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.

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