second hurdle start and just the fourth run of his life marks him down as a very smart prospect.  Two unheralded runs for Mick Halford over 10f on the flat have been firmly left behind and it would be no surprise should he turn up in the opening contest of the festival in March, especially as better ground than here looks like it should herald further improvement.  Bought for just €65,000 he looks a good purchase for connections.

The runner-up MORGAN (149) has plenty of experience for a novice and did well to get to within three lengths of the winner despite conceding 11lbs to him.  Rated just 139 before this race, he could now step into handicap company and looks well treated on his mark.

The biggest number I gave to a hurdler on this card though was to another Mullins horse, namely COQUIN MANS (152) who tried to give 7lbs to Jezki but did not have the turn of foot to go with the former Champion Hurdler.  This is probably unsurprising given he has already won over three miles, and going back up in trip he looks a smart horse.

The other horse that couldn’t go with Jezki’s turn of foot at the end of the race was the four year old EX PATRIOT (141).  Fourth in the Triumph Hurdle last year this looked to be a good opportunity for him getting weight from his elder rivals, but the slow pace, fast finish clearly didn’t suit him.  In a bigger field and perhaps on better ground I think he is well handicapped off 143, and I wonder whether connections may be tempted to go for a race like the Greatwood Hurdle.  Before that there is a four year old race at Cheltenham in October, where a likely clash with Defi Du Seuil would await.  Ex Patriot would be getting weight from the Triumph Hurdle winner and wouldn’t be without a chance to my eye especially with match fitness on his side (though the prospect of a small field there would potentially count against him).


On the previous day at Gowran there was a Grade 2 chase over two and a half miles, won in nice style by A TOI PHIL (168) beating the Galway Plate winner BALKO DES FLOS (157) in a Gigginstown 1-2.

A Toi Phil Deputy’s Pass Tout Est Permis
51.12 54.41 52.26
62.71 66.74 64.12
73.33 77.54 74.55
128.29 135.29 130.77
141.26 148.94 143.47
154.59 162.6 156.34
168.42 177.33 170.24
184.35 194.26 186.66
232.81 244.07 237.24
243.45 255.21 248.69
252.83 265.67 258.99
264.95 278.66 272.28

We can easily see the merits of the performance from the sectional comparison with the other two chases on the card (timed from the same first flight in the 2m2f race).  They were 13.7s quicker than the handicap chase run over 3m1f, but the comparison to note for me was with the novice chase where A Toi Phil clocked a time 7.3s quicker despite racing over 2f further, and carrying 6lbs more.  They were quicker throughout the race.

TOUT EST PERMIS (134) is a nice prospect and beat a fair horse in BRELADE (138) in the novice chase.  The fact that A Toi Phil was so dominant over them shows to me that he is still progressing and put in an excellent performance here.  That said though, he would still be below the top table of middle distance chasers around at the moment such as Un De Sceaux and Fox Norton but I wouldn’t dismiss him out of hand.

Since moving to Ireland, A Toi Phil has raced eight times in races below Grade 1 class less than three miles (I’m ignoring his debut where he ran out early on), and his form in such conditions reads 11111141 with his one defeat coming in the Galway Plate beaten just six lengths.  He is well worth following in such Graded races, and I wouldn’t dismiss his chances of landing a Grade 1 at some stage given the time he clocked here.  He actually had Disko twelve lengths behind him the Florida Pearl Novice Chase last year and I was somewhat surprised to not even see him quoted for the Ryanair Chase in March.  He is versatile groundwise and looks to be well suited to the middle distance trip.