APPLE’S JADE DESERVES CHAMPION CHANCE
I, and plenty of others, have been banging on about how APPLE’S JADE (166) should go for the Champion Hurdle, and happily that looks set to happen after she dismantled her rivals in the Irish Champion Hurdle in a blistering time running right up to her best.
|Commander Of Fleet||Apple’s Jade||Off You Go|
|To 2 out||95.05||94.30||97.89|
As you can see from the above she got to the second last in the fastest time of the three hurdle races on the card, and she proceeded to blast home 2.5s quicker than Commander Of Fleet did in the longer novice race. There was a handicap hurdle run over the same distance, and she was 3.6s quicker to 2 out in the comparison with that race, and she was only a second slower from there to the line. When running all this and making the necessary adjustments I reach a figure of 166, which matches her Hatton Grace performance and seems to be where we are with the mare.
So, she now looks set to go for the Champion, and if she runs to form then with the weight allowance something is going to have to put in a low 170 performance to beat her. Of the horses lining up only Buveur D’Air looks capable of doing that.
I’ve written in the past about how she thrives on her racing, and since moving to Ireland her form when coming back after a 6 week break or less reads 1121111111, with her sole defeat by a nose in the Fighting Fifth in 2016, a race she should really have won. Her form off a longer break reads 122211331. There will be a 38 day gap before the Champion so there will be no excuses on that front.
Now she is a relatively short price though I think one has to try and find some flaws in her, and those manifest themselves in her jumping a bit out to the right and whether the sharper track will play to her strengths. But that is scraping the barrel a bit and realistically I think she should be the clear favourite now.
SUPASUNDAE (154) was a distant 16 lengths back in second and ran up to the form of his other runs this season. Now a nine year old I think his form is some way below his peak last year and I don’t see him being pacey enough now for two miles on decent ground, and unlikely to get home in a strong three mile test.
PETIT MOUCHOUR (148) was third and looks difficult to place now rated 158 over hurdles, but he can run his race in Graded contests still.
I mentioned that a horse will have to run a low 170s figure to beat Apple’s Jade at Cheltenham, but if the nature of the track and race doesn’t suit her to her maximum I think something will still have to run up to 165. Of the entries there are only two horses who fit the bill, namely Buveur D’Air and MELON (147). That may seem a strange statement to make about a horse just beaten 21 lengths but for the last few weeks I’ve had it in my mind that this horse loves undulating tracks.
Melon ran to a mark of 166 in the Champion Hurdle last year, and if the mare doesn’t run up to her best I think he can get much closer back on an undulating track. His form on such tracks reads 22132F, this includes three runs at Cheltenham where he was beaten just two lengths in the Supreme on just his second start over hurdles, finishing third in a slowly run race in the International under a penalty and a neck defeat in the Champion itself last season. He was going well when taking a fall three out in the Punchestown Champion at the end of last season and whilst he has been well beaten on both starts so far this season, they have both come at Leopardstown and I’m increasingly tempted to take the chance that Cheltenham revitalises him.
Placed horses in the previous years Champion have a good record in the following year with Brave Inca, Punjabi, Binocular and Hurricane Fly all winning in such a manner in recent years, and at prices of 20/1 I think Melon is worth chancing to get involved again back on an undulating track.
ARAMON CAPABLE OF OVERTURNING FORM WITH KLASSICAL DREAM…AND WINNING THE SUPREME
This years novices have taken a while to get going but they look like being a fair crop, and one of the best looks to be ARAMON (153) who was just denied by KLASSICAL DREAM (152) in the two mile Grade 1 Novice at Leopardstown.
|Sassy Diva||Sir Erec||Klassical Dream||Dallas Des Pictons|
|To 2 out||160.03||163.27||156.92||167.77|
As you can see in the above, Klassical Dream went much quicker to two out in this race, and whilst this told in the latter stages they still only came home fractionally slower than Sassy Diva did in the mares handicap. The overall time was strong and points to a figure of 152 for Klassical Dream. This marks him down as a good novice but there are a few ahead of him in my pecking order.
One of those, ironically, is the horse he beat here, ARAMON (153) and I’d be confident about him overturning this form in the Supreme come March. He put up a blistering figure (158) when winning the Future Champions and he paid the price for having to make up ground on the winner here and just got overhauled in the closing stages.
