Racing Debrief – Irish Contenders (Centenary Novices’)

Last year’s winner Hunt Ball was arguably the story of The Festival given the parties involved, but what will this year’s renewal bring. Has one been laid out? Probably half dozen have in all honesty, but here we go with a look at the Irish challenge for Centenary Novices’ Handicap Chase.

Start by looking at the marks they are running off:

Horse Ire UK
Alderwood 138 140
Buckers Bridge 140
Sweet My Lord 131 140
Farells Fancy 133 139
Carlito Brigante 140 137
White Star Line 130 132
Toner D’Oudairies 130 129

Handicapper has been very kind to a couple of these. Starting off with Alderwood, it looks like we will see him in the Grand Annual as he’s not been tested over the trip nor have connections mentioned a step up in trip.

Buckers Bridge is interesting. He was a dual bumper winner, beating Morning Royalty comfortably at Punchestown on his second start, and has solid form over fences this season. He looked second best on chase debut to Sword Of Destiny before he was awkward at the last, still either way it would have been a commendable performance. Sword Of Destiny was penciled in for the Drinmore prior to the blunder and as such had his target lowered next time out, but this Grade 3 Hurdle winner did it very well next time out. Buckers Bridge did take up his engagement in the Drinmore, but obviously something was amiss as Andrew Lynch eased up early, and he was given a fair bit of time off.

Off the track for 79 days, he came back to form in the Grade 2 Flyingbolt Novice Chase defeating Twinlight in the shadows of the post. Appreciated the testing ground as it brought his stamina into play, he wasn’t beating a back number here. Twinlight is a three time winner over fences, Grade 3 and a Grade 2 amongst those wins, as such it’s no surprise that Henry De Bromhead had ideas of the Jewson:

“He jumped super and battled well. I hope that trip was a bit sharp for him and we’ll step him up a bit in distance.

“He’s entered in the Jewson at Cheltenham. I also put him in the novice handicap chase but he probably won’t be qualified for that now.”

Guess the Jewson plans are now on hold, and it’s not often Henry De Bromhead sees a horse of his on back of a Grade 1 run and Grade 2 Chase win, run off 140 in a handicap.

Carlito Brigante has been laid out for this, and on Irish ratings, he’s 5lb+ before he even gets his favoured spring ground. He won earlier this year on his Chase debut, but it is interesting the post race quotes on Racing Post and Irish Racing:

Racing Post:

Carlito Brigante was entitled to win on ratings. We´ll keep him going for the summer, we might run him at the first Cheltenham meeting in October and then leave him off for the festivals next spring – Gordon Elliott

Irish Racing:

He was entitled to win that on his hurdle rating,. Nothing went right for him last season. He had a wind op after his first run and had to have stitches after Cheltenham. It’s nice to get him back on track. He’ll be kept going during the summer and then left off after the Cheltenham meeting in October. Gordon Elliott

Strange how the Racing Post didn’t report the injury suffered in the Coral Cup, nor the wind op. Anyway his next start was at Perth, and from then his Chase rating has fell 15lb with his last chase start being a fourth to Dynaste at the Paddy Power meet. The race developed into a bit of a sprint, but he was still in with every chance coming down the hill, and he was far from knocked about. Given his usual prep run at Dundalk, it’ll be interesting to know if he has had a wind op this winter. Rightly up there at the head of the market, but short enough for me at 8’s.

White Star Line was the closest challenger to Hunt Ball last season, which given what winner has done since is no mean feat, and this year he’s off a 3lb lower mark. Last season he was showing fair form against decent types, this year he’s been campaigned over staying trips, and not exactly firing, but his final start showed promise. Not knocked about, he stayed on nicely after the rider let the race develop around him and trainer was quick to confirm that this race was the target once again. Note only 14 fences were jumped contrary to the 17 stated in the Racing Post results.

Beginners Chase (5YO plus) 2m 5f 100y

With a Field Safety Limit of 20, he will need a little luck to get in as currently listed 45 and Toner D’Oudairies will need a little bit more as he’s is listed 61.

Tuesday I will have a closer look at the UK charge.

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Racing Debrief – Cheltenham Contenders (Handicaps – Part 1)

Is Ballynagour really all that?

Weights out, and in turn the handicaps are now beginning to take shape. Starting with the Byrne Group Plate, I look back on the recent races for some of the market leaders and how I see them working out come Cheltenham.

Warwick 22-Feb-13 Soft (Good to Soft in places) C: 5.9

3:50 Handicap Chase 2m 4f 110y

Where best to start, than seemingly the handicap good thing of the Festival, Ballynagour

350 Handicap Chase 2m4f110y

Impressive win on UK debut for David Pipe, he made a mockery of his 122 rating and has subsequently been raised 21lbs to 143.  Last run in France was off a rating of 59.0kg and using 2.3 as a conversion, his approx. UK rating would have been 136, so was effectively running a stone well in. He won like it too. Keen early, in fact throughout the first circuit; he was given a lead initially by Little Josh and Golden Chieftain and took it up himself down the back straight second time round.  But following his rise should he now be 6/1 and 4s in places for the Byrne Group Plate – For me no.

Looking back at his earlier form he is seemingly best fresh. Fell at the first fence on his p2p debut, so if excluding that run from his form;

Break < 100 days: 7412669P

Break > 100 days: 21211

Taking into account the way he raced exuberantly here, that doesn’t come as a great surprise. He did win in France off a break of 9 days, race was his Chase debut and subsequent form for runners of that race reads 1 – 39. The next two best finishes he’s posted were after 55 day break (4th) and 75 day break (2nd).

Here he was racing against exposed handicappers or stayers on a sharp track. Couple of those in behind deserves a mention; Frisco Depot who has a 3m Grade 2 Novice Chase to his name, he should be aimed at the JLT Speciality Handicap Chase, but connections seemingly going for the Byrne Plate. Problema Tic is one that interests me greatly for the JLT. Fell in the Beechers on Heavy ground, I got the impression from an early stage that this was nothing more than a confidence boost, giving up his prominent position very early and hunted round the back. He is one that is bound to improve for better ground, and he has form at the track from earlier in the season. Again a run which caught the eye, below my comments from that run:

Problema Tic ran well for a long way on ground he’d have hated, earlier in the season races like Charlie Hall, Hennessy and United House Gold Cup was mentioned, so the 2lb drop to 142 won’t go amiss when conditions favour him.

Now 140, 33s (25s NRNB) is a very fair price considering his Pipe’s other main entry, The Package, looks destined to take in The Grimthorpe en route to Aintree.

Ascot 16-Feb-13 Soft C: 5.5

2:40 Chase (Listed Handicap) 3m

Another comprehensive win by Vino Griego and I take you back to my comments posted following his Cheltenham win:

Vino Griego, at the 18th time of asking, finally got his head in front over fences, and he had it won from a long way out.

A perfectly executed ride from Jamie Moore saw him nigh on in the perfect position throughout. Sew On Target was in a duel for the lead for the majority of the race, as such was a spent force coming into the straight. Aidan Coleman had Renard D’Irlande prominent throughout, but Jamie Moore brought his charge through the field. Knowing he needed to be there or thereabouts when leaving the back he moved through the field on the second circuit, being on the coattails of the front two four from home. This was the first time connections had reverted to hold up tactics since his run at Ascot under Timmy Murphy back in Dec 11. There he finished second to The Minack off a mark of 135, yet was going best of all until stumbling 2 out. He’s been raised to 138 as a result of this win, but is still eligible for the 0-140 Novice Handicap at Cheltenham.

