CHELTENHAM 2018 REVIEW

CHELTENHAM DAY 1

HURDLES

NOVICE CROP LIVE UP TO THE BILLING

In the endless build up to this year’s festival, I found myself increasingly contemplating walking into the sea and not turning back as pundit after pundit lambasted the quality of this year’s novice hurdling division.  I’ve been keeping my own figures since 2009, and can safely say that in terms of strength in depth this is one of the deepest novice hurdling divisions I can recall.  When going back through the replays and times of this year’s Supreme then, I was happy to see this backed up as SUMMERVILLE BOY (162) put up a good performance on the clock to beat Betfair Hurdle winner KALASHNIKOV (162).

The other race on the card over the same distance was the Champion Hurdle and the direct comparison between the two races highlights the merit of this year’s novices.

Summerville Boy Buveur D’Air Difference
44.07 45.79 -1.72
91.64 92.38 -0.74
116.11 117.18 -1.07
137.53 139.14 -1.61
176.73 177.37 -0.64
195.01 195.68 -0.67
222.79 222.51 0.28
237.53 237.67 -0.14

As you can see from the above SUMMERVILLE BOY (162), when timed from the first jump, actually clocked a marginally quicker time than Champion Hurdler Buveur D’Air.  They went much quicker earlier on in the Supreme, reaching the second 1.72s quicker, and this told in the latter stages as the Champion Hurdler runners made back time.

The faster earlier pace, meant that this was more of a stamina test, especially on heavier ground than normal.  Summerville Boy had previously clocked a good time when winning the Tolworth over two miles, and he clearly has scope to stay further.  Indeed, he made a mistake at the last here and still had enough in the tank to get by the runner-up up the hill.  There are plenty of 2.5m and 3m performers in his pedigree as well.

The owner has intimated that he is set to stay hurdling next season, and he can take high rank in that division.  Despite his two Grade 1 wins coming on bad ground, connections believe he will be even better on better ground.  That remains to be seen, but I would perhaps be worried about him in two miles races on good ground as he clearly stays well, and I would be wary of him getting outpaced.  If he is to do the rare Supreme/Champion Hurdle double, I would imagine he may need softer ground again or for the race to be run at a very fast pace.  Alternatively, they could look towards the Stayers Hurdle should they elect to not go straight over fences.  Wherever they decide to go with him though, he is one of the most exciting prospects around ahead of next year.

KALASHNIKOV (162) came very close to doing the “impossible” and coming to win a Grade 1 event off the back of a handicap run, but was unfortunate to bump into an exceptional winner.  He was also behind the winner in that hot Tolworth Hurdle, and were it not for Summerville Boy there would be a fair amount of hype building up about this guy.  Racing more prominently, and being quite keen, this was a huge run from him and continues the marked progression he has made this season.  I’ve rated his hurdle runs this year 146, 134, 150, 152 and now 162…..he is obviously going the right way!  He is from the family of Kicking King, and the trainer has intimated that chasing is going to be on the agenda next year.  He will no doubt take high rank in that division and, as with the winner, connections are entitled to have Gold Cup machinations on their mind down the line.

The front two pulled a few lengths clear of the pack, but that isn’t to say that the rest of the field aren’t worth discussing.  Far from it!!

In third was MENGLI KHAN (160) who had previously clocked a hot figure when winning the Royal Bond earlier in the season.  That run looked to have left its mark as he underperformed since then, but freshened up by his trainer, he bounced back here to run a huge race.  Seeing him up close for the first time, he is a massive horse, surprisingly considering he is flat bred.  Given his size, and connections, he may well go chasing, but I would be keen to see how he fares in open company over hurdles next season.  He got outstayed by the front two here, but perhaps on better ground and with less of a stamina test he can land a Grade 1 hurdle next year.  Indeed considering his size, and the fact he is only a five year old, I wouldn’t mind seeing him have a tilt at the Champion itself.

Fourth was PALOMA BLUE (158) who looks a lovely chasing prospect for next year, and would be at the forefront of my mind for the Arkle next year, as the bad ground probably counted against him more than any of the others in the race.  CLAIMANTAKINFORGAN (156) was fifth and coming from the point to point sphere, looks another nice prospect for novice chasing.

