I’m going to start this week’s review in a place you may not expect, namely in the Juvenile Hurdle trial won by SUSSEX RANGER (148).  You can see why I want to do so when you see the performance he put up on the clock in comparison with the other two hurdle races on the card.

Sussex Ranger On The Blind Side Cap Du Nord
To 3 out 133.59 136.14 138.77
From 3 out 86.87 87.94 87.39

The above table shows the times taken from each winner to get from the first flight in the two mile race to three out, and then from three out to the line.  As you can see, Sussex Ranger got to three out the quickest of the three winners, 2.55s quicker than the highly touted On The Blind Side in the Grade 2 race over half a mile further.  You’d expect him to tire having done that, but amazingly he actually came home quicker from that point, just over a second quicker in fact to win by 14 lengths.  He was carrying the same weight as On The Blind Side, and 10lbs more than Cap Du Nord did in the handicap hurdle.

I’ve played around with the numbers a fair amount, but always come up with a red hot figure for a juvenile, and one that puts him comfortably clear of the current crop.  Quite how Apple’s Shakira is 9/2 and this lad is 25/1 for the Triumph is beyond me.  He reminded me a bit of Detroit City, in being a big horse who can just gallop relentlessly and for longer than his rivals.  Considering the Moore’s have a good record in the Betfair Hurdle I half wonder if they may send him there.  But the Triumph has to be the long term target, the nature and trip of the New Course would be right up his street.  For him to put up this figure on just his second start over hurdles marks him down as a top class juvenile hurdle prospect.



As impressive as Sussex Ranger was, I was surprised to see ON THE BLIND SIDE (139) being lauded so highly considering the relatively poor performance he put up on the clock.  I didn’t rate his last win at Cheltenham that highly and he’s only put up a slightly better figure here.

As you can see from the previous sectionals, he was actually the slowest to the finish from 3 out, and even when adjusting for the extra distance of his race, I end up with a figure of only 139.  I saw people mentioning him as a threat to Samcro in the Ballymore but that is quite frankly laughable at this stage.



I mentioned in my write up of the Charlie Hall Chase, that BLAKLION (169) was a potential Gold Cup outsider, and he emphasised that point further when gagging up in the Becher Chase at the weekend.

Blaklion Gas Line Boy Difference
14.54 13.76 0.78
33.8 33.75 0.05
47.43 47.99 -0.56
93.5 96.49 -2.99
106.25 109.22 -2.97
118.96 122.1 -3.14
131.46 134.33 -2.87
146.44 149.79 -3.35
165.24 169.22 -3.98
179.08 182.88 -3.8
196.11 200.24 -4.13
207.3 211.42 -4.12
220.93 224.98 -4.05
234.8 238.44 -3.64
248.4 252.86 -4.46
300.85 305.45 -4.6
314.13 318.84 -4.71
349.57 353.99 -4.42

As you can see from the above comparison with Gas Line Boy in the Sefton, he actually clocked a winning time 4.42s quicker for the comparative course despite going 5f further and carrying 6lbs more.  After adjusting for this I’ve given him a figure of 169, which is actually in line with the sort of numbers he was clocking in his novice chase days when he won the RSA.  Given his good record at Cheltenham and his obvious ability to get a trip and the likely jump up the weights he’s going to take after this win I’d be tempted to go for the Gold Cup itself if I were connections.



Back at Sandown on Saturday, the two main highlights on the card were the Tingle Creek and Henry VIII but I confess to being a bit underwhelmed by both races on the clock.  I’ll deal with both races together here.

Sceau Royal Politologue Benbens
12.91 12.56 13.84
68.83 67.37 72.26
88.43 87.18 93.09
96.25 94.83 101.28
103.87 102.89 109.42
118.77 118.11 125.27
131.86 131.62 139.22
139.44 139.38 147.28
145.18 145.63 153.86
181.12 183.60 191.64
194.09 196.89 204.82
206.66 209.20 217.66
221.14 223.45 232.29

As you can see both SCEAU ROYAL (161) and POLITOLOGUE (159) clocked faster times than Benbens did in the London National.  This is no surprise as their races were over just shy of two miles rather than 3m5f!  When I adjust for the distance difference I can only get to figures of around 160 for both winners of the big races.

SCEAU ROYAL (161) just keeps hitting the same figure over and over again on my numbers, and usually this tends to point to him just being this good and nothing more.  He’s a good horse but it would have to be a weak Arkle for him to win… that may be the case this year, but I can’t help but feel something a bit left field is going to emerge a la Western Warhorse a few years ago.  If anyone can think of anything….let me know!