These hold up tactics were replicated here, again to perfection by Jamie Moore

240 Chase (Listed Handicap) 3m

Now raised to 145, he only has one engagement at Cheltenham, and that’s the Byrne Group Plate. We are now seeing his true potential thanks to connections reverting to hold up tactics, and I still believe there is more to come. Jamie will probably give him exactly the same ride as he did back here on Trials Day; held up early, down the back look to be prominent, and take it up in the home straight. 12s in places, I can’t see him being any bigger come race day.

Couple of those in behind deserve a mention too, The Rainbow Hunter would be on my radar for the JLT, however he’s disappointed both times encountering undulations over fences, 2011 Festival and the Welsh National this year. I very much expect to see Tatenen take up his engagement in the Byrne Group Plate. The drop in trip is bound to suit him, his falling mark of 139 is very attractive on previous form and he’d one I’d look at on race day if there are not many front runners in the field for an each way bet.

Kapga De Cerisy & Shangani

Kapga De Cerisy sits prominently in a number of Ante-Post Markets, and given his entries in the Novices’ Handicap Chase, Byrne Group Plate and the Grand Annual, I’m surprised it’s the Byrne Group Plate that is favoured. I was taken by his performance at Ascot on debut, and that form continues to be franked by the likes of Hadrian’s Approach, Rolling Aces and The Druids Nephew. Here were my notes at the time:

1:25 2m3f Beginners’ Chase

A fair bit of the attention was taken away from Kapga De Cerisy’s run by Hadrain’s Approach late rally to win in the shadows of the post, but I was very impressed with Kapga here. Travelled close up out wide he jumped well and coming into the straight he looked the likely winner, trading 1.7 in running on Betfair. However his jumping went to pieces over the last two fences, and I’m happy to put that down to tiredness as he did wander to the left under pressure, note he went left in his hurdle win too at Sandown. He was an expensive purchase from France, €300k, and connections did state from the outset that they’d expect better when sent chasing. I’d like to see him dropped back to 2m for his next start.

Given a break following a disappointing effort back over course and distance, he ran a nice race behind Rody when Aidan Coleman lost his whip at the third last. Made all in a weak Novice Handicap earlier in the month, he again made all when winning Novice Chase at Sandown, defeating the disappointing Fago. Raised just the 3lbs for that win I think he would be much more suited to the Grand Annual.

One that does have 2m4f chase stamped all over him is Shangani. Giant’s Causeway is not known for his jumpers, but has produced some nice types, Rite Of Passage and Jack The Giant to name two, Shangani has a pedigree to die for with Group 1 middle distance half-sister on the flat and it’s only now we are seeing his true colours. Off the track for couple of years, he won a Novice hurdle in March last season, Venetia Williams added that he was not easy to train following that win.

Looks like they have had a clean run at it this year, short of pace at Warwick, he finished a fair third there before another third at Chepstow when done for pace. Sandown, they decided to take the sting out of the race and make all, he jumped well in the main and pulled away from the field when pressed three out. Admittedly that was not the strongest of fields, nor was Catterick, when winning off 9lb higher mark comfortably over 2m3f. Now rated 137, options are there for him regarding Novice or Open company, but I see him more in the 2m4f mould than his stablemate Kapga De Cerisy and is definitely on the upgrade. Byrne Group Plate would just see him dodge some well handicapped sorts, but has a fight on to get in whereas he’s guaranteed to get a run in the Novices’ Handicap Chase should Kapga go elsewhere

Copy Syndicated – http://www.geegeez.co.uk/racing-debrief-cheltenham-contenders-handicaps-part-1/

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JP Festival – Champion Hurdle Preview

Champion Hurdle – Tuesday 12th March 2013

This year’s renewal looks the strongest for some time, but I think it’s worth looking back at previous running’s to get a handle on two horses looking to reclaim their Champion Hurdle crown, Binocular and Hurricane Fly:

Champion Hurdle 2010

Champion Hurdle 2011

Champion Hurdle 2012

Binocular missed the 2011 renewal as steroids would not clear his system in time for the race, as such 2012 was the first time we saw Binocular take on Hurricane Fly at Cheltenham.

If you look back at McCoy’s ride on Binocular in the 2010 Champion Hurdle you can see he settles him mid to rear early on, makes his move to be sitting fifth, just off the pace approaching top of the hill, and takes it up approaching two out. In 2011 Ruby Walsh on Hurricane Fly had his mount held up initially, closer order from the fifth and took it up from Peddlers Cross at the last.  Ruby replicated these tactics in 2012, held up early, and as in 2011 tried to take closer order in approaching the second last. Something which his mount did not do. Many words have been spoken and lines been written with regards to him not being at his best last March, but I’m not sold on this. He’s looked visually impressive this season, the trainer and jockey are coming out again with the right noises, but I’m struggling to come up with a solid reason as to why he should reverse form with Rock On Ruby in this years renewal. “Back to his best” – Is his best good enough? For me, No.

So what about Binocular. Well McCoy give him a shocking ride in 2012 renewal, he played the horse and not the race. You can see throughout the race he was in the shadow of Hurricane Fly. Only approaching the second last did he realise his mistake, going from the inside, to jumping the second last 4 wide to try and make his move before coming back inside. My Tent Or Yours not being supplemented for the Champion is a pointer to the regard Binocular is still held, and before Darlan’s sad demise McCoy himself was in two minds regarding Champion mount. I think personally he wants to make up for the faux pas of last season. Given a sighter in the Irish Champion this season, and this seasons “must have” racecourse gallop at Kempton last weekend, they are now just looking for some Good in the going description. I expect to see a totally different ride from McCoy this time around and in turn I expect him to reverse the form with Hurricane Fly on the first day of the Festival, but I have my doubts if he’s good enough to reclaim the crown outright.

As for the current champion, Rock On Ruby, I expect him to once again sit off a pace, the question currently is whose playing the hare.  Thousand Stars may look to make it, but I have my suspicions that Cinders And Ashes could be the one looking to try and get an easy time of it.  In the 2012 Supreme Novices’ Hurdle he wasn’t far off the pace throughout:

Supreme 2012

Reviewing 2011 and 2012 running of the Champion Hurdle, Donald McCain’s horses to sit front rank haven’t fared too badly, Overturn went off too fast in 2011 renewal to increase the pace a few flights from home which left Peddlers Cross to make his own running for 80% of the race, he finished a good second. Overturn last year was given a good ride in front, and he finished a comfortable second, so I expect Donald McCain and Jason Maguire to employ similar tactics should nothing look to make it. However, I expect him to find a few too good for him at the business end, and I’m a firm believer that last years Triumph Hurdle was stronger than the Supreme.

Triumph 2012

You can’t help but be impressed by Countrywide Flame’s performance in last years Triumph. Off the bridle for most of the way, five or six lengths off the lead coming into the straight after being crowded out and shuffled back, he come home to win going away. Yes, the Triumph is a stiffer test, but he is not short of tactical speed as shown by his wins on the flat during the summer, and also his win in the Fighting Fifth.  Doing donkey work didn’t suit him at Doncaster, yet still finished with credit and was closing at the line under sympathetic handling. Sympathetic handling can be a remark thrown at him with regards to his run at Kempton where post race Denis O’Regan was quick to point out he doesn’t go right handed:

“We’ve had plenty of time to think about it because it’s a long drive from Kempton to Malton. I asked Denis O’Regan the following day if it would have made any difference if he had made it and he said not at all – he just wasn’t the same horse going right-handed.

