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.

 

THE MACHINE STUTTERS BACK INTO LIFE AT PUNCHESTOWN

By far and away my least favourite commentator in racing is Mike Cattermole.  And my least favourite bit of commentary from him is in Mikael D’Haguenet’s Ballymore hurdle win where he says the horse has “not found anything” just as he comes there swinging on the bridle two out.  A close second is his commentary for Faugheen’s champion hurdle win where he proclaims “and he is a machine” as Arctic Fire devours the ground behind him to only go down by just over a length.  That moniker “The Machine” seems to have stuck now for FAUGHEEN (152) and it was good to see the engine started again in the Morgiana Hurdle on Sunday.  However, whilst everyone else seems to have gone into hype overdrive I can’t help but feel that the engine in this “machine” has developed a bit of a stutter in the 665 days since we last saw him.

Top Othe Ra Faugheen Let’s Twist Again Dom Dolo
48.03 45.45 52.51 49.16
78.02 74.13 84.31 79.76
117.09 112.38 126.04 120.25
132.89 127.73 141.86 136.6
162.23 157.29 171.55 166.18
172.15 166.88 181.33 176.34
205.69 199.82 216.52 211.63
218.54 213.45 229.95 225.01

As we can see from the sectionals for the four hurdle races on the card, he did clock the fastest time as timed from the first flight on the two mile course (we’d expect him to do so!).  He set a quick early pace getting from the first to the second 2.5s quicker than TopOthe Ra did in the earlier handicap hurdle.  His overall time was 5.1s quicker and he did so whilst carrying 2lbs more in weight.  Comparing these two races, and the other two hurdle races on the card though and I can only get to a mark of 152 for the former champion.

The one time I felt he truly deserved his nickname was when last seen in the Irish Champion Hurdle where I gave him a mark of 179.  This comeback run I’ve rated nearly two stone lower than that.

He’s going to be ten by the time next year’s Champion Hurdle comes around and the last winner that old was Sea Pigeon back in 1981.  I’m no massive stats fan but when shopping in the short price end of the market I want to have everything in my favour and combining his ongoing years with this underwhelming performance on the clock leaves me happy to take him on in the market.

He came home from 3 out here just 0.15s quicker than Top Othe Ra did in the handicap hurdle.  Sure, he had done a lot more up to that point but I think this questions the intuitive impressive reaction to the visual performance in the race.  He beat three rivals here who patently hated the ground and this lead me also to wonder whether that is another reason to be against him in March.

Regardless of the actual going they will call it good to soft on the day, but it’s perfectly possible that there will be more give on the A435 into the track than there will be on the course.  This is a horse who has won over 3 miles on heavy ground in his novice days and he can sustain a relentless gallop on that sort of ground.  He won on soft ground over 2.5m at Ascot when reportedly he stripped very fat, and he went down by just half a length to the monster Nichols Canyon on soft ground in this race two years ago (that was a hot time that day regardless of the consensus view of the race).  He then slammed Arctic Fire out of sight on soft ground in the Irish Champion Hurdle when last seen.  The one time he has encountered ground officially described as “Good” was when beating the now 143 rated chaser Ballyalton by 4.5 lengths in the Neptune over 2.5m.  Now nearly 10 years old is it possible that on genuinely quick ground over two miles he could get found out?  It would be on my mind if playing at short prices.  He seemed to relish the ground in this race to me.

Finally, there are plenty better paddock judges than me who said he looked fit for this run, and this would back up Mullins quotes that they have had him ready to go for a while.  With all the attention this horse garners they surely left nothing to chance.  The fact that he has returned a figure someway below his best triggers alarm bells for me.

I’ve been wrong before, and I’ll be wrong again and I know this sort of view won’t be popular and he may blow them all out of the water in March.  But a 10 year old who’s been off for nearly two years beats 3 rivals unsuited to conditions in a time someway below his best is now 9/4 favourite for the Champion Hurdle.  That’s not the sort of bet that gets me excited.

 

MIGHT BITE AND APPLES JADE RETURN

NMIGHT BITE MAKES SOLID REAPPEARANCE…NOTHING MORE!

There were two big seasonal debuts this weekend just gone, and the first one I want to look at is the one made by MIGHT BITE (151) who won a four runner race at Sandown in solid style.  I still maintain that I’ve never seen a performance like his win in the RSA at Cheltenham, but he seemed a much more straightforward horse at Aintree and it was more of the same on this run as he travelled well to easily dispatch some solid rivals.

Jameson Might Bite Houblon Des Obeaux
7.94 8.39 8.21
14.32 15.12 14.86
54.86 58.3 57.12
69.77 73.55 72.09
83.58 87.93 85.7
142.75 148.33 145.15
163.83 169.3 166.2
171.71 176.92 174.23
179.66 184.35 182.53
195.26 200.06 198.31
209.08 213.64 212.26
217.19 221.67 220.81
223.71 227.97 227.38
262.85 267.52 267.92
276.88 281.47 282.49
290.6 294.47 296.2
308.11 310.89 311.95

 

On the clock though I can only get to a number of 151 for Might Bite for this run.  As we can see, he clocked a time just a second quicker that HOUBLON DES OBEAUX (141) did in the veterans chase over the same course and distance carrying just a pound less.  I’ve adjusted a bit for his faster finish, but it is still a run nearly two stone below what I felt he is capable of in the aftermath of his RSA win.  Obviously, this is just his first run of the season and there are bigger days on the horizon, but his jumping was a bit too big and overall I felt a bit disappointed by him on this run.  It may be that that mega effort in the RSA has left it’s mark, certainly he’ll need to be stepping up on this run to win the King George.  Overall this was just a solid run from him.

 

JAMESON AND WESTERN MILLER LOOK NOVICES TO FOLLOW…ALONG WITH THEIR OLD RIVALS!

I was much more taken with the novice handicap chase on the card won by JAMESON (147) who just managed to collar the front running WESTERN MILLER (151).  They clocked a much faster time in this race, finishing 2.8s quicker than Might Bite did in the half mile longer race for the same course, and only carried 3lbs less.  When adjusting for this and their slightly slower finish I’ve given the winner a mark of 147, which is in line with the mark I gave him at Ffos Las when beaten by West Approach.

The pair of them were thirteen lengths clear of the third placed horse and this was a decent performance to my eye.  The runner-up has probably improved for fences and going up to this 2.5m trip, and he equally gives some credit to the performance of Capitaine who slammed him by 22lengths on his previous run.  Both West Approach and Capitaine are lined up to run at Cheltenham this weekend and I’ll be interested in their prices on the day.

Jameson and Western Miller though are clearly smart novices in their own right, and were running here off marks of 129 and 133 respectively.  The novice handicap chase on day 1 is now 0-145 and should they get into that race they would look nice prospects for it at this stage.

 

APPLE’S JADE WINS ON RETURN

The other big reappearance on Sunday was from APPLE’S JADE (154) who won the Lismullen Hurdle at Navan over 2.5m.

Icantsay Mengli Khan Apple’s Jade Oscars Den
14.05 15.3 14.47 15
29.9 32.25 30.43 30.98
69.63 74.96 70.5 71.11
96.12 102.15 97.78 98.26
122.34 128.12 124.6 125.02
136.67 142.67 139.44 139.49
197.98 200.32 199.74 201.29
211.65 212.88 212.18 213.6
227.06 226.4 225.8 227.31
246.96 242.28 241.49 243.84

 

As you can see from the sectionals above, Apple’s Jade clocked the fastest time from the first flight on the two mile course.  She also clocked the fastest time from 3 out (as shown below) and with that in mind I would love to see them let her take her chance in a champion hurdle.  She jumps hurdles so well that she can take lengths out of her rivals, and I feel in a strongly run race she can use this to full effect.

Icantsay Mengli Khan Apple’s Jade Oscars Den
48.98 41.96 41.75 42.55

 

She typically improves for her racing, and so her putting in a mark of 154 here gives plenty of optimism for the future.  I think she’s capable of a stone better than this and so Buveur D’Air and Faugheen would have to be on their A-game to give her 7lbs and a beating.

 

FOOTPAD SHOWS FINE TURN OF FOOT

FOOTPAD (156) put in a fine debut over fences at Navan, and I had to time the race a second time as he showed a turn of foot that I hadn’t previously associated with a horse I felt more suited to three miles over hurdles.

Clarcam Footpad
17.61 19.15
50.71 54.46
82.88 87.96
94.32 99.24
107.54 112.67
133.19 139.18
160.09 166.8
190.93 196.75
210.28 214.13
228.67 230
240.92 241.25

 

The overall time wasn’t anything special, he was fractionally slower than Clarcam was over just a furlong shorter, although carrying 5lbs more in weight.  But the turn of foot he showed was impressive.

Clarcam Footpad
30.64 27.12

From three out to the line, Footpad was 3.5s quicker than Clarcam.  They had gone much quicker in Clarcam’s race, but even accounting for that this points to a fine debut chase performance from the winner.

