UK CHRISTMAS REVIEW

MIGHT BITE WAS OK IN THE KING GEORGE

The showpiece race of the Christmas period had the appropriate hype, but proved to be a bit underwhelming on the clock as MIGHT BITE (164) emerged victorious.  There were two other chases on the card and the comparisons make for interesting reading.

Hell’s Kitchen Black Corton Might Bite
12.29 12.85 12.54
25.75 26.55 26.68
36.47 37.44 37.67
71.55 72.44 73.24
85.44 85.87 86.66
100 100 100.85
144.63 143.71 144.89
154.44 153.81 154.86
191.33 191.27 192.05
203.56 203.6 204.26
217.24 217.2 217.69
228.24 228.26 228.41
262.7 265.55 262.66
275.66 279.36 276.64
289.74 294.43 291.79
300.18 305.53 302.93

As we can see Might Bite clocked a time 2.6s quicker than BLACK CORTON (150) over the same course and distance, as timed from the first flight in the shorter race won by Hell’s Kitchen (more on him later!).  The consensus seems to be that his rivals were burned off one by one, but when we look at the sectionals closer he did the damage in the latter stages of the race.

Hell’s Kitchen Black Corton Might Bite
228.24 228.26 228.41
71.94 77.27 74.52

The second table above shows how long each winner took to reach the jump four from home, and as we can see they all got their in broadly the same time.  But Might Bite came home 2.75s quicker than Black Corton, and with this fact I’ve given him a figure of 164.  Interestingly this is the same figure I gave him for his Kempton run last year where he fell at the last with the race at his mercy.

Inevitably attentions now turn to the Gold Cup.  So far this season I’ve given him a figure of 151 for his Sandown success, and 164 for his victory here.  He’ll need to step up on those numbers, and I think he can should the ground be better than it was here.  I still have his RSA win live in my memory, and hopefully he can fulfill his potential that that victory promised.  His jumping will need to improve though as he was quite big at some of his fences, and there will be no room for error on the big day.

The second horse DOUBLE SHUFFLE (163) has been used to crab the form of this race, but it would be dangerous to underestimate him as he is very unexposed at three miles plus and was running on well at the finish here.  With plenty of stamina in his pedigree and just about to turn eight, I’m sure there is a big staying race to be won with him.  Considering connections have had success in Ireland previously I wonder whether he may get an entry in the Irish National, or perhaps even go for the Punchestown Gold Cup.  He’ll be better on better ground in the spring too, and is definitely worth keeping onside.

Disappointment of the race was undoubtedly BRISTOL DE MAI (138) who faded once the pace quickened.  The accepted view seems to be that he is just a heavy ground Haydock specialist and that is undoubtedly where he is best.  I think though that he would have been better setting a stronger pace from the off here, as he couldn’t go when the tempo quickened in the latter stages.  Some of Twiston-Davies horses have been running below form too, and I wonder whether Haydock has left its mark on him.  Either way he’ll probably be completely disregarded should he race away from his perceived home conditions, and he’ll be too big a price as a result.  That’s fine by me for a horse that is capable of doing what he can do!

 

HELL’S KITCHEN AN EXCITING PROSPECT

As you can see from the sectionals previously highlighted, HELL’S KITCHEN (162) put in a good performance on the clock in the shorter 2.5m race on the Kempton Boxing Day card.  He still got to four out in the same time as Might Bite did in the King George, but proceeded to blast home from there 2.58s quicker than him, and 5.33s quicker than Black Corton.

This was an exceptional performance on the clock from the winner, and when I adjust for the shorter distance I still struggle to split him and the King George winner.  Considering he was winning this race off a mark of just 137 it was a remarkable run.

He is a huge horse and clearly has his quirks as shown by him being keen in the past and being allowed to bowl along here.  He was winning here over 2.5m and I’d be interested in his chances in an Arkle if he blasted off from the front.  Wherever he goes he deserves a second look.