Looking back at his flat form, Kevin Ryan put headgear on him after three consecutive runs on the Kempton All Weather track and under John Quinn’s handling he has only went right handed twice since his first run on a left handed track; The Cesarewitch and the Christmas Hurdle.  The lack of a confirmed pace setter is a worry, but I do think they will be racing a long way from home with Rock on Ruby, and the 2011 Triumph Hurdle winner Zarkandar in the field.

Triumph 2011

Before getting to Zarkandar, a quick look at Grandouet, and it is a very quick one as I just can’t see it.  Zarkandar has faced him three times, and beat him three times. Undulating tracks, flat tracks, slow pace, brisk pace, 3-0 Zarkandar, and even though I have my doubts about Zarkandar’s temperament, I can’t see how Grandouet, seemingly fragile individual who has had an interrupted prep, will get on the scoresheet here.

Zarkandar’s temperament? Yes, I was worried firstly by the switch from Ruby Walsh to Daryl Jacob following Ruby’s great ride in the International Hurdle, and initially thought it was due to using his stamina and forcing it a long way from home, but I think if you look back at the Kingwell a few little alarm bells should start to ring. Never travelling, sluggish, hanging across the straight with Jacob having the whip in the correct hand. My hope in him being a Champion Hurdle winner diminishes following every replay. However, his sluggish and lazy style of racing means one thing, Jacob will surely be sitting just off the pace and look to be winding it up as they approach two out, that is where the race begins in earnest, and will begin to unfold.

I do believe that this will play into the hands of Rock On Ruby and Countrywide Flame.  Rock On Ruby has very little chinks in his armour, he’s a smooth traveller, a very good jumper, quickens and is very uncomplicated sort. I expect him to sit third or fourth throughout and take it up coming around the bend. He wasn’t electric at his hurdles last year, and I believe there has been a noticeable improvement in that department this year. The one worry would be Soft ground, and I’m happy to leave a play on him closer to the off.

Countrywide Flame on the other hand; A Fighting Fifth winner on Heavy/tacky ground, who will improve considerably for a stiffer test of stamina than the one he subjected himself too at Doncaster, looks destined be given a lead into the race with Zarkandar and Rock On Ruby likely to take it up two from home once Thousand Stars and Cinder And Ashes take them to the top of the hill. Yes the old course is slightly sharper than the new course, but a bigger price than Cinders And Ashes with the books? Baffling!

Champion Hurdle

1pt Win Countrywide Flame @ 16s

JP Festival Preview – http://www.jpfestival.com/2013/02/champion-hurdle-tuesday-12th-march-2013.html

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Racing Debrief: Week Ending 3rd February 2013

Leicester 30-Jan-13 C: Heavy (Soft in places) Racing goes ahead 6.2

2:30 Novices’ Chase 2m

I wasn’t overly impressed with the performance of Module on first glance, but I think once you take into account Tom George’s comments, you begin to look at the race in a different light:

“He jumped well but he switched off today which was good. He´s got the speed for two miles and I think one day you´ll see him over 3m. There´s no decisions made on what we do, he´s going the right way.

 When you watch the race back you see that Paddy Brennan is struggling to keep hold of him as they go past the winning post and working to get him to settle off a lead. Down the back he’s widest of all, again Paddy at pains to give him a lead. Fluent at his fences he deserves a crack at either the Arkle or, more likely, the Jewson. A few may question what does he find for pressure, but I go back to his hurdles run off 130 at Trials Day in 2012, and see him power away for a couple of smacks after the last. You also notice his cruising speed that sees him get back to travelling comfortably off the lead approaching the last after jumping the second last big and losing four places as a result. One question I would like to know the answer too would be why the tongue tie on his fourth career start,.

Ludlow 30-Jan-13 Soft (Heavy in places) 6.3

2:10 Novices’ Chase 2m

We’ve seen the form of this race already franked by the third horse home, Big News, winning at Ludlow over 3m on the 6th February, but I’m drawn to Sustainability who could still be well treated off a mark of 122. Over hurdles last season he racked up a 4 timer, starting the run rated 91 and finishing the season rated 116. This year he opened up with a good second to Milarrow at Exeter at a meeting where 4 fences were omitted. He followed this run with a 5th at Sandown to Johns Spirit on handicap debut;

Chased leader, pecked 1st, mistake 2nd and lost place, well in touch after, mistake 13th, ridden after 4 out, faded from 2 out (tchd 10-3)

Next up was Newbury over 2m2f and he jumped with far more fluency here, only a mistake halfway down the back, and fiddly at a couple up the straight when Robbie Dunne was being safe.  Here at Ludlow he again failed to fire in the jumping department;

Prominent, often lacked fluency, hard driven from 8th, left 2nd 3 out, 2 lengths down last, kept on but always held (op 2-1)

To his credit he rallied well after the last and was gaining at the finish to a horse that had been ridden with restraint off a fair gallop.  I expect a return to a left handed track will help his jumping, and also a step up in trip, or a more galloping track would aid further. There’s a 0-130 Novices’ Handicap Chase back over the C&D of his win at Newbury on the 2nd March which would be ideal.

4:10 Maiden Hurdle 2m 5f

A good Maiden for the track, with Hobbs sending a point winner here, Sausalito Sunrise, just done on the line by a nice staying son of Heron Island in Heronshaw to give Henry Daly an across the card double. But I thought the run from Stony Road in third was worthy of note too.

Stony Road was having his debut over timber here after some eventful runs in bumpers. First time up, Taunton on Good to Firm was never going to suit this full brother to a 3m+ heavy ground chaser in Huckleberry, and at Ffos Las he was a bit of a character;

Reared and unseated rider down at start, led 4f, stayed prominent until lost place 4f out, rallied under pressure 2f out, went 2nd 1f out, stayed on well but no chance with easy winner (op 16-1)

Final bumper start was at Uttoxeter, and after a dawdle, he lost position when quickening. Similar story here, he put in a slow one down the back, Rhys Flint wasn’t overly urgent to get him back into things, and also took his time in finding the route he wanted to take coming into the straight, but once doing so he was a clear third best. Likely to be one for 0-110/0-120 handicaps at Chepstow/Ffos Las over 3m, be interesting to see if they drop him back in trip for his next two runs for handicap purposes.

Catterick 01-Feb-13 Soft (Good to Soft in places) 6.9

3:20 European Breeders’ Fund ‘National Hunt’ Novices’ Hurdle (Qualifier)

This was one of the better Novices’ Hurdles of the week, and I expect it to throw up plenty of winners.

Get Back In Line was the subject of tender handling on debut at Plumpton behind stablemate Mr Watson. Maurice Linehan was pulled in by the stewards for questioning that day, he stated that his instructions were to settle in halfway and finish the best that he could. He added that the gelding was very green in the early stages of the race and ran slightly too free. He further added that his mount had taken time to settle and made a mistake at the second-last when staying on. Here McCoy did have a struggle in settling him, and was keen throughout. He made his move halfway up the straight and had enough in hand to account for two very solid markers in King Of The Wolds and Morning Royalty. Get Back In Line is not entered in any of the novice races at Cheltenham, and he’d be another of the JP brigade that I have marked up as a possibility for the EBF Final in March.