In sixth was WESTERN RYDER (153) who also was perhaps inconvenienced by bad ground here, and was hampered two out.  On better ground and with another year on his back I wouldn’t rule him out featuring in Grade 1 hurdles next season.  He was second, in a good time, behind Vinndication prior to this, and he could go under the radar considering he was “only” sixth here.  Another to bear in mind is LOSTINTRANSLATION (152) who was rated just 134 lining up here, but had clocked a good time when winning at Newbury in December (Black Op was 4th).  His mark will surely go up from here, but look out for him should he line up in a handicap hurdle, as he will likely still be ahead of his new mark.

 

BUVEUR D’AIR NOT AS GOOD AS LAST YEAR

Whilst the novice hurdling division looked hotter the more you looked at it, the Champion Hurdle division this year looked the opposite.  So it was no surprise to see last year’s winner BUVEUR D’AIR (166) go off the 4/6f this year, but it was perhaps a bit surprising to see him run so close by eventual runner-up MELON (166).

Plenty has already been said about the weakness of the two mile hurdling division this year, and Buveur D’Air had been beating up inferior rivals with the minimum of fuss prior to the this race.  I rated him 172 last year, so he hasn’t matched that on my figures, but this was heavy ground so perhaps that was a bit on an equaliser.  He goes into next year the favourite again, but with a plethora of novice hurdlers set to step into his yard I fancy he’ll have to be the 2017 Buveur D’Air to retain his crown for a third time.

(One thing to note with his run in comparison to Summerville Boy was the turn of foot he showed between two out and the last where he clocked a time of nearly a second quicker!  Also bear in mind they were carrying 3lbs more in weight in the Champion).

I confess having to eat a portion of humble pie with regards to MELON (166) who stepped up on his previous form to the tune of 10lbs to go agonisingly close here.  With the benefit of hindsight, this was just his seventh run over hurdles and he is trained by a master but even so this was a big step up in form.  Maybe he relished the heavy ground here (it was his first time on it) but it is probably more likely that Mullins just unlocked some improvement in the six year old and he had a decent pace to run in.  He probably didn’t act well in the hood last time as well.  Should connections elect to have another go at the Champion next year he looks to be the main Mullins two mile hurdler now.

MICK JAZZ (162) ran a fine race back in third, running to a similar mark to his previous efforts.  A strong traveller, he no doubt enjoyed the decent pace of this race but is just below the top grade in this division.

 

APPLE’S JADE FAILS TO FIRE

The shock on day 1 came as APPLE’S JADE (145) was beaten at short odds in the Mares Hurdle.  Despite this race being over further, the time of it was some way behind the two mile races.

Summerville Boy Buveur D’Air Benie Des Deux
176.73 177.37 181.82
60.8 60.3 62.89

For the sections they overlap, you can see that BENIE DES DEUX (147) got to the third last 5s slower than Summerville boy, but was still 2s slower from there.  And it was a similar story in the comparison with the Champion.

It has emerged that Apple’s Jade was in season, and this could explain her underperformance.  But I’ve been banging on endlessly about how she needs a run to be at her best, and the evidence for this does stack up.  She was racing here off nearly an 11 week break and since moving to Ireland she has now raced six times off a break of that or more, and her form now reads 122213.  Off the back of a recent run her form is 11211111, with her only defeat by a nose in the Fighting Fifth she should’ve won!

At her best I don’t think there is a hurdler around that could give her weight and a beating, so I’m already hoping to get inflated odds about her in her next run.  I’m hoping that will be in the Aintree Hurdle.  Much as I would love to have seen her go for the Irish Champion Hurdle and then the Champion this week, she does look at her absolute best over 2.5m, and she put up a remarkable performance when winning at Aintree as a four year old.  Should Buveur D’Air line up, I’d be keen on her chances of toppling him.  Though with an Irish trainer’s title battle at stake, she may well stay in Ireland, but wherever she goes next I will be with her….hopefully at a decent price!

CHASES

BRILLIANT FOOTPAD LANDS THE ARKLE…BUT HOW WILL HE COPE WITH BIGGER FIELDS?!

Despite the small field, the Arkle was one of the more intriguing clashes of the week, and duly saw one of the standout performances as FOOTPAD (172) slammed his rivals by fourteen lengths.