MISTER WHITAKER (147) ran a fine race to go down by just a length and a half to the winner, but he was receiving 12lbs in weight.  He was running off a mark of 125 here, and after reassessment should be capable of winning a nice race.  The pair were 19 lengths clear of the 3rd horse and at the age of five he is clearly going the right way.

TOUCH KICK (133) was back in third and looks a fine prospect for staying chases in the future.  In touch to four out, he couldn’t go the pace of the protagonists here but being from the family of Big Buck’s that is perhaps to be expected over 2.5m round Kempton.

 

IF THE CAP FITS IS THE TOP BRITISH NOVICE HURDLER

On the same card over hurdles we saw a fine performance from IF THE CAP FITS (154) in the opening novice hurdle, one that propelled him to the top of the tree of novice hurdlers in Britain.

If The Cap Fits Buveur D’Air Golan Fortune
18.16 17.67 18.25
67.52 68.67 69.58
77.83 79.03 80
122.46 125.38 125.46
145.51 149.94 149.58
192.71 197.33 198.43
209.27 212.4 214.79
220.57 223.31 226.98

He clocked a time 6.4s quicker than Golan Fortune did in the handicap hurdle on the card, and was quicker throughout his race.

If The Cap Fits Buveur D’Air Golan Fortune
192.71 197.33 198.43
27.86 25.98 28.55

He got to the jump two from home 5.72s quicker than Golan Fortune did, and still came home 0.69s quicker, and did so carrying 13lbs more in weight.  Even allowing for the shorter distance of his race this was a top performance from the winner, who was conceding weight to some smart rivals.

Connections were talking as if the Supreme would be a likely target and that looks sensible to me.  Menorah won this race before success in the Festival opener, and he looks up to the standard and style of a Supreme horse.  Perhaps most importantly though, they can avoid Samcro!

 

BUVEUR D’AIR IS A FREAK

On the face of it the Christmas Hurdle was a deeply unsatisfactory race with BUVEUR D’AIR (150++) clocking a slow overall time to beat THE NEW ONE (147).

However, the first thing to note is that his hurdling is improving all the time and he now jumps his obstacles as slickly as any horse I can remember.  Apple’s Jade is similar, but this guy is maybe even better.

The second thing to note is the closing sectionals he clocked.  He got to two out much slower than If The Cap Fits did (4.62s), but came home from there 1.88s quicker in a very short space of time.  He had to be woken up to do this but then staggeringly came home on the bridle at this sort of pace.  He remains the horse to beat in March.

 

KAYF GRACE HAS A LIVE CHANCE IN THE MARES HURDLE

The other big performance over hurdles at Kempton came from KAYF GRACE (156) in the closing handicap hurdle of the meeting, and she looks an exciting prospect for the rest of the season.  She has clearly been fragile as this was just her 3rd run over hurdles, but she is a mare on the upgrade.

Redician Midnight Tune Kayf Grace
18.2 19.39 18.74
66.25 71.05 70.71
76.68 81.4 80.66
124.18 128.29 126.49
151.4 152.43 150.5
207.1 205.96 201.55
226.66 226.93 218.26
239.71 241.71 230.21

As you can see she clocked comfortably the fastest time of the three hurdle races on the card as timed from the first jump on the two mile course.  The manner of it though can be shown in how quickly she motored home.

Redician Midnight Tune Kayf Grace
151.4 152.43 150.5
88.31 89.28 79.71

Redician was a visually impressive winner of the opening juvenile hurdle, and has been quoted at 25/1 for the Triumph.  But that looks a pipedream when comparing his run to Kayf Grace over the same course and distance.  Kayf Grace got to four out 0.9s quicker, and then came home 8.6s quicker to the line and did so carrying 6lbs more in weight.

There was a headwind noted for the first race, and I have made an adjustment for that, but every way I play with the numbers I have to award Kayf Grace a big figure for her win here.  Even more impressive was the manner of her victory as she travelled well and was barely asked a question to ease to victory.