He clearly can stay further than this sort of trip, and now combining in a turn of foot and fine jumping he is clearly of interest as an Arkle horse.  I’m not sure I’d have him as favourite at this stage, but he certainly warrants interest in the race.  He is yet to win on good ground and that would have to be a concern should he mop up races in Ireland and go off a short price in March.

 

BALL D’ARC IS BRILLIANT ON HEAVY GROUND

There was an excellent performance on the clock from BALL D’ARC (166) at Naas on Saturday.

Ball D’arc First To Boogie Mossback
14.39 15.95 15.3
63.1 67.85 65.73
86.55 92.56 89.27
104.38 111.62 108.04
138.74 147.49 143.72
151.03 160.96 157.13
165.59 175.98 172.57
197.34 208.06 204.83
211.39 221.77 218.83
231.6 242.29 237.58

 

As we can see from the sectionals, he clocked by far the best time of the three chase races on the card, and even when I adjust for the half mile shorter trip this was a red hot run.  I note that on ground with heavy in the description he has now run 5 times over fences winning 3 times.  One of his defeats was by just half a length to Ballycasey, and the other defeat was finishing runner-up on his debut.  Clearly on deep ground he is worth following.

I was interested in the run of ORDINARY WORLD (151) in second, in as much as the winner loves this sort of ground, he absolutely hates it!  He ran big numbers last year behind Min and Altior and I wonder if they’ll target something like the Grand Annual.  He could get beaten over the winter months on deep ground and then pop up on much quicker ground in the spring and land a touch in a big handicap chase for connections.  He has some relations who have done well over 2.5m so even going up to that trip could merit a bet.

 

SERIOUSLY HOT MAIDEN HURDLE ALERT!

There have been some good novice hurdles already this season, but the best one so far may be the one won by NEXT DESTINATION (156) at Naas.  On paper it looked strong and it certainly lived up to expectations on the clock.

Red Jack Early Doors Next Destination Oscar Knight
16.11 16.23 15.99 16.7
71.29 69.21 69.49 71.38
103.27 99.62 99.64 101.4
150.72 146.08 146.47 148.02
166.41 161.59 161.79 163.47
201.88 196.04 197.25 199.26
215.72 210.09 211.43 213.49
230.82 225.41 226.02 229.06

 

Next Destination clocked a time 3s quicker than Oscar Knight did in the handicap hurdle over a furlong further on the card, and did so carrying 20lbs more in weight.  The more eye-catching performance though was when comparing it to the grade 3 hurdle on the card won by Early Doors.  Next Destination clocked a time just 0.6s slower but ran over 3f further and carried 13lbs more.  All the ways I played with the figures, I gave him a red hot number of 156.  He was half a second quicker from the last to the line than anything else!  He looks a live candidate for the Ballymore…the only problem being that Samcro lies in wait!  But at this stage that looks a potential clash to savour.

The vanquished horses were thirteen lengths back but put up performances of merit themselves and will be winning maiden hurdles and could be handicap hurdles to follow.  Someday, Paloma Blue, Laverteen and Pallasator are worth keeping an eye on.

SOUTHFIELD ROYALE HANDICAPPED TO GO WELL IN BADGER ALES TROPHY

There is a horse declared for the Badger Ales Trophy at Wincanton who if returning to his best looks absolutely thrown in.

SOUTHFIELD ROYALE was 4th in a red hot renewal of the four miler won by Minella Rocco with Native River second.  He looks best on his first two runs of the season and a five week break thereafter.  Before last season his form under such conditions read 11212114 with the first 2nd behind War Sound in a novice hurdle when trying to concede that rival a stone in weight, and the other runner-up berth coming when going down by half a length to Twelve Roses over a probably inadequate trip at Exeter.  As mentioned he was 4th in a red hot renewal of the four mile chase in 2016.  He was actually highly rated enough to go for a Grade 1 at Punchestown and was sent off as short as 4/1.

He didn’t reappear until January last year suggesting something was amiss and Mulholland said he’d had one or two niggles, and his season subsequently bombed with form figures of 0F0 (although he was going well in the Kim Muir before falling).  As a result he now runs off a mark of 138, and the fact he is back out at this time of year must give hope that they have ironed out whatever issues he was having last year and had a smoother preparation.  He looks dangerously handicapped on his best form (was also 2nd to Tea For Two in Grade 1 at Kempton), and goes well fresh.

I’ve rated him in the mid-150s previously and a price of 12/1 is worth paying to find out if he’s back on track.  Mulholland “won” this with The Young Master a few years back before disqualification and has had a 3rd and 5th place the last two years.  There is rain due to hit the track but he is versatile with regards to the ground with wins on good and heavy.

NOTEWORTHY PERFORMANCES FROM THE LAST FEW WEEKS…

HOW GOOD COULD POLITOLOGUE BE?!

I’m going to go through some of the horses that caught my attention in the last few weeks, but top of the list is one from Exeter yesterday, where POLITOLOGUE (168) was very impressive in landing the Haldon Gold Cup.

Ask The Weatherman Ballyoptic Politologue
38.89 37.58 33.78
50.04 48.37 43.46
62.65 60.87 54.6
140.86 138.15 128.82
154.27 151.03 141.61
165.74 162.09 152.64
175.83 171.58 161.91
233.8 228.2 218.06
241.91 235.97 225.67
251.88 244.6 234.17
268.24 258.46 248.35
282.45 272.16 263.25

As we can see from the sectionals above Politologue clocked much the best time from the first flight in the 2m1.5f course.  The Haldon Gold Cup was run at a fierce pace in the ground, and indeed plenty of decent horses were struggling from well out.  Only his stablemate SAN BENEDETO (164) could go with the impressive winner who idled on the run in after perhaps hitting the front too soon.  But he was going so well that Sam Twiston-Davies had little choice but to let him go on at that stage.  We’d expect the time of the race to be quicker than the other two races run over three miles but even after adjusting for this the winner reaches a red hot number.

The mighty Altior now lies in wait in the Tingle Creek and Politologue goes there with a live chance of upsetting the Champion Chase favourite.  He reportedly had a racecourse gallop prior to this and provided this run hasn’t taken too much out of him he should be some sight over the Sandown fences.  Longevity is not a feature of top class Nicky Henderson chasers (Sprinter Sacre, Long Run recent examples) and I would be wary of taking short prices about Altior in what has the potential to be a red hot division this year.

The runner-up was 12lengths behind Altior at Sandown and so on that run Politologue still has something to find.  But this six year old grey can certainly step up to the plate and it will be fascinating to see how far he can go in this division.  San Benedeto can also land a big race this season given he has now run to this number twice.

 

BALLYOPTIC IS TOP CLASS

The other classy performance on the Exeter card came from BALLYOPTIC (162) in the novice chase over three miles.  From the sectionals we can see he clocked a time 10seconds quicker than Ask The Weatherman did in the handicap chase getting further and further ahead as the race went on.  Even after adjusting for the 17lb weight differential, this was a top class debut from the winner and surely marks him towards the top of the staying novice chasers.  Rated 155 over hurdles he looked to take well to the chasing sphere with his exemplary jumping.  Twiston-Davies won the RSA with Blaklion two years ago and surely has another live candidate in Ballytoptic.  His best form does seem to be on softer ground so that would temper ones enthusiasm initially but it would be dangerous to underestimate him.

ELEGANT ESCAPE (149) was second and ran to the same mark I gave him previously.  He is a decent staying novice chaser and perhaps a candidate for the four miler.  Certainly prices of 50/1 seem crazy at this stage for a horse of his calibre.

BARNEY DWAN (145) was back in third, and ran a very likeable race.  No match for the classy winner the Pertemps runner-up could be a live candidate for the three mile handicap chase on day one of the Festival.

 

WORTH WAITING FOR WAITING PATIENTLY

At Carlisle on Sunday we saw the reappearance of WAITING PATIENTLY (156+) in a four runner chase.

Mister Whitaker Waiting Patiently Difference
13.55 12.62 -0.93
22.99 21.74 -1.25
49.53 46.59 -2.94
63.49 59.89 -3.6
79.12 75.07 -4.05
92.19 87.99 -4.2
168.85 164.73 -4.12
177.26 173.03 -4.23
191.76 187.5 -4.26
205.22 200.9 -4.32
214.4 210.14 -4.26
239.08 234.69 -4.39
251.3 246.79 -4.51
265.11 260.54 -4.57
276.81 272.75 -4.06
295.58 291.79 -3.79

There was another chase on the card over the same trip, and we can see from above that Waiting Patiently clocked a time 3.79s quicker, and did so carrying 16lbs more.  I’ve awarded him a mark of 156 but feel confident he can progress from this.  His trainer muted the December handicap chase at Cheltenham over 2.5m and that looks a nice race for them to target.  He beat Politologue last year and is clearly a classy chaser and probably a live candidate for the Ryanair where quotes of 20/1 make some appeal.

 

GOOD NOVICE HURDLERS AT CORK

I’d rated the Punchestown hurdle won by CRACKING SMART (149) highly and it was good to see the winner go in again at Cork on Sunday, beating the classy ROBIN DES FORET (145).