Footpad Coo Star Sivola Rathvinden Mister Whitaker
142.41 148.64 156.16 152.3
56.09 59.87 58.96 58.56

Timing the four races where they overlap (from the third in the two mile race) we can see just how much quicker Footpad was in comparison to the three other winners.  In a direct comparison with Mister Whitaker, he got to three out nearly 10s quicker, and still came home 2.5s faster!  Ok, the other races were all over further and of inferior quality, but even when adjusting for all this I still give Footpad a figure of 172, and it marks him down as a novice chaser of the highest quality.

Given how strongly run this race was I wouldn’t mind seeing the winner go up in trip from here.  On pedigree he can handle it, and with Min and Douvan around the trainer may elect to keep his chess pieces apart next year.  One caveat with him is that all his wins have come in small fields, with eight being the biggest field he’s contested successfully.  Whether that is just coincidence or a marked preference for him remains to be seen, but in fields of nine or more his form reads 723F243.  If connections have Gold Cups on their mind, I’d like to see him prove comfortable in a big field before getting with him.

Disappointment of the race was undoubtedly SAINT CALVADOS (109) who had put up some blistering performances on the clock this season, and with the ground going his way looked set to run a big race.  However, I’d said in the build-up that he had had three hard races in a short space of time – his three wins came on 30th Dec, 17th Jan, 10th Feb – and considering the manner of his running style and on soft ground they look to have left their mark.  I’d rated him on par with the winner here prior to this, and if they leave him off to come back a fresh horse next season I’d be wary of opposing him, especially on soft ground.  If he was mine, I’d pull stumps on this season and come back next year and go for the Tingle Creek first time up.  He’d be some sight round Sandown jumping from the front, and I’m not sure anything could live with him….Altior may be too far behind by the last for his turbo gear to make a difference!

 

CHELTENHAM DAY 2

HURDLES

SAMCRO SET TO BE ONE OF THE GREATS

I’ve probably bored people silly going on about SAMCRO (166) this season, but I’m not going to stop now as he put up a stunning display to win one of the hottest novice hurdles seen at Cheltenham.  Plenty were denigrating his run last time in comparison to the juveniles, but it was his Navan run prior to that where he put in a remarkable time.  It was the best figure I’ve given a novice hurdler pre-Cheltenham, and so it was with some relief that he went and delivered the goods in the Ballymore.  To put his figure in context here, I’ve only got Altior (168) ahead of him for novice hurdle performances at the Cheltenham festival….and there is some evidence he could’ve gone higher!!

First let’s look at the clock, and happily there is an easy comparison to make with the Coral Cup over the same course and distance.

Samcro Bleu Berry Difference
20.2 19.1 1.1
71.87 71.56 0.31
119.82 120.06 -0.24
168.29 169.8 -1.51
194.64 195.27 -0.63
217.1 217.69 -0.59
254.95 255.85 -0.9
271.49 273.17 -1.68
296.91 299.5 -2.59
311.41 313.94 -2.53

Despite a relatively slow early pace (they were 1.1s behind by the second), Samcro clocked a time 2.53s faster than Bleu Berry did in the Coral Cup, and did so despite carrying 5lbs more in weight, and losing a shoe!!!

Samcro Bleu Berry Veneer Of Charm
183.08 184.29 184.28
56.46 58.09 58.94

When we look at the three hurdle races as timed from the first in the two mile course, the merits of the Ballymore become even more obvious!  They were over a second quicker to three out, and still Samcro clocked a time 1.63s quicker than Bleu Berry to the line, and 2.48s quicker than Veneer Of Charm in the Fred Winter.  In the last comparison, Samcro went 4.5f further and carried 7lbs more in weight!!

Even more remarkable, as mentioned, he apparently lost a shoe, and considering this was on heavy ground and that he looked to be idling in front I’ve little doubt that on better ground and with his shoes still on, he could’ve clocked a 170+ number.  Quite simply, he is the most exciting horse we’ve seen.  This was a red hot renewal of the race, and he has travelled all over his rivals to win by three lengths.

Where he goes from here is just so exciting for a racing fan.  He’d have won the Champion Hurdle this year if they’d gone for it I think, so if they did decide to stay hurdling he will take all the beating there.  But considering his connections, he looks sure to go chasing, and I noted that in the immediate aftermath of the race Elliott said he wouldn’t be afraid to go back to two miles with him.  The fact that he was winning over 2m5f on heavy ground here then is even more meritorious.  I would imagine it will be a choice between Arkle and JLT next year…and then all roads will lead to the Gold Cup in 2020.  I think he’s going to be that once in a decade horse that Kauto Star was in the “noughties” and be capable of winning over all distances 2m to 3m+ at the top level.  Right now, if he stays sound, in the future he could well be heralded as one the great horses.