This run puts her up there with the best of the mares around over hurdles, and the 33/1 that is still available is a ridiculous price for the Cheltenham Grade 1.  Being from the family of Denman, she should handle the step up to 2.5m fine, and whilst there may be a concern about better ground, over a longer trip she should handle it.  She was winning here off a mark of just 132, and assuming she goes up to a mark of around 140 after this she can go in again… the Betfair Hurdle would be an obvious target for her before going for Grade 1 success on the big stage at Cheltenham.

EDDIEMAURICE (142) would have been an eight length winner were it not for him bumping into the mare here, and with connections talking about going over fences he can land a novice handicap chase without too much difficulty.

 

POLITOLOGUE NOT GREAT AGAIN, BUT CYRNAME BACKS UP HIS RUN LAST TIME

I’d given POLITOLGUE (158) a big figure of his reappearance at Exeter and raved about him since, but I was disappointed in him after his Tingle Creek win and I confess to being underwhelmed about him again after his Kempton success too.

Cyrname Politologue Difference
13.45 13.49 -0.04
28.12 27.2 0.92
74.64 71.02 3.62
84.99 80.98 4.01
123.27 119.3 3.97
135.25 131.65 3.6
148.35 145.09 3.26
158.48 156.12 2.36
192.1 190.67 1.43
205.16 204.45 0.71
219.72 220.42 -0.7
231.37 233.89 -2.52

As you can see from the sectionals above CYRNAME (162) clocked a 2.52s quicker time than his stablemate, whilst carrying just 2lbs less.  Politologue was idling in the latter stages after being left out on his own with Special Tiara falling, but was kept up to his work by Sam Twiston-Davies.

They did go a faster early pace, being 4s quicker at one stage and considering he won over 2m1.5f at Exeter on soft ground I was left wondering if trips beyond the minimum two miles will be his long term forte.  He is now going to be freshened up for an assault at the Champion Chase, and Nicholls is a master at that sort of thing.  I am still concerned though that his previous Cheltenham festival runs saw him finish 20th in the Coral Cup and 4th in the JLT.  But Dodging Bullets had a previous festival record of 494 before winning the big one, so Nicholls does have previous with this sort of horse.  But gun to my head and I’ll be looking elsewhere for the winner of the big race, his last two runs have just not been good enough for me.

Going the other way though is his stablemate CYRNAME (162) who put up a big performance on the clock behind Bigmartre on his last start, and happily backed it up with a good run on the clock here.  He looked better suited to going right handed at this track, which is unfortunate for the big targets but there are enough races like the Pendil where he can go this way round.  This run did advertise the form of that Newbury race won by Bigmartre and that horse is an exciting prospect for the spring.  And of course the favourite that day was the aforementioned Hell’s Kitchen who unseated early on!

 

CONEY ISLAND IS UP WITH THE BEST STAYING CHASERS AROUND

Back before Christmas at Ascot we saw the return of CONEY ISLAND (170) who won a remarkable renewal of the Sodexo Graduation Chase over 2m5f.

Coney Island Mr Medic Gold Present
10.47 9.88 10.52
20.93 20.38 21.56
32.12 31.83 33.17
60.87 61.58 62.68
76.89 77.84 78.60
118.35 119.62 120.50
130.01 131.61 131.97
147.22 149.47 149.39
160.31 162.77 162.22
192.42 197.02 195.16
202.44 207.17 205.51
212.86 217.95 216.29
223.76 229.28 227.61
250.77 256.23 255.14
267.39 271.22 270.48
284.28 285.11 284.51

The overall times for all three races from the first flight in the 2m3f race were remarkably similar as we can see from the above table, but the manner in which those times were reached was drastically different.