Shady Operator Cracking Smart Granny Biddy
16.29 16.65 16.55
29.68 30.01 30.41
94.63 94.63 96.26
113.82 113.04 115.74
127.43 126.59 129.61
180.88 180.64 184.32
195.86 196.15 199.69
208.07 209.75 212.66
216.9 219.95 222.48

Stepped up to 3 miles here, the winner looks a smart candidate for the Albert Bartlett at this stage.

The horse he beat at Punchestown, won the opening novice hurdle on the card. SHADY OPERATOR (146) clocked a good time here and is clearly a decent prospect for JP McManus and Joseph O’Brien.  He clocked the fastest time of the three hurdle races, but this was over the shortest distance, so I rate Cracking Smarts run over a mile further as the better performance.  Either way the two of them are classy individuals and worth following.

Shady Operator had two nice horses in behind him, and the three of them were well clear of the rest of the field.  CASTLEBROOK (142) won a PTP by 30 lengths and looks a nice recruit for Alan Potts given he is only four years old and has his best years ahead of him and over longer trips.  Back in third was DAYBREAK BOY (140) who was a decent flat horse (rated 99) he could be one to bear in mind for handicap hurdles.

 

BENATAR LOOKS TO BE THE NEXT STAR FOR THE MOORE TEAM

I’ll confess to never being a fan of Sire De Grugy, but I’ll certainly be joining the fan club for what looks to be the next Moore star horse in BENATAR (153) who won what looked a decent novice handicap chase at Ascot off top weight and a mark of 142.

Benatar Exitas Go Conquer
27.11 26.93 29.31
43 42.11 45.7
82.5 80.18 87.4
93.81 91.43 99.23
111 108.46 116.62
123.85 121.01 129.91
155.02 151.7 161.2
164.78 161.78 170.64
175.08 172.26 180.29
185.88 182.74 190.9
211.81 208.35 216.48
226.62 222.5 231.52
240.73 235.79 246.29

 

He clocked a slower time than Exitas did in the handicap chase, but did so over half a mile further and carrying a whopping 27lbs more in weight.  Adjusting for all this I give him a figure of 153.  He was 4th behind Finian’s Oscar at Aintree on his last run over hurdles but looks to be a fine recruit to chasing.  In some quotes I found, Gary Moore seems to imply this horse may be as good as anything he’s had and if he can build on this chase debut as he should he can take high rank in the novice chase division.

 

QUITE BY CHANCE SHOULD GO FOR THE BET VICTOR GOLD CUP

The two mile chase won by EXITAS (142) was run at a good pace, and the winner clocked a fine time in finishing 5s quicker than Benatar did when timed from the same first fence.  He was running with a featherweight though and I am more interested in the runner-up QUITE BY CHANCE (155) who himself finished 13 lengths clear of the third.  Rated just 144 here he is entered up in the Bet Victor Gold Cup and is an interesting candidate for that.  He was 4th in the December version off a mark of 147 and perhaps goes there a bit under the radar.

 

IS DISKO A GOLD CUP HORSE?

Over in Ireland DISKO (169) confirmed the promise of his novice campaign with a fine reappearance in the Grade 2 chase at Down Royal over two and a half miles.

Outlander Disko Poormans Hill
28.45 27.79 28.47
39.62 38.51 39.69
63.87 61.7 63.69
72.24 69.84 72.14
113.16 109.63 114.17
154.74 150.59 157.36
170.52 165.96 173.61
180.74 176.27 184.13
207.03 202.38 211.22
225.28 220.56 230.56
250.7 246.02 256.83
261.08 256.48 266.85
270.9 266.36 276.2

As we can see from the sectionals, Disko clocked a time 4.5s quicker than Outlander did in the Grade 1 chase.  Even when adjusting for the half a mile shorter trip here Disko ran a red hot figure and confirms himself as one of the top chasers around at the moment.  Successful over 3 miles at Punchestown last year he looks to be the main Gigginstown candidate for the Gold Cup at this stage.  However, his pedigree suggests that sort of trip may be beyond his optimum and in what could be a vintage renewal of the race this year he may get found out in the latter stages.

 

WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED TO OUR DUKE?!

The Grade 1 chase over 3 miles beforehand was won by OUTLANDER (154), but the time was nothing special and the form doesn’t look to be worth following to me.  The noteworthy run, or lack of it, came from OUR DUKE (103) who was never travelling and subsequently found to scope dirty.  He clocked numbers in the mid-170s for me last year and had the beating of the aforementioned Disko.  If he can bounce back from this he can still be a Gold Cup horse and this was clearly not his running.

 

IS BRISTOL DE MAI THE NEW KID ON THE BLOCK?

The Charlie Hall Chase was billed as a clash between two of the older brigade, but the younger BRISTOL DE MAI (167) ended up victorious as both Coneygree and Cue Card failed to get round.

Daklondike Born Survivor Bristol De Mai
11.36 11.27 10.83
23.45 23.33 22.09
34.57 34.46 32.95
91.98 93.23 88.41
104.48 104.79 100.42
115.15 115.16 111.13
126.1 125.57 121.63
142.98 141.33 137.87
189.08 185.03 183.95
199.87 195.44 194.04
211.28 206.35 204.88
222.07 216.4 215.29
236.74 230.5 228.9

This was a red hot performance from the winner, who actually clocked a time 1.5s quicker than Born Survivor did in the mile shorter race!  He goes for the Betfair Chase at Haydock with a live chance, and clearly relishes the soft ground that is typically found there.  Sizing John will have to be at his best to see off the young pretender.  The current prices are about right though and it’ll probably be just a race to savour.  Cue Card fell again but seemed to be going well at the time.  His best form is on soft ground as well and given his age will surely be primed for the Betfair Chase.

BLAKLION (161) just failed to collar the winner on the run in and was getting 6lbs in weight so is certainly the inferior animal.  To my eye his best runs have come on undulating tracks and I’d like to see him go for the Gold Cup before his seemingly intended target of the Grand National.  He can make the frame in the blue riband at a wild price (currently 66/1).

 

MELON STILL NEEDS TO IMPROVE TO THREATEN BUVEUR D’AIR

Friday at Down Royal saw the reappearance of MELON (152), but I confess to still not buying into the hype around him.  This was just in line with some of his previous numbers and he needs to be finding improvement soon to be a Champion Hurdle threat.

Poli Roi Just Janice Melon Alaliya
29.37 27.55 27.27 29.55
49.6 47.13 46.72 50.39
86.65 83.59 82.28 87.57
134.79 131.72 130.09 135.96
166.08 161.51 159.4 166.9
188.68 183.68 181.21 190.4
216.59 211.06 209.14 221.97
230.43 223.45 222.08 235.31

As we can see from the sectionals, he clocked a time just 1.4s quicker that Just Janice did over the same trip and whilst she is an admirable mare he needed to be showing more for me to merit Champion Hurdle talk.  He is entitled to improve on this reappearance but he will certainly need to!

 

SMAD PLACE ROLLS BACK THE YEARS

Back at Aintree there was a fine performance from SMAD PLACE (170) in landing the Old Roan Chase.

Vintage Clouds The Romford Pele Smad Place
17.23 17.68 15.36
29.74 30.06 27.07
41.89 42.57 38.43
67.41 67.65 63.07
90.21 90.56 85.42
103.05 103.89 98
125.5 127.08 120.19
168.2 169.23 161.49
185.71 185.62 177.59
198.53 197.69 189.09
211.04 209.06 200.86
236.94 233.15 224.35
260.07 254.24 245.74
272.64 266.68 258.38
294.75 289.55 280.73
309.15 303.55 294.29

They clocked a much better time than the other two chases on the card (run over half a mile further) and this was a run that ties in with some of Smad Place’s best form.  Now ten years old this was clearly a main target for him, and he was 110% fit for the race.  With that in mind the horse to take out of the race is the runner-up CLOUDY DREAM (165) who seemed to travel well but got outbattled by the super game winner.

I think the jockey would like another go at riding the race as he got tied up on the inside and had to switch round the winner.  He was closing at the finish but the line came to the rescue for the admirable grey winner.  But Cloudy Dream is only seven, and surely has bigger targets ahead of him this season…the first being the Bet Victor Gold Cup.  He is capable of running to a higher mark than this and if he can do so he can certainly land the big handicap race at Cheltenham.  Together with Waiting Patiently, Malcolm Jefferson has two of the most exciting horses around and can land big prizes this season with the pair.

 

FOXTAIL HILL AND LE PREZIEN CAN LAND BIG HANDICAPS

At Cheltenham the star performances of the Saturday went to FOXTAIL HILL (158) and LE PREZIEN (162) in the handicap chase over two miles.