However, brilliant as Samcro is, that isn’t to overlook those he vanquished.  Plenty has been written about how well the Supreme that Altior won has worked out, and this race looks like being a similar type, if not better!

In second was BLACK OP (163) who in any normal year would’ve been a fine winner of this race, going in by five lengths!  He is unfortunate to bump into a freak, but do not underestimate him as he is progressing nicely and looks set to be a top novice chaser for connections.  He did win a bumper on good ground, but this year has looked comfortable on softer ground, and given how well he went up the hill here trips up to 3m look sure to suit, and he must rate a top RSA candidate for next year.

NEXT DESTINATION (158) was the second highest rated novice hurdler on my figures this season, but failed to fire to some extent here, staying on to finish third.  I had previously thought he could go well in a Supreme, but that looks well off the mark with how he got outpaced here only to stay on up the hill.  A point to point winner already, chasing and the three mile division would look to be on his agenda where he should clash with Black Op again.

One of the main horses I want to take out of the race is SCARPETA (158) who was prominent throughout the contest and ran a huge race to finish 4th.  Bought relatively cheaply, he is rated just 75 on the flat, where he was last seen finishing 4th in a Newmarket handicap over two miles.  Given that background and how well he ran here on heavy ground, this looks a live contender for the Stayers Hurdle next season.  His form on the flat came on better ground, and considering he got 2m there, should find 3m well within his compass next season.  The three mile hurdling division is wide open, but I think this five year old could step up and mix it in that division.  This was just his third run over hurdles, and he’s clocked a figure of 158.  That he’s a flat bred horse with form on better ground, the fact he’s done this over 2.5m on heavy is very encouraging for his future in staying hurdles.  In the meantime that flat mark of 75 looks….lenient!

DUC DES GENIEVRES (157) and VISION DES FLOS (156) were 5th and 6th but still merit big figures from me based on the strength of the race.  Both of them are only five year olds, and with another years on their backs look fine prospects for next season.

 

CHASES

ALTIOR SHOWS THAT TURN OF FOOT AGAIN

There are only two races over fences on Day 2, but they saw two of the best performances of the week.  Starting with the Champion Chase, we saw ALTIOR (180) prove his wellbeing after an interrupted campaign by clocking an excellent figure.

Presenting Percy Altior Difference
8.59 8.25 -0.34
32.16 30.69 -1.47
53.74 51.75 -1.99
67.86 65.49 -2.37
80.48 77.85 -2.63
92.9 90.27 -2.63
112.63 109.59 -3.04
149.53 147.18 -2.35
178.9 178.02 -0.88
186.72 186.14 -0.58
206.12 202.84 -3.28

Comparing with the RSA won by Presenting Percy for where the two races overlap, we can see that at one stage Altior was 3.04s ahead, but that the RSA winner had regained most of this ground back to be just 0.58s behind at the last.  Altior then kicked in the turbo drive and came home in 16.7s vs 19.4s for Presenting Percy.  To highlight this even more, Footpad clocked 18.03 for the same stretch the day before!

This does now seem to be the nature of the way Altior races.  He seemed to get a bit outpaced at one stage, being niggled along but then finds this incredible turn of foot at the end of his race to win powering away.  The way he runs and the fact he did this on soft ground, would scream out that he should go up in trip.  I would imagine this may well get tested in something like the Melling Chase at Aintree.  Henderson did the same thing with Sprinter Sacre, and on the long flat run in, the turn of foot that Altior has could be something to behold, especially on better ground!

It could be though that it is only at two miles that he can unleash this turn of foot, and that over 2.5m he may not have so much in reserve.  I’d like to see them try though, but either way he is one of the best two mile chasers we have seen.

MIN (172) can count himself unfortunate, as were it not for the winner he would now be a dual festival winner himself.  He is a good horse in his own right, and I’ve now rated him 172 a number of times, so that would suggest is the level he is at.  A free going sort, he looks set to contest all the top two mile chases his connections see fit.