King Of The Wolds was found out behind Eduard on Good ground at Newcastle earlier in the season, which is no disgrace given what we have seen him do since. At Wetherby he was given an easy time of it up top, and relatively so here too as the 2nd and 3rd were up there throughout. Malcolm Jefferson sees him as a future top of the ground chaser, and after his win at Wetherby the Grade 2 at Kelso was mentioned. Given that Eduard is likely to go there next, I can’t see him taking him on again but off 128 he could have a fair handicap in him. Morning Royalty looks a two miler and under a double penalty wasn’t disgraced.

One further down the field that deserves closer attention is Robin’s Command. Now had the three runs under the belt he’s rated 92, and you can see from his runs that he’s a very lively animal; green, ran in snatches, pulls hard. Today he travelled and settled well, he wasn’t given much chance with the way the race panned out. In a lowly handicap he shouldn’t have any trouble stepping up considerably on what we have seen so far.

Ffos Las 02-Feb-13 Heavy 5.2

1:30 Novices’ Hurdle 2m

130 Novices' Hurdle 2m

Top Gamble had it all his own way up front, and won this comfortably on hurdles debut. He had finished second to a good sort in O’Faolains Boy on racecourse debut, he ran away with a Ffos Las bumper on his previous start. Foot perfect at nigh on all flights connections see him as a 3m chaser in the making, but the way he put daylight between himself and the rest of the field coming into the straight suggest they will have a fair bit of fun with him as they step him up in time.

David Pipe had four in this race, and as well as the winner he had the 3rd 4th and 5th home, the 3rd and 4th being the most intriguing.  Unique De Cotte was running here under a penalty due to win in April back in France, and there was a lot to like about his performance. Clearly well thought of he has entries for the Supreme and Neptune Hurdle, but you’d think that handicaps over 2m4f+ will be the making of him in time.

Edmund Kean was held up well out of the firing line, and was getting the rowing boat treatment as they came into the straight. A point to point winner in Ireland he was purchased privately from Warren Ewing. Pedigree has the look of a 2m4f+ horse and he’s another to keep on the right side of.

Light Well is a very well bred son of Saddlers Wells, out of a placed Irish Oaks and Breeders Cup Filly & Mare dam in L’Ancresse. He’s bound to come into his own when encountering good ground, but showed more than enough here to suggest he has taken to hurdling well enough. This was his first run for 478 days.

Wetherby 02-Feb-13 Soft (Heavy in places) 5.5

3:20 Towton Novices’ Chase (Grade 2) 3m 1f

A fair renewal of the Towton and I’m definitely interested to see how this race works out.

Goulanes has shown battling qualities previously, and he was coming into this on the back of two nk victories, walked away here with a hd. He’s a very game sort, for a chase debut in a Grade 2 this was a fair display of jumping also, only fiddly at one in the straight. He looked to be all over Super Duty after the last, and I think it was a case of Tom easing up on him slightly which saw Super Duty get within a head of him at the line. He started the season with a Handicap hurdle win off 126, and following this he’s been given a mark of 136. With time running out to get another couple of runs into him to qualify for a Handicap, the NH Chase looks the most likely option unless something happens to Dynaste.

Fentara has improved for the application of cheekpieces, and travelled well throughout this steadily run affair. Bang there until the last, she found that one all wrong, and whatever chance she had was gone. The handicapper has dropped her to 126, and with fiddily mistakes now seemingly eradicated by the cheekpieces she is bound to go close in the EBF Mares Chase at Newbury later in the season.

<bFourjacks has been left at 140. Half brother to Old Benny it’ll be no surprise to see him competing in the likes of The Tommy Whittle next season, and races of that nature look ideal for him.

Musselburgh 03-Feb-13 Good to Soft 6.5

1:30 Novices’ Hurdle 3m 110y

Smooth effort from Superior Quality, however I feel that the best horse in the race will end up being the second, Lord Wishes. Half brother to Williams Wishes, he’s highly regarded at home by James Ewart:

This boy goes by the stable name of Porsche, his dam; “Strong Wishes” was placed four times in National Hunt flat races and twice over Hurdles. Lord Wishes is by good sire; “Milan” a Group 1 winner, whose are 28% winners to runners over the jumps. Porsche came highly regarded by leading hotelier and bloodstock agent; Bryan Murphy.

Lord Wishes is the half brother of “Williams Wishes” who was 16/1 at The Arkle Challenge Trophy Chase at the Cheltenham Festival last year, ith six wins from twelve starts and three wins from three starts over fences.

Lord Wishes is a high quality five years old; he has an eye catching top black type pedigree and is very muscular, correct, sharp and scopey.

Lord Wishes has now achieved the highest rating of any Bumper horse we have trained with a RPR of 128 from two starts and two wins. The quality of his results was shown in the two different rounds that he ran on at Ayr – heavy and Haydock – good, good to firm in places. This shows his class and adaptability. Whatever he does he will be a great deal better when he goes over Hurdles as he has already done a lot of work with Yogi Breisner. He has summered well and should be a top northern Novice Hurdler who could well earn the chance to go south.

Bryan just allowed Superior Quality to get first run on him between 3 and 2 out, and after that he was always playing catch up. Fair to the horse, he scrambled well and was closing as they approached the line. He does hold Cheltenham entries in both the Neptune and Albert Bartlett, but it wouldn’t surprise me to see him skip it and go for the 3m Novice Hurdle at Aintree where the long straight would suit him down to the ground.

2:00 Novices’ Chase 2m 4f

This race has handicappers to follow stamped all over it. Starting with the winner, Viva Colonia, he has now seemingly booked his place in the Grand Annual. Travelling with ease, and jumping well, you can see why they want to run him in that race. He has course form also with a never nearer 5th to his name in last years Greatwood. Switched to Ellison following a disappointing chase debut at Wetherby, he is now 2 from 2, has the required 3 runs over fences, and rated 135 he’s going to be one to be on the right side of come March.

No surprise to see Attaglance leave his form behind when he got conditions that suited. He was given an easy time of it up top, but I thought he was given a slightly easy time of it in the straight with Harry Haynes not really going for him at any point. He was in receipt of weight all round here and connections will now be looking at handicaps for him given the exploits of last season at Cheltenham and Aintree, then anything sub 135 will be a gift.

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Racing Debrief: Cheltenham – Festival Trials Day

Cheltenham 26-Jan-13 Heavy (Soft in places) 4.6

12:10 The Finesse Juvenile Hurdle (Grade 2) 2m 1f

1210 The Finesse Juvenile Hurdle (Grade 2) 2m 1f

Number of talking points from this race; let us start with the comfortable winner in Rolling Star.

Maiden on the flat after 7 runs, winner on debut over timber on his final start in France he had been the subject of positive updates from Seven Barrows which saw him come into the race third favourite for the Triumph. He travelled and jumped well enough, always in a perfect position to challenge on the run in. It was a solid debut, but for me, nowhere near solid enough for him to come out of the race 6/1 Favourite. Be interesting to see if we see him in the Adonis and Nicky Henderson even suggested there are better ones still to come:

There are a couple of others still to fire but I suspect that [the Triumph] is where he´s going to have to head. – Nicky Henderson, trainer.