Coney Island Mr Medic Gold Present
250.77 256.23 255.14
33.51 28.88 29.37

From the second table we can see he got to two out 5.46s quicker than Mr Medic, and 4.37s quicker than Gold Present.  He did so carrying 11lbs and 4lbs more in weight respectively.  Furthermore, the initial sectional he ran from his first flight to the second was 1.77s quicker than Gold Present.  They just went a savage early pace in his race.

ADRIEN DU PONT (145) set the pace in this race, and is a good horse in his own right, but he was left legless having set the fractions he did.  Remarkably Coney Island gave him 11lbs in weight and was stoked up to chase the pacesetter and did so in a visually impressive manner.  To do that after the pace he’d gone was some effort, and even more remarkably he was then back on the bridle to cruise home at his own pace up the straight. He could’ve gone faster than this and put up the biggest rating I’ve given a chaser yet this season.

He is now a 12/1 shot for the Gold Cup and that seems a fair price.

 

SAM SPINNER IS PROBABLY THE RIGHT FAVOURITE FOR THE WORLD HURDLE NOW

It was devastating to see Nichols Canyon lose his life at Leopardstown today, he was one of the most likeable horses in training, and one of the best hurdlers in recent years on my figures.  He beat Faugheen on merit, despite what others say, and got his big day in the limelight when landing the Stayers Hurdle earlier this year.  I’m unashamed to admit I shed a tear this afternoon, and it’s awful that he won’t get the chance to emulate Inglis Drever for his owner and land further renewals of the big race.

The winner of the big race in March now may be SAM SPINNER (160) who is clearly rapidly improving after landing the Long Walk Hurdle from notorious rogue L’AMI SERGE (157).

One Of Us Sam Spinner Hunters Call
16.38 15.67 15.78
68.64 65.58 64.89
96.91 93.31 91.93
144.45 139.65 137.78
154.47 149.22 147.13
197.37 190.29 188.03
212.57 205.03 201.71
229.79 222.03 217.52

The winner set the pace throughout to clock a time 4.51s slower than Hunters Call did in the top class handicap hurdle over a 9f shorter.  But he did this carrying 18lbs more in weight, and when combining this with the adjustment for the extra distance I reach a figure of 160.

With UNOWHATIMEANHARRY (149) on the downgrade, and with Nichols Canyon no longer around there is room at the top for a new name.  Sam Spinner is just about to turn six and at this stage looks to have a favourites chance for the big race.

 

HUNTERS CALL IMPROVES TO ROB SILVER STREAK

That headline is rooted in pocket talk I’m afraid, but I will commend Olly Murphy for garnering sufficient improvement from HUNTERS CALL (144) to land the big two mile handicap hurdle at Ascot.  In doing so he slayed one of my long term projects for the race in SILVER STREAK (142).

As we saw previously, they clocked a faster time than they did in the 9f longer Grade 1 as we’d expect them to in this shorter race.  Adjusting for this and the winner looks to have stepped up about a stone on his previous form on his first start for Murphy.  He has been raised to a mark of 137 as a result and will need to step up again to land another pot like the Betfair Hurdle.  I’ve noted a previous interview with the trainer where he remarked he was finding it difficult to win a second time with his new recruits after their initial improvement.

SILVER STREAK (142) still ran a fine race to be second and in doing so ran up to his Chepstow form.  The ground was probably softer than ideal for him, and I hope he can land a big handicap in the spring on good ground.  He is still only four and capable of progressing further and win off his new mark of 133.

Some of the placed horses also merit attention, and none more so than VERDANA BLUE (155), who continued her progression and she looks to be another exciting mare for her trainer to go along with Kayf Grace.  BLEU ET ROUGE (155) was returning to hurdles from an aborted chasing career and made good progress to finish 4th, he is capable of landing a big handicap off a big weight in Ireland.

I’ll confess to being confused as to why MAN OF PLENTY (133) continues to be ignored in the market wherever he runs but he is a remarkably consistent horse who runs well in big handicap hurdles.  I wouldn’t discount him landing a big pot at some stage.

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