I was surprised to see DOUVAN (?) line up after a year off, but he looked to be going well before crashing out four out.  No one can say with any certainty how things would’ve panned out, indeed it is perfectly possible that having been off for some time he would’ve been fairly beaten by the end of the race.  However, at his best I’ve clocked Douvan at 186, and based on that he would have the beating of Altior.  If he gets a cleaner run to the race next year their clash could be a classic, though connections have intimated stepping up in trip is an option.  Wherever, he goes, let’s hope they can get him back to his peak as at that level he may well be the best around.

 

PRESENTING PERCY A LIVE GOLD CUP CANDIDATE

There had been plenty of talk about the campaign that PRESENTING PERCY (173) had in the run-up to the RSA, and I confess to being in the camp that wasn’t a fan of it.  It goes to show how much I know, as he went on to win the RSA in a fine manner, and step up markedly on some of the figures I’d given him previously.

Presenting Percy was 3s behind Altior in the comparison at one stage, but fairly turned on the taps as he was just 0.58s behind at the last.  Unsurprisingly he doesn’t have the Champion Chasers turn of foot, especially after going a mile further, but it was still an excellent run and he rates a fine winner of the RSA (I had Might Bite 176 last year by way of comparison).

He looks to have all the makings of a Gold Cup candidate for next year having now won twice at the festival, and with proven stamina having won of 3m5f earlier in the season.

He could well renew rivalry with MONALEE (166) who ran a fine race in his own right, but couldn’t match the winner in the latter stages.  Perhaps better ground would see him close the gap, but he will still be up to contesting all the top three mile races next year.

 

CHELTENHAM DAY 3

HURDLES

FARCICAL PACE LEAVES PLENTY OF QUESTIONS UNANSWERED IN STAYERS HURDLE

There was a ridiculously slow pace seen in the Stayers Hurdle this year, and it leaves the race difficult to weigh up going forward.

Delta Work Penhill Difference
14.44 15.5 1.06
26.43 28.18 1.75
56.99 59.46 2.47
109.79 112.87 3.08
153.84 158.46 4.62
196.01 204.01 8
210 218.57 8.57
221.74 230.76 9.02
249.73 260.76 11.03
297.82 308.69 10.87
337.51 346.28 8.77
351.47 360.65 9.18

The Pertemps is over the same course and distance and was won by DELTA WORK (150), and the comparison above just shows the extent of how slowly run the Stayers Hurdle was.  By three out they were 11.03s behind!  From there they did make up nearly 2s in time, but even adjusting for that I still can’t give a decent rating to the winner.

Unsurprisingly, it was like a cavalry charge up the hill with almost everything in with a chance.  But it was PENHILL (143+) who emerged victorious after a year off.  He has now won his last four starts off a break of 11 weeks or more, and has only met defeat on an undulating track over hurdles at Punchestown last year when finishing second.

SUPASUNDAE (141+) was second and considering this was slowly run on heavy ground still leaves questions as to whether he truly gets three miles.

SAM SPINNER (137+) was the guilty party in setting the crawl from the front, and one can’t help but feel that he should’ve taken things up sooner.  There were plenty of pacey two and half milers in behind him on the run to the line, and he just got swamped by them.

LAURINA WOULD’VE GONE CLOSE IN THE SUPREME

I’m not going to get into the debate on whether the race should exist or not, but regardless of that LAURINA (155) put up a fine performance in winning the Mares Novice Hurdle.

Delta Work Penhill Laurina
143.98 150.23 141.41
53.65 51.96 57.02

As you can see they went a much stronger pace in the shorter race, unsurprisingly, reaching two out 2.5s quicker than they did in the Pertemps for the same stretch.  Laurina came home slower from there, but was heavily eased in the closing stages and could’ve gone much faster if required.  I’ve allowed for a degree of this and awarded her a figure of 155 as a result.

She’d have been getting 7lbs from the boys in the Supreme and that would appear to be sufficient to see her go close in that race.  With the program around for mares at the moment, she may not tackle the geldings, but if she did she is capable to mixing it with them based on this run.

CHASES

IS BALKO DES FLOS A GOLD CUP HORSE?

I copped a fair amount of abuse in maintaining that UN DE SCEAUX (170) should’ve gone for the Champion Chase this season. (“You really are clueless” was a personal favourite).  So it was with a degree of smugness that I watched the Ryanair unfold with BALKO DES FLOS (174) emerging victorious.