Irish Saint did nothing wrong in second, but he was just beaten by a nippier sort. At Kempton he beat nothing, 2nd that day was McVicar who left his race in a hurdle down the back, and third home Allowed pulled throughout. Here race own way, one paced at the business end. Connections have stressed on all his runs that he isn’t a flashy type, and that he’s a chaser in the making, and this performance confirms that impression:

12:10 Cheltenham – Irish Saint

We bought him after he won a listed newcomers’ hurdle at Auteuil in September by five lengths, and that victory, however hard to gauge, obviously promised a great deal. But, being honest, although he was sent off at odds-on on his debut for us at Kempton last month, I didn’t really know what to expect. He had worked well enough at home but he certainly was no morning glory, and is clearly a real chaser in the making. So I had to be very impressed with his 18 length win at Kempton, as he travelled really powerfully throughout and jumped well too.

The form of that race may not amount to a great deal – though it was good to see Captain Cardington, beaten 27 1/2 lengths at Kempton, finish a fair third under a penalty at Newbury next time – but this is clearly a horse of some potential. I never saw him as a Triumph Hurdle type at all before Kempton, but we will certainly know more after today’s run in this better grade. He has improved at home since Kempton, and we like him a lot.

Last Shadow’s entry in notebook from Doncaster gets underlined following his run here. Held up, he lost his position following a poor jump 3 out, also between second flight and coming into the straight he was not in a challenging position after Milord relegated him to last. Responded, when asked, on the run in to finish a never nearer 4th, connections need another run to qualify for handicaps. Cheltenham experience now in the book, a return, once given a mark, could be on the cards in the Fred Winter.

12:40 Novices’ Handicap Chase 2m 5f

1240 Novices' Handicap Chase 2m 5f

Vino Griego, at the 18th time of asking, finally got his head in front over fences, and he had it won from a long way out.

A perfectly executed ride from Jamie Moore saw him nigh on in the perfect position throughout. Sew On Target was in a duel for the lead for the majority of the race, as such was a spent force coming into the straight. Aidan Coleman had Renard D’Irlande prominent throughout, but Jamie Moore brought his charge through the field. Knowing he needed to be there or thereabouts when leaving the back he moved through the field on the second circuit, being on the coattails of the front two four from home. This was the first time connections had reverted to hold up tactics since his run at Ascot under Timmy Murphy back in Dec 11. There he finished second to The Minack off a mark of 135, yet was going best of all until stumbling 2 out. He’s been raised to 138 as a result of this win, but is still eligible for the 0-140 Novice Handicap at Cheltenham.

Renard D’Irlande was in the right place throughout, and as shown later on the card Aidan Coleman knows where he wants to be on his mounts. He just walked into a talented character. Left with a mark of 124, he’ll be winning soon enough.

Due to the ground conditions it was difficult for anything to come off the pace, as such I’d happily discount this run with regards to Johns Spirit and Rajdhani Express. Also forgive the run of Ackertac who was fighting a losing battle from the off, squeezed out by Theatrical Star and Rajdhani Express at the first fence, he was never travelling nor jumping with any fluency from then on.

1:15 Chase (Grade 3 Handicap) 2m 5f

115 Chase (Grade 3 Handicap) 2m 5f

Aidan Coleman rode a similar race to what he did in the proceeding race and this time there was no snip to worry his mount Katenko at the business end. Prominent throughout, Our Mick’s departure three out aided his cause, but he had everything else beat from four out. Improving profile, he’s been raised to 158 as a result, and has big race entries with the Grand National seemingly the preferred target but ground conditions look to be the deciding factor as to whether he’ll run in the Gold Cup:

The Gold Cup is an attractive option. I think the ground is going to be fairly relevant. We´ve got all sorts of options to consider. He doesn´t have to have it deep but you wouldn´t want to consider anything on drying ground. – Venetia Williams, trainer.

Fruity O’Rooney looked well beat after going under pressure five from home, but credit to him he did stay on well to finish a clear second. The JLT Speciality Chase is the likely target for him and he’ll be running off a 1lb lower mark. If given an uncontested lead,
or pace duel is not a frantic one back here in March, then he has to come under considerably consideration.

Tullamore Dew has strung a couple of respectable performances together now, and since seasonal debut has seen his mark drop 7lbs to 133. He finished a hd 2nd to Massini’s Maguire at Ascot’s Betfair Chase weekend last season, and you’d think same race would be under consideration this time around too.

A few of the beaten horses are of interest also. Bless The Wings didn’t enjoy the ground, and was jumping right late on. Barry Geraghty again made a point of getting round with Quantitativeeasing. With the way the race panned out, he had no chance from his position anyway. Dropped to 147 as a result, he’s only 2lbs higher than when winning the Spinal Research Chase last season, and connections will be looking to better ground to spring a revival. Another who is looking for better ground is Poquelin. Harry Derham had him in a good position for the majority of the race here, but as they quickened half way down the back he just allowed the race to develop around him and Poquelin’s jumping went a bit awry. Dropped to 155, he’s got to be of interest in a Festival Handicap, failing that the Listed Chase he won here back in April 11 off 170 will be his for the taking. Highlight of the day was seeing Bold Sir Brian get up following fall at the last, but I think it’s a credit to the horse that he was in with a chance 4 out considering he didn’t meet any of the first two fences right and was fighting a losing battle positionwise then on in.

2:25 Argento Chase (Registered As The Cotswold Chase) (Grade 2) 3m 1f 110y

225 Argento Chase (Registered As The Cotswold Chase) (Grade 2) 3m 1f 110y

Far from a high class renewal of the Argento Chase, big two pulled out in the week due to injury; Tidal Bay and Bob’s Worth, and in all likelihood connections will be glad they missed the intended engagement as it was a slog.

Imperial Commander, as always, but up a fine effort on seasonal debut. In receipt of weight all round he was the class horse in the race, no stamina doubts, and looked to have the race sewn up until the dying strides. Contrary to the form book, connections are expecting more from Imperial Commander at the Gold Cup as they stated he was short of peak fitness due to the weather. I doubt we will see him regain his crown, but it was a very creditable performance in agonising defeat.

Denis O’Regan had Cape Tribulation perfectly positioned for the majority of the race. Creeping into the race down the back he was travelling best of all approaching the second last before Denis put him in Imperial Commander’s backside. Pulled out after the fence, he was well on top at the finish. He won the Rowland Meyrick fairly impressively on his previous start, same again travelling well and for once jumping well over fences. He’s not short of quality as shown by his two wins last season over timber and has struck up a great relationship with Denis: 125541151

Hunt Ball screamed non stayer, unfortunately the bet struck by owner last year to win the Gold Cup meant he wasn’t entered in the Ryanair. Aintree Bowl is now the likely target for him and that’d be his best chance of a Grade 1 win over 3m.

A non-staying performance in the King George after a rushed prep didn’t shout out Argento for his next run, Grands Crus has suffered as a result.

3:00 The Classic Novices’ Hurdle (Grade 2) 2m 4f 110y

Race run at a dawdle wouldn’t have helped the out and out stayers in the race of Coneygree and Whisper here. Both have ran with great promise through the season. Coneygree was particularly impressive back here earlier in the season, ground it out from the front on that occasion but not so here and be interesting to see if it transpires that he was short of work or not 100%. Whisper came into this on the back of just one run over hurdles, Heavy ground at Ffos Las and from two out race just got away from him. Connections see him as a chaser for next year so I think they will lower their sights for the remainder of the season.