Sceau Royal Politologue Difference
12.91 12.56 0.35
68.83 67.37 1.45
88.43 87.18 1.25
96.25 94.83 1.42
103.87 102.89 0.98
118.77 118.11 0.66
131.86 131.62 0.24
139.44 139.38 0.05
145.18 145.63 -0.45
181.12 183.60 -2.48
194.09 196.89 -2.81
206.66 209.20 -2.54
221.14 223.45 -2.31

If I was underwhelmed by Sceau Royal, I was perhaps even more disappointed by POLITOLOGUE (159) who won the Tingle Creek from FOX NORTON (158).  As we can see from the comparison with the novice race, he was actually 2.31s slower, but did carry 5lbs more, and when I adjust for this I give him a figure a shade lower than Sceau Royal.

I’d given him a bigger number for his win in the Haldon Gold Cup, and it may prove he’s slightly more suited to softer ground than it was here.  He’s actually never been out of the first two when completing on soft ground or worse.  I certainly find it hard to envisage him winning a Champion Chase on good ground despite the trials and tribulations of Altior and Douvan, especially if Min or indeed Yorkhill revert to take him on.  Remember he was 20th in a Coral Cup, and 4th in the JLT so his previous Cheltenham festival experience isn’t great.

FOX NORTON (158) seemed to underperform here with no obvious excuse.  Perhaps the stable is under a bit of a cloud (Finian’s Oscar was dreadful in the novice chase) but probably more likely is that on this sort of ground he needs 2.5m+.  He won the Shloer Chase on soft ground over 2 miles, but he was awesome in the Melling Chase at Aintree this year over 2.5m on good ground and I note there is now talk of him going for the King George.  It’ll be interesting to see how he gets on in that race but at this stage I think the intermediate trip is going to prove his optimum.



I was keen to take on UN DE SCEAUX (172) in the Hilly Way Chase, thinking he may struggle under a penalty first time up on horrendous ground without regular partner Ruby Walsh there to help him settle.  He made me feel quite foolish by blasting apart his rivals, and we can see the scale to which he did this when comparing it with the other chase on the card won by Shattered Love.

Un De Sceaux Shattered Love Difference
26.87 28.89 -2.014
42.14 45.93 -3.787
57.55 62.70 -5.147
102.84 112.60 -9.754
132.16 144.18 -12.024
154.09 168.18 -14.096
170.30 184.62 -14.321
201.81 218.02 -16.214
229.75 246.78 -17.025
246.50 262.20 -15.698
264.30 276.33 -12.033
279.45 288.28 -8.830

As you can see from the sectionals above, at one stage he was a ridiculous 17s quicker than Shattered Love ran in her race. Unsurprisingly his rivals were left toiling in his wake (fortunately Ballyoisin got up when taking an unnecessarily tired fall two from home) with only TOP GAMBLE (140) able to chase him home in any sort of proximity.  That rival was running in near enough optimum conditions, but was no match for the winner.

Unsurpisingly, Shattered Love closed the gap to 8.8s by the finish line, but Un De Sceaux was heavily eased down in his race as well.  Quite simply it was an outrageous display on ground so bad that racing was abandoned soon after.

Clearly he revels in these sort of conditions, and is susceptible in two mile races on better ground.  I think he was fortunate they were so liberal with the overnight watering before the Ryanair Chase this year, and if he doesn’t get so lucky this year I’d be keen to take him on on better ground.  The only time he’s not won on soft ground or worse in this country is when he didn’t complete the course!



I copped a fair degree of abuse for the high ratings I gave SIZING JOHN (171) last season, so I was somewhat relieved to see him put up a good performance on the clock when returning successfully in the John Durkan yesterday.

Sizing John Avenir D’une Vie White Arm
32.76 31.04 33.61
50.83 48.15 52.09
83.42 80.39 85.8
97.67 94.84 100.48
122.98 120.72 127.09
139.03 137.96 144.51
152.26 151.83 159.14
184.05 184.6 193.9
201.17 202.74 213.01
227.08 229.07 241.19
240.77 241.88 255.01
254.63 255.1 268.62

As we can see he actually clocked a time half a second quicker than they did in the strong novice chase run over half a mile shorter but was actually much slower at the start of his race, nearly 3s slower at one stage.  He was impressive therefore to clock a faster time and when adjusting for this and the extra distance I give Sizing John 171, and this would appear to be an excellent seasonal debut for the horse.  He’s surely going to improve from here, and for going back up to three miles.

There are plenty of pretenders knocking about at the moment, namely Might Bite, Bristol De Mai and Yorkhill, but they are going to have to be on their A-game to topple the king.

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