Going back to Un De Sceaux first.  We are always being told that the plethora of entries given to horses, Mullins in particular, is to keep all the options open so they can be flexible should conditions and situations change.  Now, Un De Sceaux is a freak of nature on heavy ground… I’m not sure anything can go with him in such conditions OVER TWO MILES.  Entering him in the Champion Chase always seems a folly, given conditions invariably come up on the good side.  So, given we saw a rarest of race occurrences, and a heavy ground festival materialised, why wasn’t Un De Sceaux reverted to the Champion?!  They will never get another chance to win the race with him again.

I know Mullins has Douvan and Min for the race, but they are in different ownership.  Surely it should be down to what suits each horse best, and not for the trainer to maximise their own chances of winning more races?!  I’ll finish my rant there, but I must say if I was the owner of Un De Sceaux I would question why he was ever entered for the Champion in the first place given his conditions came up and he still didn’t run!!!  He probably wouldn’t have beaten Altior, but the race would’ve been a different affair altogether with him blasting off from the front and playing catch me if you can over two miles.

He was of course the defending Ryanair Champion, but won the race last year on better ground, and given how exuberant he is in his races he got found out here on soft ground at this distance.  He still ran a good race mind, and would’ve won but for bumping into a horse going right to the top in my view.

Shattered Love Balko Des Flos The Storyteller
224.11 220.52 226.17
77.33 81.08 81.08

You can see how much quicker they went in the Ryanair from the above comparisons with the other two races over similar distances on the card.  Balko Des Flos reached four out 5.65s quicker than The Storyteller did in the Plate, and still came home in the same time from there and carried 6lbs more.  He was 3.59s quicker to four out, and then 3.75s slower than Shattered Love was in the JLT, but she was carrying 13lbs less in weight, and running over a furlong less.

Putting all the data together, and I reach a figure of 174 for Balko Des Flos.  I’d rated him 169 when he was just touched off in the Christmas Chase over 3m, and he is clearly at the top table of chasers around.

I’d like to see him have another go at three miles, as he ran so well here at a fast pace on soft ground over 2m5f.  On better ground he is capable of being in the Gold Cup picture.  He is now a festival winner, and being only a seven year old may still have some improvement to come.  He travelled all over this field having gone a fast pace, and looks right out of the top drawer to my eye.  Looking at his pedigree I noticed the dam is a half-sister to a 3m4f hunter chase winner, so there is stamina in his genes.  Given this year’s Gold Cup was a brutal race that may have bottomed a few horses, there only looks to be Footpad and Presenting Percy coming out of the novice chase division capable of mixing it in a Gold Cup.  I certainly wouldn’t underestimate Balko Des Flos should he go that route.

AND GIGGINSTOWN MAY HAVE THE NEXT RYANAIR WINNER IN SHATTERED LOVE!

As you could see from the previous sectional splits, SHATTERED LOVE (166) came home much quicker from four out when landing the JLT.  This is to expected given how much quicker they went in the Ryanair, but her time is still very favourable when compared to the plate, and merits a mark of 166.

She has now won five of her six chase starts, with her one defeat coming against Jury Duty when going down by just three quarters of a length.  She is clearly a good mare, and could well find herself defending the Gigginstown crown in the Ryanair next season.  Her best form does seem on softer ground though so she may always need that to be at her optimum.

That said though, there were decent horses in this field who couldn’t give her weight and given she is such a big horse, it may prove difficult to concede her weight in the future.  TERREFORT (165) was unfortunate to bump into the winner and comes out close on the figures when adjusting for the weight.  This was just his third start in this country and still only five years old he looks to have an exciting future ahead of him.

BENATAR (161) ran a fine race considering how keen he was in the early stages and he looks one to be with going forward.  I’d say the same about KEMBOY (159) who matched the figures I’ve previously given him.  Rated just 145 prior to this, he could be one to land a nice handicap chase at some point.

It was also good to see FINIAN’S OSCAR (158) get somewhat back on track.  I don’t think he’ll live up to the hype that has previously been thrown his way, but he is still a good horse, though may be a notch below Grade 1.

Back in seventh was BIGMARTRE (148) who I’d rated highly on his Newbury win earlier in the season.  I’m not sure Cheltenham is his track, and I’d still keep him in mind for the Manifesto Chase at Aintree that the trainer won with Arzal.

 

CHELTENHAM DAY 4

HURDLES

NO CHAMPIONS IN THIS TRIUMPH

It has proved nigh on impossible for juveniles to step up into the Champion Hurdle picture the following season, and it doesn’t look like that trend is going to end this time as FARCLAS (152) reversed form with MR ADJUDICATOR (150).

