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:
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).
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|
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.