CHELTENHAM REVIEW

SPEED NOT STAMINA WON THE RACE FOR FINIAN’S OSCAR

Friday at Cheltenham saw the second run over fences for one of the big hype horses of the season in FINIAN’S OSCAR (151) and he duly went and won, defying a penalty in doing so.

What A Moment Doitforthevillage Finian’s Oscar
8.38 8.06 8.54
30.76 30.07 31.47
51.84 50.81 53.38
65.13 64.12 67.23
77.37 76.53 80.25
89.68 88.3 93.08
109 106.64 113.26
146.41 143.47 151.28
177.97 173.44 181.02
186.33 181.37 188.25
206.45 199.21 203.89

As we can see Finian’s Oscar clocked a time faster than they did in the longer handicap chase, but slower than the handicap over 2miles.  But this doesn’t tell the whole story.

What A Moment Doitforthevillage Finian’s Oscar
146.41 143.47 151.28
60.04 55.74 52.61

The times in the above table show first, the time they took to get to 3 out, and secondly from 3 out to the line. (Using where all three courses overlap as the start point).

This shows that they went a very slow pace in this race, nearly 8 seconds slower to 3 out than they did in the two mile chase.  But then Finian’s Oscar fairly motored home, reaching the line 3.13s quicker.  It was a fair turn of foot by the horse, and whilst the overall time was nothing special, when I adjust for this finish I’ve given him a figure of 151.

He now keeps on hitting the same sort of marks for me though, and I’m now beginning to wonder if he’s going to live up all the hype surrounding him.  It’s fairly clear that he’s a good horse, but I’m not quite buying into the hype yet.  Perhaps when he gets a stronger pace he’ll really thrive, but until that happens I’ll be in the negative camp for now.  It would seem that either the Arkle or JLT Chase is on the cards at the moment, and I’d probably lean towards the former given he can stay beyond 2miles but also seems to have a strong turn of foot.

The runner-up MOVEWITHTHETIMES (141) tried to win the race with one run but just got out sped to the line by the winner.  There is plenty of stamina in his pedigree and this sort of trip may be the minimum he needs.  I noticed that he’s been dropped a pound to a mark of 145 after this race, and that would get him into the novice handicap chase on day 1 over 2.5miles.  He may also be a candidate for the three mile handicap chase that day as well.

 

NOVICE HANDICAP HURDLE WORTH FOLLOWING…AS USUAL!

As usual, the novice handicap hurdle at this meeting looks like working out again.  The winner MAGIC DANCER (133) had put up a good performance earlier in the week at Kempton and duly followed up here off the same mark.

Magic Dancer On The Blind Side Difference
34.68 37.76 -3.08
77.19 81.88 -4.69
109.52 113.77 -4.25
134.65 138.3 -3.65
168.24 171.66 -3.42
186.8 190.04 -3.24
210.63 214.05 -3.42
229.2 232.09 -2.89

As we can see, the winner clocked a better time than On The Blind Side did in the longer Grade 2 Hurdle later on the card.  Even when adjusting for the shorter trip I still get to a decent number for the winner, considering he was winning off a mark of just 113.  Raised to 124 after this will make life harder for him, but he was rated 102 on the flat at one stage and there could be more to come.

OXWICH BAY (129) was second again and seems to keep bumping into decent and well handicapped horses!  There is a race for him to be won off his new mark of 121.

CHAMPAGNE CITY (134) advertised the form of Silver Streak in running a good race to finish third here.  Perhaps doing a bit too much in front he maybe set the race up for the winner.  He was badly hampered at the start at Chepstow in that hot race, but even though he got put up a couple of pounds for this he could still be well treated.

 

APPLE’S SHAKIRA LOOKS SHORT FOR THE TRIUMPH

As a general rule I tend to be sceptical of horses with illustrious relations, and there were mutterings that APPLE’S SHAKIRA (137) had nothing like the ability of her sister Apple’s Jade.  However, she was well backed and duly usurped Triumph Hurdle favouritism from GUMBALL (124).  But quotes of 4/1 seem crazy short to me!

Apple’s Shakira Thomas Campbell Coole Cody
44.71 46.4 45.62
77.42 79.83 79.58
102.31 106.03 105.67
136.04 140.97 141.42
154.39 160 160.43
179.88 185.24 184.66
199.83 203.88 202.88

She clocked the fastest time of the three hurdles races on the Saturday, but did so over the shortest trip and carrying 20lbs less in weight than the other two winners.  Furthermore, conditions were horrendous on Saturday and the ground worsened throughout the day, and she benefitted from being ridden wide on the track compared to the runner-up who took the inner quagmire route to the line.  I wouldn’t be getting carried away with her myself, especially considering some of the talent that’s been acquired in France.