I like the fact that he has won both his starts on undulating tracks and I think Cheltenham could really suit him…he travels well, and looks to have a fair turn of foot. He appears to be slightly overlooked in the market at 12/1 to me for a horse that has now run in three Grade 1s, winning one of them by 10 lengths and just getting touched off here.
The other hurdle race on the card worth looking at is the run of SIR EREC (138+) who won a slightly farcial renewal of the juvenile race. As you can see they got to two out 6.35s slower than they did in the novice race, and whilst they fairly sprinted home from there with him clocking a time nearly 3s quicker from two out, I can only adjust him up to 138. I’d be fairly confident he’s better than this but at short prices for the Triumph I’ll be looking to take him on.
BELLSHILL AND ROAD TO RESPECT JUST OFF THE TOP GOLD CUP CONTENDERS
The ground reduced the Irish Gold Cup to just four runners but it saw BELLSHILL (172) and ROAD TO RESPECT (172) battle out the finish with the former just prevailing.
|La Bague Au Roi||Bellshill||Whisperinthebreeze|
|To 2 out||268.35||262.46||258.47|
The merits of this race are evident in the sectionals shown above, where Bellshill was quicker to two out and quicker to the line than La Bague Au Roi was in the Flogas over three furlongs shorter. He was also 2.2s quicker than Whisperinthebreeze was to the line in the handicap chase, although they went a blistering pace in that race. When I adjust for the distances and finishing speeds I reach a figure of 172 for both the winner and runner-up. This puts them in the Gold Cup picture but I think you are going to need to be a 175 horse to win this years renewal and I can’t help but feel the pair of them are a fraction off the required standard.
BELLSHILL (172) proved that he can go left handed, but it would have to be a concern that his Cheltenham runs have been fairly lamentable. While ROAD TO RESPECT (172) has run to this sort of figure a few times now I just feel that if grading horses in the Gold Cup I’d be giving him an A, rather than an A+.
So, where do we go for the Gold Cup? The horses I have capable of running to 175 or more are – Presenting Percy, Native River, Might Bite, Thistlecrack, Clan Des Obeaux, Bristol De Mai and Balko Des Flos. Of those the latter looks completely gone at the game, as does Might Bite and Thistlecrack is now 11 years old and looks too exuberant to get the Gold Cup trip.
Presenting Percy has been priced up favourite, and I suppose I can understand that as he was excellent in his comeback over hurdles. I’ll wait and see if he runs beforehand, but backing favourites isn’t my bag so I can let him go. Equally I can pass on Native River, last years winner has finished placed in both his starts this year and whilst the test of the Gold Cup no doubt suits him, I can’t help but feel that exertions will start to catch up with him before too long. He has now run in a four miler, Ladbroke Trophy, Welsh National, Gold Cup, Betfair Chase and King George and now a nine year old I can leave him alone too.
That leaves us with my old friend Clan Des Obeaux and Bristol De Mai.
WILL CHELTENHAM SUIT CLAN DES OBEAUX?
I wrote previously about how I liked CLAN DES OBEAUX (175) for the King George, and he duly delivered. He had his Gold Cup prep at Ascot last weekend where he put up a run similar in standard to his Betfair and King George runs, travelling and jumping well before dispatching TERREFORT (160) by 11 lengths.
|Mister Malarky||Calipto||Clan Des Obeaux||Cyrname|
|To 3 out||250.80||253.40||250.84||246.99|
Happily there was a handicap chase over the same distance won by Calipto, and you can see that Clan Des Obeaux got to three out 2.56s quicker and still came home from there 1.13s faster. Throwing in the comparison with the other races on the card and I reach another red hot finger for Clan Des Obeaux of 175. He is clearly a live contender for the Gold Cup.
The one doubt I have in my mind for him for that contest is whether the course will suit. He has run four times at Cheltenham with form figures of 2262, and one of those 2s should be a 3. His last two wins have come at Kempton and Ascot going right handed on flat tracks with short run ins after the last, and he will now go to the Gold Cup going left handed, further and with a long uphill finish. I just don’t think that is what he wants and given he is now a 5/1 shot for the race it isn’t cheap to find out if it will suit.