Cogry Foxtail Hill Double Treasure
7.92 7.85 8.2
29.8 28.75 29.25
50.42 49.2 50.83
63.73 62.71 64.6
75.77 75.32 77.34
87.84 87.6 89.12
106.5 106.4 108.01
142.9 142.58 145.51
173.5 172.23 177.28
181.3 179.73 185.59
200.6 195.78 203.74

From where the courses overlap, we can see just how much faster Foxtail Hill was in winning this race, albeit over a shorter trip.  Clearly allowing him to bowl along over two miles has seen him excel.  With that in mind I would be hesitant about taking prices about him in the Bet Victor Gold Cup.  He is a likeable horse, but I would reserve judgement about him being able to sustain this sort of pace and form over half a mile further.  He could be more of a Grand Annual horse.

Le Prezien was the only one to come out of the chasing pack and challenge the game winner.  Backed off the boards here he was clearly at his very best and may need time to recover from this run.  Only raised 6lbs to 150 he can win a big handicap off that mark.

Interestingly I rated SIZING PLATINUM (152) just 1lb higher than when he was runner-up in this race last year.  Of course last year he was beaten by Fox Norton, and whilst I don’t think the two horses are quite in that class they are certainly decent individuals.

 

 

GIGGINSTOWN MONSTERS UNLEASHED

SAMCRO IS THE REAL DEAL

There have been few novice hurdle debuts as eagerly anticipated as the one made by SAMCRO (150+) last week.

Samcro Lex Talionis Ben Dundee
37.94 37.66 38.01
51.2 50.88 51.03
75.43 75.61 74.53
107.65 108.82 106.56
122.79 125.58 122.55
159.45 162.88 158.91
195.37 200.55 197.3
208.66 213.79 211.6

There were two other hurdle races on the card, one over the same trip and the other over half a mile further.  You can see from the sectionals above that Samcro clocked the fastest time as timed from the first flight on the two mile course, and he did this carrying 21lbs and 15lbs more in weight than the other two winners.  When adjusting for this I have awarded Samcro a mark of 150…clearly he is the real deal and justified the hype surrounding him.  Putting in this sort of number of debut marks him down as out of the top drawer.

Inevitably the mind wonders about Cheltenham targets and it seems to be between the Supreme and Ballymore for the horse, with preference for the latter based on the betting markets.  I noted that the excellent Johnny Ward tweeted after that Elliott said he almost jumps too well for a two miler, and it was noticeable that he jumped with a fair degree of elan throughout the contest.  That said though he is clearly not devoid of pace.  He clocked 85.87s from three out to the line, compared to 88.21s and 89.05s in the other two races, and did so seemingly within his comfort zone.  On pedigree though there are plenty of 2.5 and 3 milers in his family.  He is by Germany, the same sire as Faugheen, and he could be a similar type in having stamina in his genetics but can sustain a fast pace as well.  Wherever he ends up he is going to be hard to beat.

 

DEATH DUTY STEPS UP ON HIS DEBUT RUN

I’d been impressed by DEATH DUTY (161) on his debut as he settled so well to the point of falling asleep, and once woken up by a mistake at the last readily picked up a fair rival.  He stepped up on that debut at Punchestown later on the card to impressively beat TOUT EST PERMIS (141) and WOODLAND OPERA (145).

Death Duty Road To Respect King’s Song
13.21 14.17 14.84
42.74 45.29 46.44
59.91 63.27 65.18
90.64 95.07 97.76
104.1 109.21 112.41
128.73 135.17 139.22
144.47 151.43 155.52
157.09 164.67 169.19
188.22 196.55 201.78
204.77 213.65 219.4
230.33 239.43 247.15
242.86 251.84 260.08
255.47 263.79 273.13

The other two races over fences on the card were over 3m1f, and you’d expect Death Duty to clock a faster time for the course over 2m2f that he did.  Yet the scale of the time over the respective distances points to a red hot number of 161 for Death Duty once accounting for the weights carried.  He clearly has plenty of pace and at this stage the JLT would seem a logical target for him where prices of 12/1 look generous enough if one is happy to play the guessing game!

 

ROAD TO RESPECT PROBABLY NOT GOLD CUP CLASS

On the same card there was a strong looking Grade 3 won by ROAD TO RESPECT (160).  The race was notable for the enterprising ride given to KILCARRY BRIDGE (149) who set relatively sedate fractions in trying to steal the race from the front.  As you can see from the sectionals there were as much as 9s slower than Death Duty for the same part of the course.  This was over 7f further, but goes some way towards showing the difference in pace…even weaker horses can then compete over a shorter sprint finish as Kilcarry Bridge was nearly able to do here.  They were half a second quicker from 3 out to the line than Death Duty was over the shorter trip.

Road To Respect won the Plate at Cheltenham last season before defeating Yorkhill in an extraordinary race at Fairyhouse.  I’d given him a figure of 164 in victory last year, and he didn’t quite match that here.  Still only six it is possible that he can step up but in a potentially vintage staying chase division he is on the second tier as things stand.

I’d been keen on the chances of SUB LIEUTENANT (152) beforehand who had clocked big numbers from me last season in defeat to top class rivals like Sizing John and Un De Sceaux.  A half-brother to Lord Windermere he seems to also have a liking for undulating tracks and I felt that it was worth another try at three miles for him.  Alas, it didn’t seem to work and it is time to abandon that ship and stick to 2.5miles with him and probably another go at the Ryanair.  He got to within a length and a half of Un De Sceaux in the race last year and can no doubt go well again.

MINELLA ROCCO (140) was sent off a short priced favourite here but never really landed a glove, probably not being suited by the slowish pace and fast finish.  He stayed on well in the Gold Cup last year to finish second and all roads presumably lead back to there….and then onto the Grand National.  In Phil Smith’s last year handicapping the race it’ll be interesting to see what mark the currently 166-rated horse ends up on!

 

PETIT MOUCHOIR A LIVE ARKLE CONTENDER IF HE CAN HANDLE THE COURSE

As if the Thursday wasn’t exciting enough for Gigginstown, the day beforehand they unleashed the top class hurdler PETIT MOUCHOIR (159) over fences for the first time.  As a general rule I tend to be a bit anti horses who stay another season over hurdles before chasing, but Petit Mouchoir was very impressive in victory here.  Unsurprisingly for a de Bromhead trained horse he jumped well throughout and saw off a couple of fair rivals in BRELADE (148) and BURGAS (137).

Petit Mouchoir A Sizing Network Difference
28.65 30.77 -2.12
45.51 48.81 -3.3
74.98 80.87 -5.89
88.35 94.54 -6.19
113.25 120.42 -7.17
128.66 136.29 -7.63
141.36 149.54 -8.18
172.84 180.54 -7.7
189.63 197.59 -7.96
214.64 224.06 -9.42
226.7 236.59 -9.89
238.64 249.44 -10.8

The other race on the card was won by A SIZING NETWORK (137) over 2m6.5f, but Petit Mouchoir showed the merit of his performance on the clock as you can see from the sectionals above.  Faster throughout the two races, he clocked a time 10.8s faster from the first flight on the two mile course.  Adjusting for the distances I reach a number of 159.

For a debut over fences this was top class and marks him down as an Arkle contender without question.  However, both runs at the festival have ended in defeats in 8th (Supreme) and 3rd (Champion Hurdle) and one would be wary about siding with him at a short enough price when his best form has come at a flat track like Leopardstown.

 

CAMPEADOR GETS THE WIN HE DESERVES

I haven’t held my breath for such a long time as when CAMPEADOR (154) headed down to the last at Punchestown on Wednesday.  Having fallen at the last when looking the winner in two big handicap hurdles previously it was nice to see the likeable grey get safely over this time and win.  And win in an impressive time!

Espoir D’Allen Campeador Cracking Smart Arctic Pearl
37.99 36.3 38.77 40.97
51.49 48.9 52.44 54.81
74.47 72.06 76.57 79.83
105.54 103.19 108.72 112.59
120.83 118.07 124.92 128.73
157.2 154.42 160.93 165.87
195.12 191.87 198.8 203.26
209.06 205.45 212.4 216.99

Of the four hurdle races run (two over half a mile further) he clocked the fastest overall time from the first flight by 3.5s and did so carrying 11st 12lbs.  Travelling well throughout this has to help his confidence after a horror fall when last seen.  I think he is still capable of better than this and it will be interesting to see if he can develop into a Champion Hurdle horse.  That said though, this strong traveller could be well suited by a race like the County.  Rated 145 prior to this he would likely end up with top weight in that race…but Arctic Fire managed to win the race this year off a big weight so don’t rule out the prospect of lightning striking twice.

Back in fourth was TULLY EAST (117) who won the novice handicap chase at the festival.  This had all the hallmarks of blowing the cobwebs away for the horse and he still looks potentially well handicapped over fences on 144 and surely goes for the BetVictor Gold Cup next.

 

ROMAIN DE SENAM NOT GOING TO BETVICTOR, BUT WILL BURTONS WELL?

On the subject of the Bet Victor Gold Cup, ROMAIN DE SENAM (151) defied a penalty to win for the second weekend running, this time at Stratford.  The manner of the victory wasn’t as eye-catching as last weekend but the clock still pointed to a decent number.