Farclas Mohaayed Difference
48.29 46.98 1.31
91.3 91.29 0.01
105.02 105.44 -0.42
116.1 117.06 -0.96
144.78 145.01 -0.23
192.73 193.25 -0.52
232.38 232.9 -0.52
247.83 248.56 -0.73

 As you can see from the above comparison with the County Hurdle winner Mohaayed, Farclas clocked a time just 0.73s faster, and did so carrying 3lbs more in weight.  But Mohaayed was winning (a relatively poor) a handicap hurdle off a mark of 139 and with that in mind I can only rate him 152, in line with his previous run.  He’s going to have to step up markedly next season to tackle the existing hurdlers and the red hot novices that stick around.  The same problem will go for Mr Adjudicator.

APPLE’S SHAKIRA (137) ran in line with some of the previous figures I’d given her.  Even getting weight I only had her in amongst the rest of her rivals based on what they’d done prior to this.  Ultimately, I don’t think she’s that good, though it would look that a step up in trip should suit her.

On a personal note, I was disappointed that SUSSEX RANGER (77) failed to land a blow.  He looked on edge in the preliminaries, got quite warm and raced keenly after flattening the first hurdle.  He has clocked a number that would’ve seen him go close in this race and I’d hope that he may get back on track at Aintree.  Indeed, the long run in could see this relentless galloper to best effect.

ALBERT BARTLETT A STRANGE RACE….AGAIN!

I stopped punting on the Albert Bartlett a few years ago, as it just seems a race that throws up wild results year on year.  The theory doing the rounds this year was to go for the experienced horse in the line-up.  KILBRICKEN STORM (145) came through to win on his 5th start over hurdles….though there were plenty more experienced rivals in the race.  This race was run at a fast early pace (I’ll put the figures in the appendix), and the leader emptied on the run up the hill to give way to the eventual winner.  What the form is worth considering how the race unfolded I wouldn’t want to guess.

CHASES

NATIVE RIVER WINS BRUTAL GOLD CUP

The Gold Cup this year largely turned into a duel between NATIVE RIVER (180) and MIGHT BITE (176) that will live in the memory.  The merits of the run are obvious on the clock:

Native River Pacha Du Polder Le Prezien
12.72 12.88 12.6
50.15 50.85 49.51
64.33 66.09 64.43
a75.54 77.79 75.91
86.78 89.11 87.67
102.39 105.6 103.57
117.28 120.85 119.05
134.65 139.29 137.09
155.25 161.27 158.14
184.27 192.45 187.76
195.95 205.16 200.38
215.39 225.08 218.91

 

Where all three races overlap, Native River still clocked a 3.52s quicker time that Le Prezien did for winning the Grand Annual, despite racing 10f further and carrying 2lbs more in weight.  He actually got to the last 4.43s quicker!  It was a savagely run race.

That said though, I think on better ground the placings would be reversed.  Native River thrives in soft ground, and this was his 4th win on the bounce under such conditions.  He was just touched off in the four miler two years ago and has won a Welsh National and a Hennessy, so his stamina came into play here as he galloped his rivals into submission.  It was a brilliant performance.

However, do not underestimate what this will have taken out of the winner.  He looks set to be put away for the season and that looks sensible to me, as this must’ve taken its toll.  Should he come back next season and get soft ground again he will be the one to beat.

MIGHT BITE (176) looked to have the measure of the winner but couldn’t pick up in the bad ground after the last.  He would’ve been suited by better ground, and I think would’ve won had such conditions prevailed.  Alas, they didn’t, and unfortunately he will be a ten year old next season.  Brilliant as he is, I can’t help but feel the Gold Cup might have slipped through their fingers.  Like the winner, do not underestimate the lasting effect this race will have on the horse.

That then follows for the rest of the horses.  ANIBALE FLY (172) ran a big race, and would look attractively weighted in the National, but I’d worry about him backing that up.  And ROAD TO RESPECT (168) ran a fine race on ground that probably didn’t suit.  He is just seven years old so may be able to come back for another crack if minded.

I think the one thing to take away from this Gold Cup is given how savagely it was run (it was 14.76s quicker than the Foxhunters) that one should be wary about how horses come out of the race.  Footpad, Presenting Percy and Balko Des Flos look the ones around to step up should places be vacated.