Which leaves us with one horse for the Gold Cup, who ironically has the same question mark about the track at Clan Des Obeaux but is over six times the price for the race. And happily Bristol De Mai has beaten Clan Des Obeaux on the two times they have both completed their races. Now I fully appreciate that Bristol De Mai’s best runs have come at Haydock, but I’ve long had a theory that he is best fresh, and whilst we have to pay 5s to find out if Clan Des Obeaux handles Cheltenham, we can get 33s and bigger about finding out if Bristol De Mai can act round there, and that is my kind of bet! Especially as seemingly no one else seems to like him!
If we look at his form since he’s stepped into open company, his form when fresh (first two season runs or five week break) over 3m or more reads 211121F, and whilst those include three wins at Haydock they also include a Charlie Hall win and a 2nd in a Grade 1 at Aintree where he had Clan Des Obeaux back in third. He put up a staggering time when he won the Betfair Chase this season on good ground to throw out the heavy ground theory about him, and whilst he fell in the King George it was still too early to know what would’ve happened.
He now looks set to go to the Gold Cup on the back of a 79 day break after the King George, and Twiston-Davies did this with Imperial Commander when he got beaten in a photo by Kauto Star in the Betfair before bombing in the King George only to roar back and triumph in the Gold Cup. The consensus view is that Bristol De Mai won’t act around Cheltenham but he was 2nd in a JLT as a five year old and tanked through a Gold Cup when only six before fading into 7th after a mistake at the last(only Mill House and Long Run have won Gold Cups as a six year old since the 60s).
He will have to come back from a fall which isn’t ideal, but he is very much the finished article now he is eight years old, and he had a wind op last season. If they get a clear run with him and he acts round Cheltenham he is the best staying chaser around on my numbers. Yet we can get 33/1 NRNB and I’ve been picking up wild prices on the exchanges for him which just seems crazy. I’ll hold my hands up if I’m wrong, but it is a cheap play to find out!
CYRNAME PUTS UP AN INCREDIBLE PERFORMANCE
When reading some of the reactions to the Ascot Chase at the weekend I find myself amused how preconceptions about a horse dictate the consensus reaction. Everyone thinks now that CYRNAME (186) is the Ascot version of Bristol De Mai and can’t be trusted away from there, but he has just put up one of the best performances of the last decade in winning this Grade 1 and I wouldn’t want to discount him showing this not to be a one off freak run. Take him out of the race and everyone would probably have been raving about WAITING PATIENTLY (169) toughing out a repeat win, but he just seems to be a well-loved horse. Happily such preconceptions provide betting opportunities though!
As you can see from the previous sectionals, Cyrname was nearly four seconds quicker to three out than the next best and still clocked the second fastest closing time from there to the line. He wasn’t ridden out either so scary as it is to think, he could’ve gone faster than this!
He put up some big figures for me previously (in the 160s) but I confess to being somewhat taken aback by the improvement he’s shown on his last two starts. They have removed the hood and let him bowl along in front and that certainly looks to have done the trick with him. This was quite simply a sensational performance.
He is just a seven year old, but his form looks to be that he needs a run, with his form off breaks longer than eight weeks reading 5673 since joining Nicholls. Toss out his runs left handed and focus on his runs over 2.5m or more and his form reads 2111 with his only defeat by a neck in a Grade 1. He looks top class and I would be wary of suggesting that he can’t show this form away from Ascot. The right-handed thing may have some merit but the King George looks his for the taking next season and I’ll be interested to see if he gets overpriced when going the other way around.
CAN AL DANCER WIN THE SUPREME AFTER A HANDICAP WIN?
AL DANCER (158) had put up some big numbers winning two handicaps this season, but he stepped up again when landing the Betfair Hurdle as favourite and now looks set to try and overturn one of the big Cheltenham stats in landing a Grade 1 race after winning a handicap.
|Dashel Drasher||Brio Conti||Al Dancer||Worthy Farm|
|To 3 out||153.16||147.96||146.51||153.08|
As you can see from the sectionals above, Al Dancer clocked the fastest time to three out and then was quicker still to the line. Even after adjusting for the shorter distance this was a red hot performance from the winner and he now goes to the Supreme with a favourites chance.
He isn’t clear on the figures though and I’ll be looking elsewhere. With the allowance for four year olds, FAKIR D’OUDAIRIES (159*) comes out top on my ratings, with ARAMON (158) matching this run from the winner and a plethora of horses in the high 140s/low 150s who could step up. So, I wouldn’t bank on the winner overturning the handicap stat for all that the was very good here.