Romain De Senam Tara Mac Difference
22.33 23.02 -0.69
35.88 36.85 -0.97
63.87 66.75 -2.88
93.68 98.54 -4.86
130.11 136.91 -6.8
143.78 151.47 -7.69
156.05 164.36 -8.31
177.68 187.17 -9.49
190.47 200.56 -10.09
216.85 228.29 -11.44
244.95 257.92 -12.97
280.4 294.01 -13.61
294.94 309.71 -14.77

Comparing the race to the one won by Tara Mac over a furlong and a half further we can see that they clocked a time 14.77s faster from the first flight in the shorter race.  Even adjusting for the fact Romain De Senam was carrying 11lbs less this still arrives at a number of 151 for the winner.

I saw a tweet that said the horse had won as much in these two races as he would’ve done for finishing second in the BetVictor.  Nicholls is a master at placing horses and no doubt has an expected returns spreadsheet to aid him in placing his horses with such effect.  The horse is now due a lumpy jump up the handicap and although he is favourite for the race at Cheltenham it seems that isn’t on the cards.

The race may still provide a live contender for the BetVictor Gold Cup as BURTONS WELL (149) went down all guns blazing and did well to only go down by a neck to a rival that was near enough a stone well in.  A faller in the novice handicap at the festival this was an excellent comeback run and he can progress from it.  Venetia Williams went close with Aso in the big handicaps last year and looks to have another live contender this year with this horse.

 

CAPITAINE JUMPS INTO THE ARKLE PICTURE

This is an exciting time of year for jumps fans as some of the big names unleash novice chasers seemingly on a weekly basis.  CAPITAINE (158) was a well touted horse last year winning a Grade 2 at Ascot before going down to Finian’s Oscar in the Tolworth.  He looks to have stepped up a level now switched to chasing and put in a good time at Market Rasen to slam is rivals by 22 lengths.

Capitaine Sporting Boy Difference
10.16 10.31 -0.15
60.87 65.19 -4.32
69.71 74.73 -5.02
78.83 83.71 -4.88
126.9 133.46 -6.56
143.32 149.8 -6.48
155.53 161.96 -6.43
165.04 171.81 -6.77
213.1 221.07 -7.97
221.93 229.64 -7.71
230.5 238.48 -7.98
246.99 255.81 -8.82

The other race on the card was over 3miles, but Capitaine still clocked a time 8.82s quicker than some fair sorts in the longer race.

The next target muted was the Henry VII at Sandown and he must go there with a live chance, and looks a nice type for the Arkle where prices of 33/1 look generous.  Nicholls skipped the big festivals last year to give him time to develop and that decision looks to have paid dividends already.

 

THE NEW ONE WINS A CHAMPION HURDLE!

I’d love to own a horse like THE NEW ONE (164) that gets so much criticism yet wins just shy of a million pounds in his career!

Woolstone One Eragon De Chanay The New One
17.01 17.47 16.25
79.12 80.87 74.42
102.56 106.16 96.68
123.72 129.49 116.99
172.28 177.87 162.85
190.88 195.91 182.76
206.18 211.94 199.3
221.68 229.45 215.52

In winning the Welsh Champion Hurdle off a mark of 160, I have The New One running to the same sort of mark he has been for the last few years.  You can see how much faster they went in this race when compared to the other two races run over the same trip on the card.  Note that The New One carried more weight as well.

There isn’t much really to say about him though.  The Champion Hurdle would have to cut up in the extreme for him to have a chance, admirable though he is.  The fact that he clocked such a good time here on desperate ground would imply that a step up in trip is within his compass though.  But the mighty Nichols Canyon lies in wait in the staying division so there probably isn’t much to be gained going that way either!

 

WEST APPROACH FOLLOWS IN THE FAMILY FOOTSTEPS

Whilst Thistlecrack takes steps back on the road to recovery, it was nice to see his half-brother WEST APPROACH (158) make a nice start over fences at Ffos Las.

West Approach Patricks Park Difference
12.59 12.52 0.07
61.34 61.14 0.2
74.1 74.4 -0.3
87.79 88.09 -0.3
101.86 102.01 -0.15
158.61 162.07 -3.46
170.82 174.46 -3.64
182.94 186.74 -3.8
195.46 199.2 -3.74
207.51 211.91 -4.4
251.32 260.21 -8.89
263.76 273.51 -9.75
277.23 286.65 -9.42
291.22 299.77 -8.55
305.42 313.19 -7.77

Comparing the performance to the other race over 2m5f on the card won by Patricks Park, we can see that the winner clocked a time 7.77s faster. They were 4.4s ahead before the long run into the straight and the came home even faster from there.  This was an excellent debut from the winner and shows that he has translated his ability over hurdles to the larger obstacles.

He had similar strong travelling mannerisms to his brother, and I’d be inclined to stick to 2.5miles with him at this stage.  And he did have a tendency to run down his fences to the left, but this was still an excellent start and he can go on from here.

CHEPSTOW REVIEW

FINIAN’S OSCAR DESTINED FOR THE TOP

The novice chase at Chepstow on Saturday has been won by Cue Card and Thistlecrack in previous runnings, and Colin Tizzard unleashed another potential star in FINIAN’S OSCAR (148+) in this year’s renewal.

There were three chases run on the card, with the other two over the near three mile trip.  The sectionals as timed from the first jump in the novice chase were:

Finian’s Oscar Rock The Kasbah Definitly Grey
11.71 12.45 12.32
25.52 26.95 26.71
35.77 37.67 36.89
46.59 49.18 48.52
115.17 122.72 121.38
125.2 133.15 132.17
132.97 140.97 140.02
144.95 153.22 152.02
158.14 166.7 165.66
169.05 177.53 176.81
221.32 228.71 230.13
233.93 239.79 242.25
249.26 252.81 256
261.04 262.59 265.82
274.3 273.68 277.06
292.28 290.06 295.04

Settled at the back of the four runner field by his new pilot, Bryan Cooper, Finian’s Oscar struck me as a professional enough jumper for his first run over fences, and he was given a nice education by Cooper.  At one stage he was ten lengths or so off the leading pair but once encouraged he picked up the leader AINTREE MY DREAM (133) fairly readily and travelled all over him up the straight to win eased down.

The fact he was eased down presents a bit of a conundrum in trying to accurately rate him.  Even with that he clocked a time just 2.22s slower than Rock The Kasbah, and a quicker time than Definitly Grey.  But he was so far in ascendancy at one point (8 or 9s ahead of both), and still seemed to have so much left in the tank at the end that I’ve upgraded him a fair bit to arrive at a mark of 148.

It was no secret that he was a potential top notch novice chaser, but he impressed me here on his debut.  The end of season choice would seem to be between the Arkle and the JLT… Coming from the family of Champion Chase winner Finian’s Rainbow and the way he picked up decent horses here suggests there is plenty of pace in his make-up so I can see connections going for the shorter race.  With his point to point background though his long term future is probably the 2019 Gold Cup and I wonder if he could follow Kicking King, War Of Attrition and Sizing John in finishing runner-up in the Arkle and then going onto Gold Cup glory?

 

ROCK THE KASBAH STARTS TO FULFIL POTENTIAL

The other performance of note on the chase front was from ROCK THE KASBAH (152) who won the handicap chase off a mark of 142 in a nice style.  He clocked a time 5s quicker than the winner of the other race over the same distance, but it was the impressive finish that caught my eye.  Up to seven out they clocked roughly the same time of around 177s, but from there Rock The Kasbah came home 6s quicker.  Adjusting for this points to a nice performance from the winner that goes some way towards fulfilling his potential.  He was carrying 15lbs less than the winner of the other race but this still merited a number 10lbs higher than the mark he won off.

I notice he has been raised to a mark of 149 as a result of this win.  He can still pose a threat off that mark should connections elect to go for the Ladbroke Gold Cup at Newbury.  Though considering he has good form here at Chepstow and on soft ground, the Welsh National has to be tempting for connections.  He’ll need to find some more improvement…but that is certainly possible for the seven year old.

 

WINNERS GALORE FROM THIS HURDLE RACE!!!

COURT MINSTREL (147) won the Silver Trophy for the second time at the age of 10.  He had dropped to a nice mark, and with the ground in his favour and his excellent jockey claiming 7lbs he was able to get his head in front ahead of SAM SPINNER (140).  However, it is the preceding race also won by Mitch Bastyan that I think is seriously worth following.

Silver Streak Court Minstrel Difference
72.1 71.83 0.27
88.73 88.82 -0.09
102.45 102.63 -0.18
174.39 175.78 -1.39
185.78 186.92 -1.14
196.17 197.09 -0.92
215.41 215.93 -0.52
227.33 228.39 -1.06

SILVER STREAK (142) won the race in fine style, travelling well before pulling 4.5 lengths away from DOLOS (150).  As you can see from the sectionals above, he clocked a time just over a second quicker from the first flight.  Adjusting for the lower weight carried and distance run and looking at the other races on the card I reach a number of 142 for the winner.  He was winning here off a mark of just 122, and has only been put up to 130.  I was interested to see his trainer talk about the Greatwood Hurdle as a potential target, and he would certainly be of interest there should he get in.  He looks on an upward curve, and ahead of his new mark.