At Fishers Cross came into this race on the back of some good runs, comments following Cheltenham handicap win:

At Fishers Cross has certainly got the hang of things now, and Rebecca Curtis pointed to him feeling something last year when disappointing at Ffos Las:

“Nice horse that we’ve had difficulty getting to jump properly – we’ve had a vet look at him and he’s sorted something out in his back. He’s still on a learning curve.”

He’s very much now on an upward curve too, he came here rated 131, now 145 and is still eligible for Novice Hurdles. Brindisi Breeze went into the Albert Bartlett officially rated 148.

AP McCoy had a willing partner after the last and got up late on to defeat The New One who had taken advantage of the slack early pace from the 2nd last. Connections are now going for the Albert Bartlett, and he’s rightly heading the markets currently after showing it in and out of novice company over a variety of trips.

The New One got caught late on, Sam Twiston Davies admitted he went a bit early, but I think this was a very sound run considering he was running here quickly off the back of a bloodless victory on heavy ground at Warwick. Following the Warwick run trainer stated they had a few niggling problems since October run, but only minor. He rightly remains at the top of the betting for the Neptune.

3:35 Cleeve Hurdle (Grade 2) 3m

335 Cleeve Hurdle (Grade 2) 3m

Oscar Whisky stays three miles, but he’s not good enough to beat Grade 1 horse over three miles. If you look back at his form he looks impressive over 2m-2m4f, but when racing over the specialist trip of 2m4f he has been running against handicappers. The only time he has come up against something with Grade 1 form, Thousand Stars, he’s scrambled home by a neck. Barry Geraghty has twice indicated he’s not travelled as well as he usually when campaigned over this trip and I wonder if it is down to Barry himself rather than the horse. He’s bound to have doubts about the trip, he’s bound to be more conscious of when making a move at any point in the race, and I think that can only have a detrimental effect on the way his mount travels.

Reve De Sivola won this with a fair bit in hand and feel that if he were challenged earlier he’d have responded for pressure. Richard Johnson made a point of rushing him to the rail once in the straight and that meant he had a decisive advantage over Oscar Whisky as they approached the final flight. Reve is no back number over hurdles, dual Grade 1 winner as a novice in the Challow Hurdle and Champion Novice Hurdle at Punchestown, he didn’t set the world alight over fences and has looked more his usual self back over timber. 2nd to Big Bucks on seasonal debut, routed a fair field in Grade 1 Long Walk and this now under his belt, he’s had the benefit of not having a Festival match up with Big Bucks at any stage of his career. 5s still a fair price for the World Hurdle.

Kentford Grey Lady improved for the step up in trip, but would love a pace to come off. I think she has a very big win in her, and I’d be aiming her at the World Hurdle rather than the Mares race which ends up being a sprint in the turn in.

Lovcen is another who needs a break. Campaigned aggressively early on in the season in big handicaps on deep ground. Some R’n’R will see him back to his best.

4:10 Handicap Hurdle 2m 1f

410 Handicap Hurdle 2m 1f

Mr Watson looked fairly treated on pick of his novice form, and so it proved here. Again this is another example of Novices’ taking advantage of their mark in open company. We’ve seen with My Tent Or Yours/Betfair Hurdle that the big handicaps are now the target of Novices, and races itself are being fought out by improving novices (Zarkandar’s win was first run after Juvenile campaign), Cause Of Causes winner of the Ladbroke and 3rd in the Greatwood. It wouldn’t surprise me if this trend continues to grow and forces the hand of the Handicappers in how it assesses the Novices’ as currently the pattern scale for a Grade 1 Novice v Grade 1 Open race is 135 v 155 = a gulf and a half

Quaddick Lake confirmed the idea that he’d have got involved somehow at Kempton on Boxing Day, and he’s one to have on side when back upto 2m4f granted a fair gallop.

Two beaten runners deserve a mention in Old Tricks and Kingcora. Old Tricks looked to be going nowhere fast two out but come home well. He posted a good third to Gevrey Chambertin on his previous start and after a failed attempts over fences he’s of interest over timber over a trip. Kingcora continues to drop in the weights, and I can’t imagine it’d be long before he starts to find his feet and grade. A winner in France, he was 3rd on his penultimate start there just ahead of Upepito, now a stablemate at Venetia’s who is entered for the Arkle.

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Racing Debrief – Week Ending 13th January 2013

In a week that saw more qualifiers than a round of International Football I look at couple of runners who are playing the long game, an AP McCoy ride that left more questions than answers and Exeter Novices’ Chase form that gets hotter and hotter.

Taunton 07-Jan-13 Soft (Heavy in places) 4.7 on Saturday at 14:15

13:40 Beginners’ Chase 2m 7f 110y

Following his Chepstow debut I was expecting to see Di Kaprio on a right handed track but on handicap debut and not in another Beginners’ Chase like here.  Leaving the home straight for the second time Di Kaprio had the lead, but when they left the back straight the three market leaders had stolen a march on him and he was allowed to coast home in his own time.  Dropped to 117 as a result I expect the next time we see him will be in a handicap, and a return to better ground won’t go a miss either.

14:10 ‘National Hunt’ Novices’ Hurdle 2m 1f

Previous readers of these debriefs will know I’m very much looking forward to seeing God Of The Kop in handicap company over 2m4f+, and this run again enhanced the impression left on me that he’s a well handicapped horse.  He never really travelled on this tacky ground; he was out sped late on by a 4yo in receipt of 12lbs, Saphir Du Rheu.

Saphir Du Rheu’s hurdling had improved markedly since Newbury where he nearly flattened a flight down the back, and wasn’t fluent at the next two in the back straight. Ruby seemed to be fairly impressed with his performance, and it wouldn’t surprise me if he has been well schooled since Newbury and worked as Paul Nicholls wasn’t exactly bullish before Newbury in his Betfair column:

Anyway, more seriously, we bought this horse after he finished third at Autueil in September, so we obviously haven’t had him too long and are still getting to know him. The form of that race is not working out too well – the first two home have beaten well beaten since, though the fourth home has won since – but we like what we see of him so far.

It is too early to tell where he sits in the juvenile pecking order here but I must stress though that he is not a Triumph horse in the mould of a Samtegal or a Far West; he is a lovely, big, scopey, gorgeous horse who is a chaser in the making. But we think a bit of him and this may not be the strongest of Newbury juvenile contests, though there are a couple of decent sorts in here from the Flat. We will know more after today, though.

He only missed one flight here, and Ruby seemed impressed with the improvement:

Jockey Ruby Walsh: “Saphir Du Rheu was good there and has obviously come on for his Newbury run as he felt a stronger horse and will make up into a nice type for next year.”

Here however he was running against National Hunt bred horses, rather than ex flat horses, which would have aided his cause being a “chaser in the making”

In turn, God Of The Kop 2nd is a sound effort, and the handicapper has been ever so kind in dropping him to 118 which I’m struggling to understand given the circumstances.

Leicester 08-Jan-13 C: Good to Soft (Soft on flat course crossings) H: Soft 7.2

12:30 Novices’ Hurdle (Div 1) 2m

Think there’s a fair bit to take away from this race with regards to the front two. Pine Creek improved for his debut at Folkestone, and John Ferguson seemed to suggest that the better ground was of benefit also. The Folkestone run is looking solid enough; the winner Lord Of House bolting up at Sandown off 118. He won this with a fair bit in hand, and he’s one of a number of 2m Novices’ at Ferguson’s which look set to be stepped up in grade.