SPEEDO BOY (114) ran round the back of the field to get some more hurdling experience.  He would’ve despised this ground and I note he has been given a mark of 120, which considering he has reached RPR of 104 would seem very workable.  I wonder whether this may be the last time we see him before the Fred Winter.  Though he may need to go up a bit to ensure a run in that race.

 

PERFECT CANDIDATE WINS A THRILLER…MAYBE FROM THE NATIONAL WINNER!

The 3m3f chase was a thriller won by PERFECT CANDIDATE (162) from the closing VICENTE (160)

Black Corton Perfect Candidate Splash Of Ginge
8.86 8.59 8.35
31.91 31.4 31.27
53.21 53.53 53.63
66.77 67.95 68.11
79.19 80.98 81.21
91.68 93.31 93.71
110.8 112.79 113.82
149.69 152.34 152.11
180.7 186.83 183.94
189.1 195.79 192.86
206.65 215.34 212.7

The winner clocked the slowest time of the three chases for their equivalent sections, but did so over the furthest distance and most of the time difference came at the end when they were understandably tiring in the ground.  I’ve given the winner a mark of 162 and he is clearly very smart when he gets his conditions…namely 3miles plus, soft ground and race fit from a prep run as he was here.  It is probably stretching things to suggest he could land a blow in a Gold Cup, even on heavy ground but he would probably deserve to line up.  Either way, look out for him when he gets his conditions.

I was surprised to see Vicente getting so well backed, as the ground seemed to be dead against him.  But he seemed to cope with it ok, and he just seems to be a thorough stayer these days.  His jumping can be a bit sketchy and that maybe cost him the win here.  If they can iron out his jumping I’d be interested in his chances in the National, where he fell at the first this year.

 

SLATE HOUSE LOOKS A STAR OF THE FUTURE

Of all the horses I saw in the flesh at Cheltenham, perhaps the most visually impressive horse to look at was SLATE HOUSE (148).  He proved good looks are not his only attribute as he travelled well in the race winning from the closing runner-up SUMMERVILLE BOY (147). 

Melrose Boy Elgin Slate House
37.22 36.41 40.08
81.8 80.48 82.25
116.77 113.54 115.62
143.43 138.3 141.19
179.63 171.47 175.27
198.64 189.23 193.34
223.02 212.48 216.75
243.2 232.43 235.66

I’ve estimated the sectionals for Slate House where they by-passed some of the flights in the straight.  But even after this his time was only 3 seconds slower than the winner of the Greatwood Hurdle, and he was carrying 6lbs more.  Furthermore, this difference can be accounted for in their slow start before they strode on.  Slate House settled well, and is such a free mover will surely be better on better ground.  He looks every inch a chaser but can be a feature in the big novice hurdles in the spring before embarking on that game.  He looks very exciting to me.

 

ELGIN LANDS THE GREATWOOD

I’d been keen on THE NEW ONE (166) once the ground went on the Saturday and he duly ran a massive race off top weight to finish 4thELGIN (155) and MISTERTON (147) just had too much in hand for the old warrior and pulled clear of the rest of the field in the style of smart horses.  Depending on their reassessment the winner can be a feature in conditions races and the runner-up could land a big handicap himself.

 

FOX NORTON AS GOOD AS EVER

With the news today that Sizing John is not going to run in the Betfair Chase I wonder if that leaves the door open for FOX NORTON (170) to go for the King George.  He won on soft ground on Sunday over two miles and is clearly as good as ever, and looks like he can be a threat whatever trip they decide to go over.

North Hill Harvey Fox Norton Difference
11.34 11.11 -0.23
35.73 34.18 -1.55
43.7 42.19 -1.51
65.17 63.7 -1.47
85.46 84.39 -1.07
98.6 98.08 -0.52
111.03 110.85 -0.18
122.98 122.68 -0.3
141.68 141.4 -0.28
178.73 178.39 -0.34
209.24 208.58 -0.66
217.4 216.72 -0.68
237.53 235.75 -1.78

The sectionals above show that he clocked a time 1.78s quicker than the smart NORTH HILL HARVEY (162) did in the novice chase over the same course and distance.  He carried just a lb more in weight so I make the difference between them 8lbs on this day.

I’ve rated Fox Norton in the mid-170s last season, and this was a fine seasonal reappearance.  Wherever they decide to go with him he is going to be tough to beat.  Connections did intimate that they may stick to two miles with him, and with all the problems surrounding others in that division this year, he perhaps should be favourite for the Champion Chase!

North Hill Harvey himself was impressive when landing the novice chase in a good time.  I just feel there will be a better two mile novice chaser out there but he will certainly prove his worth in that division this season.  He goes next for the Henry VII Chase at Sandown where a clash with Capitaine could prove very informative.

 

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