DOLOS (150) seemed to get outpaced at the end by the winner and despite the fact he has yet to be successful beyond two miles he looks worth trying up in trip.  On pedigree he could well improve for it and he looks well ahead of his mark of 135.

FLASHING GLANCE (140) won a Stratford novice by 20 lengths in September, and has some smart bumper form in behind Irish Prophecy, Cap Soleil and Pym.  He is another worth following.

FIDUX (141), DINO VELVET (133) and PERCY STREET (130) all look capable of winning from their marks.  The two Alan King horses perhaps needed the run, and Percy Street looks well handicapped on the best of his flat form.  Having been gelded recently, Henderson is just the trainer to unlock the potential that looked to be there when he travelled well in the Fred Winter.

 

ROMAIN DE SENAM HAS TO GO FOR BETVICTOR GOLD CUP

Paul Nicholls wasn’t the only one devastated when ROMAIN DE SENAM (148) didn’t get into the novice handicap chase at the festival, as I’d made him one of the best bets of the week for that race.  Alas, there was some recompense as he slammed his rivals on Sunday at Chepstow from a mark of 133.

Mia’s Storm Bob Ford Romain De Senam
12.66 12.2 11.44
26.93 26.92 25.43
37.47 37.7 35.82
48.89 49.32 47.07
122.16 119.94 117.63
132.29 130.44 127.85
140.36 138.52 135.77
152.37 150.68 147.8
166.03 165.02 161.58
177.23 176.43 172.65
226.75 227.93 223.15
237.62 239.48 234.03
250.4 253 247.43
260.17 263.37 257.68
270.66 274.43 268.58
285.17 290.49 284.85

 

The other two chases on the card were over 4f further than this race, and Romain De Senam unsurprisingly was able to clock a faster time than both the other winners even after being well eased in the closing stages.

I was somewhat surprised to hear that the BetVictor Gold Cup wasn’t being considered for the winner.  It looks the obvious race, and assuming he goes up to a mark of around 142 after this and with further improvement he must have a big chance for the race.  Nicholls mentioned that he may not have sufficient experience, but this was his 8th run over fences….he just has to go for the race (unless the owner has another candidate, which I’ll come to later!)

DOUBLE SHUFFLE (157) was well beaten by the pacier winner, but this was a fine comeback run for him.  Back up in trip to another go at three miles and I think he can land a nice prize this year even from his mark of 151.

 

MIA’S STORM AN APPROPRIATE WINNER

With hurricanes hitting the British Isles it seemed MIA’S STORM (145) was an appropriately named winner of the novice chase on the card.  As we saw from the sectional’s the time she clocked was only just behind Romain De Senam despite the longer trip and carrying 6lbs more.  She was a progressive hurdler last year but looks to have kicked on again now moving to the bigger obstacles.  Unbeaten on good ground, she could be one to bear in mind for better ground in the spring should she get turned over on a softer surface over the winter months.

ELEGANT ESCAPE (149) has been a well touted horse having been beaten in his point to point days by the hype machine Samcro.  Now moved to the bigger obstacles he made an excellent debut here and looks a nice prospect for novice chasing, perhaps an RSA type, with stablemate Finian’s Oscar likelier to thrive at shorter trips.

 

GUMBALL A TRIUMPH HURDLE PROSPECT

Seeing a Terry Warner owned, Phillip Hobbs trained grey stirs the emotions as one reminisces about the mighty Detroit City.  And it looks like connections have another fine prospect in GUMBALL (136).

Gumball Poetic Rhythm Misterton
75.79 70.22 70.17
92.46 86.49 86.39
106.06 99.89 99.26
179.47 172.06 172.57
191.33 184 184.49
201.64 195.44 194.91
220.48 215.57 214.55
233.06 228.45 227.45

They clocked the slowest time in this race, as you can see above, but most of this can be accounted for at the start of the race, and perhaps explains the winners scratchy and clumsy jumping.  In a stronger run race he should jump better, as he had done on debut, and he looks a fine Triumph Hurdle prospect at this stage.

The runner-up MALAYA (126) had a fair reputation from France but was no match for the winner here.  She should step up from this and looks a nice prospect herself.

SPEEDO BOY (104) is an interesting horse from the flat where he has been rated as high as 100.  He bumped into two smart horses here and if connections place him right he could end up on a nice mark for the Fred Winter.

 

VISION DES FLOS LOOKS ANOTHER NICE PROSEPECT FOR TIZZARD & POTTS

POETIC RHYTHM (142) won the novice hurdle in fine style, but it was the third placed horse VISION DES FLOS (136) that is the one to take out of the race.  The winner and runner-up were having their fifth and ninth starts over hurdles, yet Vision Des Flos travelled well in the race and just looked in need of the run here.  He should step up nicely from this and be on the scene in the big end of season novice hurdles.  This race was 3.5f further than the other two races on the card, yet they clocked a time just a second slower than the race won by Misterton.

 

COULD OLDGRANGEWOOD BE THE REASON ROMAIN DE SENAM ISN’T BETVICTOR GOLD CUP BOUND?!

MISTERTON (144) won the final hurdle race on the card in a good time but it was the horse in third, OLDGRANGEWOOD (144) that caught the eye.  He travelled well, but looked to get a bit outpaced at the end of the race and perhaps also in need of the run (was a drifter on the day)  He was just 5 lengths behind Cloudy Dream at Ayr over 2.5miles at the end of last season and looks dangerously handicapped on a mark of 147.  The benefit of this run, and going back up to 2.5miles should see improvement as should moving back over the larger obstacles.

With Nicholls so quick to dismiss the BetVictor Gold Cup in the aftermath of the race for Romain De Senam, I wonder if the owner has the race in mind for Oldgrangewood already!

TOTAL RECALL MAKES A MOCKERY OF HIS MARK…AND OTHER HORSES OF NOTE

The jumps season stepped up a gear in the last week with some big names reappearing and some smart prospects laying down their markers for the season ahead.

TOTAL RECALL MAKES A MOCKERY OF HIS MARK

The Munster National run at Limerick on Sunday looked like a decent betting heat, with a Willie Mullins horse heading the market and a big field giving favourable place terms.  However, it was turned into a procession as the Mullins hotpot TOTAL RECALL (154) made an absolute mockery of his handicap mark of 129.  Previously trained by Sandra Hughes it is scarcely believable how much improvement Mullins has managed to eek out of the horse, albeit he had run with promise from such a mark last season.

Total Recall Jury Duty Attribution
10.6 10.38 10.02
21 20.81 20.05
31.5 31.45 30.85
46.04 46.13 45.14
103.45 104.75 103.02
113.51 115.48 112.91
176.95 180.46 173.13
187.38 189.98 182.71
197.95 200.58 192.47
208.42 211.48 202.49
222.62 225.58 215.94
275.95 279.21 270.13
285.45 289.38 280.04
298.02 299.53 293.14

The sectionals as taken from the first jump in the shorter races are shown in the table above.  The race won by Jury Duty was run at a relative crawl, but Total Recall still clocked a time 1.5s quicker despite travelling two furlongs further.  He was heavily eased in the closing stages and was in fact 4s quicker to the final flight!  Attribution ran a quicker time as can be seen above but this was over 4.5f further, and once adjusting for this it points to a big number for Total Recall.  He will rightfully get murdered by the handicapper off the back of this, presumably to a mark in the mid to high 140s, but he can go in again of such a mark…perhaps even in the Ladbrokes Gold Cup at Newbury.

I bet ALPHA DES OBEAUX (160) in the race and although he was well handicapped he was unfortunate to bump into the winner.  That said it was good to see him return back to form, having put up some big numbers for me in the past, most noticeably behind Thistlecrack in the Stayers Hurdle and behind Coney Island in the Drinmore.  His problems were well reported last season, and having bled it is possible he will always be hit and miss and perhaps even need to be fresh to be at his best.

The other two chases on the card saw a smart introduction to chasing for JURY DUTY (140) over 2m6f.  Well fancied when third in the Pertemps last season he was given a straightforward enough introduction to chasing here and was relatively untroubled in success.  He can take decent rank in the staying novice chase division, and looks a RSA horse at this stage.

ATTRIBUTION (151) and CHILDRENS LIST (154) fought out the finale of the other chase on the card, with the former coming out on top.  He ran some nice races in defeat last year, and seemed suited by this step up to 2.5m in fending off his rival who was travelling better.  A former 3m pointer he could be worth trying up to 3 miles in future.

The runner-up travelled menacingly in behind but perhaps their relative match fitness paid its toll in the ground.  This was Childrens List first run since beating Edwulf on New Year’s Eve last year, and he confirmed the promise of that run with a decent first showing this season.  Another from the point to point field, he is actually a half-brother to Schindlers Hunt and could pay his way in Grade 2/3 races over 2.5miles for connections.  Although considering those connections are the Mullins/Ricci/Walsh triumvirate his odds may not be appealing.