Irish Buccaneer finished 4th in an EBF qualifier on debut when keen, and he was keen here too pulling hard and jumping was sketchy as a result. That 4th does mean he is eligible for the EBF Final at Sandown:

for novice four, five, six and seven yrs old only, which are E.B.F. eligible and which have not run in a Flat race and which, prior to March 4th, have been placed first, second, third or fourth in an E.B.F. ‘National Hunt’ Novices’ Hurdle Race

Quick note re a mark after only two runs; here is an extract from Guide To Handicapping states that if in first 4 home twice then eligible to be assessed for a mark:Being out of Supreme Serenade, previously trained by Philip Hobbs, he should appreciate the step up to 2m4f and after being allocated a mark of 119 he could sneak in.

Jump Handicaps (F) 42

There are specific eligibility conditions relating to novices and juveniles looking to run in a handicap but, more generally, a horse may run in a Jump handicap if it has run at least three times (in aggregate) in a steeple chase or hurdle race in any of Great Britain, Ireland or France, or it has run a minimum of twice (in aggregate) in a steeple chase or hurdle race in any of those countries and, on each occasion, has been placed in the first four, or it has run fewer than three times (in aggregate) in a steeple chase or hurdle race in any of those countries but, having won such a race, is not a novice or juvenile in the type of race entered.   

Doncaster 09-Jan-13 Good to Soft 7.3

Below is a copy of post which I updated on blog with regards to the running and riding of Last Shadow:

12:40 Doncaster Juvenile Hurdle 2m 110y

I’m currently reading “Seven Deadly Sins” by David Walsh and one has line stuck with me:

“Speak no hard questions. Hear no hard questions”

Stewards Enquiries

None

My Enquiries

There are three moments within the race which I think deserve closer scrutiny

i)              Opposition getting first run

As you can see from the below diagram from 4 out to the top of the straight the opposition has got first run on McCoy’s mount Last Shadow to the tune of 7+ lengths off Aazif, eventual 2nd, and 4 lengths off Calculated Risk, eventual winner.

1240 Doncaster Juvenile Hurdle 2m 110y (1)

ii)             Positioning in the straight

You can also see from the diagram that when entering the straight McCoy kept his mount to the inside over the first hurdle in the straight, whereas the rest of the field came nearside. McCoy did eventually come towards the nearside when approaching two out.

iii)            Use of the whip

Last Shadow is not an unexposed NH bred 4yo who has not seen a racecourse. We are talking about a 10 time raced flat horse, who has won twice in handicap company over 10f on Soft and Heavy ground with form-book comments littered with “ridden over 2f out” and “stayed on”, so in turn you have to question the lack of use of the whip.

While in camera shot Last Shadow was not hit with the whip, and after reviewing his flat runs you can see that he does respond very favourably to strong handling.

For me the above should have been asked within the confides of the Stewards room, and if at any point the Stewards were unhappy with the responses then trainer could have been charged with breach of Rule (C) 45.3: A Trainer must not send any horse to race with a view to schooling or conditioning the horse and jockey with breach of Rule (D) 45.1.2: A Rider must take and be seen to take all other reasonable and permissible measures throughout the race, however it develops, to ensure the horse is given a full opportunity to achieve the best possible placing.

Trainers and Jockeys recently on the end of a charge relating to the above rules are Graeme McPherson and Jodie Mogford (appeal upheld), Brendan Powell and Charlie Poste (Brendan Powell appeal upheld), Oliver Sherwood and Leighton Aspell (appeal dismissed). Not exactly a Jonjo O’Neill or an A P McCoy.

Huntingdon 11-Jan-13 Soft C: 5.7 H: 5.9

Well I signed off the last review with My Tent Or Yours and a Betfair Hurdle bid:

So what’s so important about another run re My Tent Or Yousrs? Well all entries for the Betfair Hurdle that are Novices’ need to have ran 3 times over hurdles before the 13th January 2013, otherwise they will be ineligible. Same connections last year had Darlan in the Betfair, who was in process of running a huge race before falling, and JP McManus has had Get Me Out Of Here win this race before a tilt at the Supreme, so be no surprise to see My Tent Or Yours turn up back here on 9th Feb if taking up any of his 3 engagements this week.

Well Henderson has played a blinder. When entries came out he was 10s (12s in places) generally, and River Maigue was joint fav. Like My Tent Or Yours, River Maigue needed another run to qualify, he was entered at Kempton and Wetherby giving the impression that the Betfair was under consideration. Thursday came, My Tent Or Yours entered for Huntingdon, and come post time at Huntingdon he was 5s favourite for the Betfair Hurdle; River Maigue wasn’t going to be taking up either engagement therefore the general 2nd Fav was now ineligible for the race. That’s how you get 12s about a 4s shot.

As for the race, My Tent Or Yours pulled McCoy’s arms out, won as he liked, and as a result is now rated 149, 3lbs higher than Darlan last season. In Racing Post NJH has stated he’s surprised at the rise in the weights, maybe he should take it as a blessing as if he was rated 140 he’d be 40 on the list of entries and with a safety limit of 24 runners, I doubt he’d have got in.

Kempton 12-Jan-13 C: Good to Soft (Soft in places) H: Soft (Good to Soft in Places) C: 5.9 H: 5.1

14:40 Lanzarote Hurdle (Listed Handicap) 2m 5f

Lanzarote Hurdle (Listed Handicap) 2m 5f

Bar the last flight fumble, Oscara Dara did everything right here. Barry Geraghty set him up out wide of field to get a clear sight of the hurdles for a runner who had faced fences on his previous run, and with being wide throughout it meant he had the rail on the run in. Oscara Dara was thrown in to Grade 1 company on only his second start over timber, he then finished last season off with a Heavy ground victory at Punchestown. His seasonal debut was over fences, where he failed to fire at Plumpton behind Cantlow, Nicky Henderson stated he schooled terribly in the aftermath of that run, so a return to hurdles was off fair mark of 140 was the solution. He’s related to the likes of Saddlers Storm and has 2m4f+ in the family so the step up in trip suited, and he had as a result of this emphatic win he’s now rated 154. Hurdles are the plan for remainder of the season, he has an entry in the World Hurdle, and I don’t think that is a far-fetched idea.

Romeo Americo appreciated the step up in trip after flopping at Wincanton last time out. Wayne Kavanagh had him on the inside throughout, the sound gallop suited him and he crept into the race to challenge in the straight. Not a fluke of a performance as if you excuse runs late last season where he had been on the go for some time, he has a progressive profile about him and off revised mark of 130 could still be of interest.

Buck Magic has shown solid form when fresh and this has probably been the target since his win at Cheltenham. Took it up after 3 out, he just couldn’t go with Oscara Dara after the 2nd last which is no disgrace.  Raised to 130 it could be touch and go whether he gets into any of the handicaps at Cheltenham, but they have to be on his radar now.

I marked Black Thunder as a non-stayer after his run here behind Fox Appeal, impression which I felt he confirmed at sharper track in Haydock over shorter trip so was a surprise to see him favourite here:

Black Thunder looked a non-stayer for me at Kempton, and this slight drop in trip and easy track suited him. I think he could be one for the Swinton later in the year as he would certainly appreciate a strongly run two mile race.

I think he does have a win off his mark of 145 but over 2 miles not 2m4f+ and I’d be interested in seeing him in the County Hurdle, or as above the Swinton before embarking on chasing career next year.

Captain Sunshine looked booked for 2nd before coming down at the last. He hasn’t got the prettiest form figures this season in 8R7F but I do believe there is a big pot in him this year. Raised to 136, mark that is anything but insurmountable when he puts it together.