 

Appendix

I’ve attached all the raw data I’ve taken if you want to play around with the figures yourself.  Note these time the winner from the first flight in their respective races.

Summerville Boy Buveur D’Air Benie Des Deux
    11.24
    42.84
44.07 45.79 49.17
47.57 46.59 47.77
24.47 24.8 25.62
21.42 21.96 21.18
39.2 38.23 38.08
18.28 18.31 17.75
27.78 26.83 28.8
14.74 15.16 16.34

 

Footpad Coo Star Sivola Rathvinden Mister Whitaker
    13.14  
    15.76  
    42.21  
    12.17  
    26.49  
  7.98 9.13  
  23.65 24.24  
  22.39 22.58  
  15.12 15.75  
  13.45 13.95 12.58
  13.13 13.3 15.79
  20.58 20.54 41.16
11.26 39.86 40.25 12.91
23.31 34.63 34.15 25.88
8.15 8.65 9.15 9.32
21.28 22.39 23.87 23.67
19.66 20.73 22.13 21.95
13.59 14 14.58 14.67
12.34 12.95 13.04 13.33
11.79 12.91 13.36 12.68
18.99 19.88 20.62 19.97
36.61 37.13 39.41 36.71
30.18 31.62 32 31.8
7.88 8.58 8.64 8.66
18.03 19.67 18.32 18.1

 

Samcro Bleu Berry Veneer Of Charm
20.2 19.1  
51.67 52.46  
47.95 48.5 46.19
48.47 49.74 49.25
26.35 25.47 26.78
22.46 22.42 22.94
37.85 38.16 39.12
16.54 17.32 17.09
25.42 26.33 27.05
14.5 14.44 14.8

 

Presenting Percy Altior
23.46  
22.18  
14.23  
13.08  
12.94  
20.19  
37.68 10.85
33.06 23.21
8.59 8.25
23.57 22.44
21.58 21.06
14.12 13.74
12.62 12.36
12.42 12.42
19.73 19.32
36.9 37.59
29.37 30.84
7.82 8.12
19.4 16.7

 

Delta Work Penhill Laurina
14.44 15.5  
11.99 12.68  
30.56 31.28  
52.8 53.41  
44.05 45.59 47.73
42.17 45.55 42.2
13.99 14.56 13.79
11.74 12.19 11.19
27.99 30 27.72
48.09 47.93 46.51
39.69 37.59 40.72
13.96 14.37 16.3

 

Shattered Love Balko Des Flos The Storyteller Missed Approach
      11.45
      37.63
      14.9
      12.28
      12.2
  12.77 12.44 17.39
15.32 16.16 15.59 16.01
41.47 41.05 40.88 18.48
12.13 11.99 12.62 22.27
21.28 20.26 21.28 32.95
12.62 12.07 12.59 13.36
36.84 35.82 37.64 39.02
14.28 13.86 14.38 15.02
11.49 11.51 11.36 12.34
10.79 11.01 11.45 11.57
15.67 15.77 16.04 17.12
14.45 14.38 14.86 15.35
17.77 16.64 17.48 18.57
19.6 19.97 20.54 21.34
28.37 29.23 29.84 30.11
11.44 12.08 12.09 12.06
17.92 19.8 18.61 18.38

 

 

Farclas Mohaayed Kilbricken Storm Blow By Blow
    14.6  
    12.03  
    30.12 10.78
    51.86 42.65
48.29 46.98 43.31 50.46
43.01 44.31 42.38 44.75
13.72 14.15 14.07 15.13
11.08 11.62 11.72 12.34
28.68 27.95 28.79 29.63
47.95 48.24 49.24 49.54
39.65 39.65 41.9 40.41
15.45 15.66 16.37 15.9

 

 

Native River Pacha Du Polder Le Prezien
12.56 12.74  
37.71 38.13  
15.26 15.4  
11.84 12.87  
11.45 11.48  
16.2 16.91  
15.54 16.34  
17.96 18.22  
22.22 23.03 11.77
32.26 32.95 20.67
12.72 12.88 12.6
37.43 37.97 36.91
14.18 15.24 14.92
11.21 11.7 11.48
11.24 11.32 11.76
15.61 16.49 15.9
14.89 15.25 15.48
17.37 18.44 18.04
20.6 21.98 21.05
29.02 31.18 29.62
11.68 12.71 12.62
19.44 19.92 18.53

 

 

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