ROBIN DES FORET JUMPS TO THE TOP OF THE NOVICE HURDLE TREE

Over hurdles we saw a stunning performance from ROBIN DES FORET (156) to win the listed race over 2m5f.

Balakani Robin Des Foret Drakaina Crown Of Gold
9.81 9.65 9.12 9.67
71 67.52 68.44 71.23
80.36 76.69 77.45 80.53
90.02 86.37 87.07 90.54
99.61 96.3 96.67 100.51
160.72 156.26 158.57 161.2
171.06 165.03 167.54 170.35
184.32 178.13 180.09 183.19

As you can see from the sectionals above, taken from the first jump in the two mile race, Robin Des Foret clocked the fastest time despite racing over further than two of the other races on the card and carrying at least 6lbs more than the winners of those other races.  It was a stunning performance as he travelled well throughout to dispatch his well fancied stablemate FABULOUS SAGA (149).

The winner has been on the go throughout the summer and continues the previous Mullins trend of running his decent horses “out of season”.  He looks a top prospect for the Neptune or Albert Bartlett novice hurdles.

The runner-up had similarly been on the go throughout the summer and maybe set the race up for his stablemate here.  He is an exciting horse for the remainder of the season and on pedigree and point to point background could go well up in trip to 3 miles and the slower pace of race there could suit.  He seemed exuberant in front and if he can settle over that sort of trip he would be a live threat.  But as ever with Mullins, we have to keep all trip options open at this stage!

It would be appropriate to mention MEGA FORTUNE (150) at this stage.  He was set to take the opening hurdle race in fine style on his seasonal reappearance before succumbing to a horrendous fall two from home.  It was horrible to watch and served a reminder to us all of the risks involved in racing, and that is something we should all wrestle with in our minds.  These animals are treated like kings, but accidents like this are still hard to take.  Mega Fortune had proved a brilliant acquisition from the flat and had adapted into a top juvenile hurdler.  He was set to clock a decent time here and with some improvement would not have been out of place in Grade 1s this season, or the big handicap hurdles.  He will be sorely missed.

SOME HYPE HORSES WIN, BUT DON’T IMPRESS ON THE CLOCK

There are three horses I want to talk about here, the first being the Champion Bumper horse of last season FAYONAGH (117+).

Fayonagh Russian Roulette Difference
28.27 28.98 -0.71
43.54 44.61 -1.07
76.67 78.05 -1.38
92.87 93.79 -0.92
122.79 123.65 -0.86
153.49 153.03 0.46
171.26 169.68 1.58
198.35 196.65 1.7
211.99 210.78 1.21
225.26 225.26 0

There was one other race on the Fairyhouse card run over 2miles, and this was won by Russian Roulette in a handicap hurdle off a mark of 108.  Fayonagh clocked the same time from the first flight to the line and carried 7lbs less in doing so!

I played around with the numbers and comparisons with the other races on the cards, and a mark of 117 was all I could give last season’s bumper heroine.  Sure, she was relatively untroubled in defeating her rivals and one would expect her to progress a lot from here, but it backed up the underlying view I have that last season’s bumper horses weren’t a vintage crop.  Samcro and Lalor were the two that looked the ones to take out of last year for me, and it will be interesting to see how Fayonagh progresses.  At this stage, Elliots call to target the mares novice would look to be appropriate.

SHATTERED LOVE (120+) was another that falls into this category.  She was untroubled in despatching weaker rivals but didn’t clock a time of any note.

Bamako Moriviere Shattered Love Fenlon’s Hill
18.39 19.62 19.73
51.88 56.18 55.59
63.46 69.61 67.81
76.43 84.39 81.42
112.85 122.3 118.83
139.94 149.33 145.77
163.08 172.14 168.76
187.55 196.94 195.09
204.34 213.96 213.31
220.93 231.23 229.72

As we can see she was consistently the slowest of the three winners when timed from the first flight in the two mile race, and on the clock her performance only merits a number of 120.  That said though, she looks a big imposing horse and clearly well suited to chasing.  There will be tougher engagements than this down the line and hopefully she will be up to the task.

Whilst the two mares are horses I feel can leave the marks I’ve given them well behind, I confess to not buying into the hype around PALMERS HILL (118+) who won a 2 mile maiden hurdle at Uttoxeter.  A staggeringly expensive purchase from the point to point field this horse has featured in many a “horses to follow feature” in the build up to this season.

Palmers Hill Dusky Raider Difference
16.48 15.86 0.62
39.49 38.44 1.05
53.39 51.58 1.81
100.76 97.56 3.2
121.29 117.47 3.82
172.53 170.48 2.05
192.67 192.58 0.09
205.03 206.04 -1.01
218.07 219.75 -1.68

The other two mile race on the card was a handicap won off a mark of 97 by Dusky Raider.  Although there was a slow pace in the maiden hurdle, Palmers Hill still only clocked a time 1.68s quicker and did so carrying 9lbs less.  Even adjusting for the quicker finish I still only give him a mark of 118.  Again, you would expect him to progress someway from here and he did travel well in this race.  His long term future presumably lies in staying chases, but better point to point judges than I have similarly balked at the £310,000 fee paid for him and I can’t help feeling he will turn into a costly horse for connections and probably a costly horse to follow.

DEATH DUTY ANNOUNCES HIS ARRIVAL IN NOVICE CHASES

Although perhaps a bit disappointing in the novice hurdles at the backend of last season (though his run behind Bacardys and Finian’s Oscar shouldn’t be underestimated), it was good to see DEATH DUTY (134+) make a winning start to his chase career at Tipperary.

Death Duty Miss Eyecatcher Crocodile Dundee
22.21 22.99 21.59
44.3 45.74 44.03
62.59 65.84 63.76
97.56 100.46 99.93
116.13 119.36 118.98
147.13 149.65 149.39
169.12 172.02 171.69
190.9 193.68 193.08
209.62 211.93 210.05
242.67 242.87 241.28
260.18 259.38 258.05
270.34 270.11 269.12

Timed from the first flight in the two mile race won by Crocodile Dundee, we can see the three races were won in remarkably similar times.  However, Death Duty did his winning over the longest trip (just short of 3miles), carried 5lbs and 8lbs more in weight than the other two winners, and seemingly did so while half asleep.  In fact it seemed the horse had nearly sent Davy Russell to sleep as they approached the last and seemed set to be outrun to the line by CAP D’AUBOIS (133) in an enterprising ride from Ruby Walsh.

At the last Death Duty slowed into the jump and flicked over, losing a degree of momentum.  However, once woken up and shaken up he picked up the runner-up with some comfort and wasn’t asked another question in the run to the line.  Connections mentioned the Drinmore as a first target and that looks just fine by me!  He should take high rank in the novice chase division this season, with perhaps the JLT a likely end of season target.

 

 

JUMPS RACING IS BACK AT GOWRAN AND TIPPERARY WITH SOME EYECATCHING PERFORMANCES

With the colour of the leaves changing, and the temperature dropping by the day the excitement only goes in the opposite direction for us jump fanatics, and it was good to see an old favourite return to winning ways alongside some other good performances at the weekend.

JEZKI (150) may only be a nine year old but seems to have been around for ages, and he bounced back here with a bang from a campaign last year that appeared to fizzle out with a whimper in beating five rivals by four lengths at Tipperary in a Grade 3 hurdle over two miles.  Happily for us sectional fans all three races were over hurdles were run over the same two mile trip and the times from the first hurdle in each race are shown here:

Jezki Sayar Persistent
9.29 8.32 9.09
52.78 48.6 52.43
70.81 65.14 70.26
102.04 95.91 102.18
150.32 144.05 151.31
158.4 152.65 159.85
196.33 191.89 198.8
211.62 209.1 215.08
221.92 221.05 225.99

The handicap hurdle was won by Persistent who I’ve rated 115, and Jezki, as one would expect, clocked a time 4s quicker, with the gap ever widening from early on in their respective races.  Allowing for the differing weights I’ve rated Jezki 150 as a result, which is actually 5lbs lower than I rated him on his reappearance last season at Navan in January.  Given how his season failed to progress from there it would have to be a concern that he can get back to where he was, but it was good to see him back in the winner’s enclosure all the same.  He didn’t reappear until January last year so the fact that he is back so early in the season would give cause for optimism that his preparation has been better this year.

The more interesting race to compare his run to was with the novice hurdle on the card won by the Willie Mullins trained SAYAR (141).

Jezki Sayar Difference
9.29 8.32 -0.97
52.78 48.6 -4.18
70.81 65.14 -5.67
102.04 95.91 -6.13
150.32 144.05 -6.27
158.4 152.65 -5.75
196.33 191.89 -4.44
211.62 209.1 -2.52
221.92 221.05 -0.87

As we can see from the table above, they went a much stronger pace in the novice hurdle, being a full 6.27s ahead at one stage.  Unsurprisingly they were able to finish much quicker in the Grade 3 race as a result and it is with this adjustment that I rate that race higher despite the relatively similar finishing times.

But make no mistake this was a smart performance from SAYAR (141) who backed up the eye-catching run he put in on his hurdling debut at Kilbeggan where he was an easy sixteen length winner.  Putting in this sort of number on his second hurdle start and just the fourth run of his life marks him down as a very smart prospect.  Two unheralded runs for Mick Halford over 10f on the flat have been firmly left behind and it would be no surprise should he turn up in the opening contest of the festival in March, especially as better ground than here looks like it should herald further improvement.  Bought for just €65,000 he looks a good purchase for connections.

The runner-up MORGAN (149) has plenty of experience for a novice and did well to get to within three lengths of the winner despite conceding 11lbs to him.  Rated just 139 before this race, he could now step into handicap company and looks well treated on his mark.

The biggest number I gave to a hurdler on this card though was to another Mullins horse, namely COQUIN MANS (152) who tried to give 7lbs to Jezki but did not have the turn of foot to go with the former Champion Hurdler.  This is probably unsurprising given he has already won over three miles, and going back up in trip he looks a smart horse.

The other horse that couldn’t go with Jezki’s turn of foot at the end of the race was the four year old EX PATRIOT (141).  Fourth in the Triumph Hurdle last year this looked to be a good opportunity for him getting weight from his elder rivals, but the slow pace, fast finish clearly didn’t suit him.  In a bigger field and perhaps on better ground I think he is well handicapped off 143, and I wonder whether connections may be tempted to go for a race like the Greatwood Hurdle.  Before that there is a four year old race at Cheltenham in October, where a likely clash with Defi Du Seuil would await.  Ex Patriot would be getting weight from the Triumph Hurdle winner and wouldn’t be without a chance to my eye especially with match fitness on his side (though the prospect of a small field there would potentially count against him).

 

On the previous day at Gowran there was a Grade 2 chase over two and a half miles, won in nice style by A TOI PHIL (168) beating the Galway Plate winner BALKO DES FLOS (157) in a Gigginstown 1-2.

A Toi Phil Deputy’s Pass Tout Est Permis
51.12 54.41 52.26
62.71 66.74 64.12
73.33 77.54 74.55
128.29 135.29 130.77
141.26 148.94 143.47
154.59 162.6 156.34
168.42 177.33 170.24
184.35 194.26 186.66
232.81 244.07 237.24
243.45 255.21 248.69
252.83 265.67 258.99
264.95 278.66 272.28

We can easily see the merits of the performance from the sectional comparison with the other two chases on the card (timed from the same first flight in the 2m2f race).  They were 13.7s quicker than the handicap chase run over 3m1f, but the comparison to note for me was with the novice chase where A Toi Phil clocked a time 7.3s quicker despite racing over 2f further, and carrying 6lbs more.  They were quicker throughout the race.

TOUT EST PERMIS (134) is a nice prospect and beat a fair horse in BRELADE (138) in the novice chase.  The fact that A Toi Phil was so dominant over them shows to me that he is still progressing and put in an excellent performance here.  That said though, he would still be below the top table of middle distance chasers around at the moment such as Un De Sceaux and Fox Norton but I wouldn’t dismiss him out of hand.

Since moving to Ireland, A Toi Phil has raced eight times in races below Grade 1 class less than three miles (I’m ignoring his debut where he ran out early on), and his form in such conditions reads 11111141 with his one defeat coming in the Galway Plate beaten just six lengths.  He is well worth following in such Graded races, and I wouldn’t dismiss his chances of landing a Grade 1 at some stage given the time he clocked here.  He actually had Disko twelve lengths behind him the Florida Pearl Novice Chase last year and I was somewhat surprised to not even see him quoted for the Ryanair Chase in March.  He is versatile groundwise and looks to be well suited to the middle distance trip.

SUMMER HURDLERS COULD ENTER THE CHAMPION PICTURE

It has been a consistent trend over the last few seasons with the quality of jump racing over the summer months improving year on year.  Usually, I can hibernate from May to October, going surfing and generally forgetting about racing….but these days quality animals can appear over the summer.  Penhill for instance was a winner at last year’s Galway festival, and it isn’t inconceivable that the big handicap hurdles this summer have thrown up a couple of hurdlers that are worth their place in the top races over the winter months.

Starting at Galway, I thought the big handicap hurdle wasn’t the greatest renewal of the race when looking through it at first glance.  But it was a very open renewal and the front horses fairly spread-eagled the field.  The winner TIGRIS RIVER (153) continued his progression under Joseph O’Brien, but I think got a masterclass ride from Geraghty to collar SWAMP FOX (161) on the line, with five lengths back to AIRLIE BEACH (148) in third.

Oakly Tigris River Difference
44.57 41.26 -3.31
62.69 59.23 -3.46
87.37 84.35 -3.02
111.23 107.75 -3.48
122.61 118.98 -3.63
142.86 139.17 -3.69
183.59 181.06 -2.53
202 197.83 -4.17
218.97 213.47 -5.5

As we can see from the sectional comparison with the other hurdle race on the card above, Tigris River clocked a time 5.5s quicker from the first flight in the two mile race compared to Oakly in the novice race over a half mile further.  What is especially noticeable is the time from two out where he was just under 3s quicker in the Galway Hurdle.  The novice hurdle over two and a half miles was of a decent standard, and the time comparison of the Galway Hurdle points to some classy figures for the protagonists, even after adjusting for the shorter trip and weights carried.

The winner TIGRIS RIVER (153) was landing his third race in a row after successes at the Curragh on the flat, and over hurdles at Bellewstown.  One of the battalion of Coolmore horses that JP McManus has acquired, he had run well in handicap hurdles (including in this last year) and has hit a new high figure on my ratings in landing this.  Still only a 6 year old, it is perfectly possible he can continue to progress further.

He was given a fine ride by Geraghty to pick up the runner-up SWAMP FOX (161) who perhaps went for home a bit soon but looked set to hold on until Geraghty galvanized Tigris River to collar him on the line and win by a neck.  I don’t know too much about Barry Brown who was claiming 7lbs on Swamp Fox, but it would be no shame in being outridden by Geraghty.  Swamp Fox finished a clear second here off a mark of 148, and I rate him nearly a stone higher now in the low 160s, putting him not out of place in a Champion Hurdle.  Furthermore, he is still only a 5 year old and potentially capable of improving on this level still.  I notice there is plenty of stamina in his pedigree, with his mother from the family of Beef Or Salmon, and indeed he has already won over two and half miles.  In a strongly run Champion Hurdle his stamina could come into play and he is worth a shot in that company…. Equally up in trip it may be worth trying him in the Stayers Hurdle division.  Saying all that though, the turn of foot he showed from two out shows he has the pace for this sort of trip.  He certainly isn’t a horse to underestimate at this stage of his career either way!

This was the second run of the week for Swamp Fox after finishing a close second in a flat handicap earlier in the week.  To run such a huge race after such a short lay off further adds to confidence that he is potentially a big player in the top hurdle races this coming season.

AIRLIE BEACH (148) was my main fancy for this race, and was prominent throughout before the leading pair took over at the finish.  But she was a game third having been up with the pace.  I have rated her higher than this previously, which may be a tad on the high side in hindsight, and this sort of mark seems a fair reflection of her ability at this stage.  She is in foal to Mount Nelson and won’t run too much after this, if at all.

 

The other race I want to talk about is the Summer Handicap Hurdle ran at Market Rasen.  Similarly, this has improved in quality over the years recently and was won this year by JOHN CONSTABLE (160) off top weight and in a decent time.

Hestina John Constable Blue Comet Whatzdjazz
61.09 58.31 59.78 58.89
69.85 67.13 68.76 67.64
120.3 117.45 121.3 119.77
135.67 133.79 137.51 136.06
149.38 148.12 152.35 150.62
204.84 202.66 209.08 207.79
214.18 210.68 218.04 216.08
234.68 228.79 237.83 233.93

You can see the sectionals timed from the first jump on the two mile course above in each hurdle race, and they clocked comfortably the fastest time in the Summer Handicap Hurdle.

Hestina John Constable Difference
61.09 58.31 -2.78
69.85 67.13 -2.72
120.3 117.45 -2.85
135.67 133.79 -1.88
149.38 148.12 -1.26
204.84 202.66 -2.18
214.18 210.68 -3.5
234.68 228.79 -5.89

In comparison with the other two mile race on the card won by the Dan Skelton trained Hestina, John Constable clocked a time nearly 6s quicker…and carrying 9lbs more.  It was an excellent performance from the winner, doing so off a rating of a 150 and one that I think merits a mark 10lbs higher that again puts him in range of running with credit in a Champion Hurdle.  He has improved markedly on his last two starts and is a full brother to St Leger winner Leading Light…I wouldn’t want to bet that his improvement stops here!

 

So, there you have it, two potential Champion Hurdle runners coming to prominence over the summer months!  I should point out that I have both Buveur D’Air and Apple’s Jade another 10lbs plus clear of both Swamp Fox and John Constable but the latter pair both seem to be on an upward trajectory and seem to be being dismissed in the general consensus….they could surprise a few!