Son Of Flicka has been dropped to 137 on the back of this run, just the 2lbs higher than when winning the Coral Cup at last year’s festival. He was tailed off in this race last year too, so it wouldn’t surprise me if we didn’t see him until the Festival in March where course form figures read 3201, only time he disappointed was over 2m.

Warwick 12-Jan-13 Soft C: 5.8 H: 5.5

13:50 Novices’ Chase 3m 110y

Another authoritative win for Rocky Creek here, and many now see him as a viable opponent for Dynaste in the RSA. Paul Nicholls does have other runners towards the head of the market in Unioniste and Sire Collognes, but neither has been as impressive as Rocky Creek.  In turn you have to go back to the Exeter run just to reliase that possibly the biggest challenger to Dynaste will be dodging Cheltenham altogether this season, Harry Topper. Recap of the Exeter race below; and even though at the time I was a believer that Gullinbursti would turn out of the best of the three, I am looking forward to seeing where he goes next:

4:40 – Beginners’ Chase 3m

Another quality field, with the four finishing having ratings over timber as 135, 139, 139 and 138.

Kim Bailey came into the race fairly confident of Harry Topper’s chances on chasing debut looking at his blog post on the morning:

Harry Topper, who has won his bumper and two hurdle races and then went on to finish 2nd to Brindisi Breeze in a listed hurdle race at Haydock, takes to fences this afternoon for the first time.

A huge ask in a very competitive Beginners chase; he is only 4th top rated on hurdle form but could he be better over fences?

We are delighted with him and look for a bold showing. Interesting race. Jason Maguire rides.

As such it was no surprise to see him get on top late on probably being the fitter of the 4 runners. Kim continued on his blog praising “Harry”:

Harry Topper was magnificent yesterday when winning possibly the best beginners chase run so far this season.

With 4 horses in the race with hurdle ratings of 135 or over it was always going to be a good Beginners chase if they all stood up. And yes it was and they did

Harry Topper jumped well for his first time in public and came to win his race turning for home, only to be over taken by the favourite, one of Paul Nicholl’s horses.

Harry was a length or so down jumping the last and then stuck his head down and battled past the favourite on the run in to win by a length.

It is not something you see very often, a Nicholls horse being overtaken when in front, but wow that was really exciting and it was a joy to watch.

A fine ride by Jason Maguire who again showed why he is so good.. bizarrely it was his only ride of the day.. perhaps he should  try and get a ride on one of Robin Dicken’s old horses!!!!

Harry Topper is an odd horse, possibly a freak as he box walks, crib bites, weaves.. you name it he has all the vices but he has the heart of a lion. Good boy!!!

He is fine this morning and as yet we have no plans; he is only 5 and needs looking after but yesterday showed that he is potentially very good.. yes exciting.

Give in the ground looks a necessity for this son of Sir Harry Lewis, and stamina in his locker, he could be a Welsh National sort for next season, but he isn’t the biggest.

Rocky Creek looked to have the race in the bag between the last two fences, but was caught short late on.  Nicholls did state that he would come on for the run, looking as though he blew up between 4th and 3rd last, and be interesting to see where they go next with this half bro of Tell Massini.

I’m of the opinion that Gullinbursti will end up being the best of these over fences for a number of reasons.  Firstly, like majority of Lavelle’s runners in last fortnight, he needed the run and the distress signals were there for all to see with his jump to the left 4 out. He did hang left when beating Grand Vision over timber at Hereford, so I’d be looking to send him to the £25k 2m6f Novice Chase at Haydock on the Friday of the Betfair Chase Meet.

14:25 Pertemps Handicap Hurdle (Series Qualifier) 3m 1f

A qualifier so eye has to be on the big prize that is Cheltenham, and you have to say the Jonjo O’Neill has a fairly strong hand going to Cheltenham just from this race alone; Holywell, Storm Survivor and Sunnyhillboy

Holywell has ran a number of races with promise now without getting his head in front, but at all times he has showed improvement and did so again here. He has been raised to 140 as a result should see him comfortably into the final.

The JP McManus duo probably need some help to get in but promise can be taken from both runs. Storm Survivor stayed on well for pressure after being outpaced, we’ve seen in previous review as to how he runs his best races under Maurice Linehan, so wouldn’t surprise me to see him compete in another 3m+ race to help him get into the final. Sunnyhillboy was shown a fair degree off leniency by the handicapper following this run, he has been dropped 5lbs to 135. Given that the Grand National is no doubt the ultimate aim, I expect him to use the drop in weight to his advantage over hurdles and the qualifier at Haydock on the 16th February maybe options for both of them.

3:35 Classic Chase (Grade 3 Handicap) 3m 5f

As is usually the case at Warwick, up with the pace is the place to be however the 2nd and 3rd home, Godsmejudge and Pete The Feat deserve just as much attention as the winner, Rigadin De Beauchene.

With Godsmejudge, I think we are looking at a Midlands National type. A winner already at Uttoxeter over hurdles, connections do seem eager to keep him prominent so the sharper tracks would possibly suit him better than the likes of Doncaster and Newbury. As such I think connections should consider the £75k National Trial at Haydock which is not the test in once was for this son of Witness Box.

Pete The Feat was keen throughout and just didn’t get home. He has been a revelation this season, and is now rated 43lbs higher than when he started. If you review the race you would have fancied your chances turning in, but he emptied fairly quickly after the last even if taking into account he could have been squeezed out. Options open to him are the Cumberland National which has a £25k pot before a tilt at the Kim Muir at the Festival. If they decide to skip the Festival and give him a break now then there’s a 0-140 race at Newbury on the 23rd March which would suit him.

Wetherby 12-Jan-13 Soft

12:30 ‘National Hunt’ Novices’ Hurdle 2m 4f

Many Clouds  to my eye was in receipt of one of the most tactically inept rides of the weekend. Held up off a slow pace Aspell found himself in a pocket on the home bend while his rivals drew clear. Every cloud has a silver lining though as he is now qualified for EBF Final, a handicap, which coincidently Sherwood confirmed in last weeks Weekender as the target for him.

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12:40 Doncaster Juvenile Hurdle 2m 110y

12:40 Doncaster Juvenile Hurdle 2m 110y 

I’m currently reading “Seven Deadly Sins” by David Walsh and one has line stuck with me:

“Speak no hard questions. Hear no hard questions”

Stewards Enquiries

None

My Enquiries

There are three moments within the race which I think deserve closer scrutiny.

i)              Opposition getting first run

As you can see from the below diagram from 4 out to the top of the straight the opposition has got first run on McCoy’s mount Last Shadow to the tune of 7+ lengths off Aazif, eventual 2nd, and 4 lengths off Calculated Risk, eventual winner.

1240 Doncaster Juvenile Hurdle

1240 Doncaster Juvenile Hurdle

ii)             Positioning in the straight

You can also see from the diagram that when entering the straight McCoy kept his mount to the inside over the first hurdle in the straight, whereas the rest of the field came nearside. McCoy did eventually come towards the nearside when approaching two out.

iii)            Use of the whip

Last Shadow is not an unexposed NH bred 4yo who has not seen a racecourse. We are talking about a 10 time raced flat horse, who has won twice in handicap company over 10f on Soft and Heavy ground with form-book comments littered with “ridden over 2f out” and “stayed on”, so in turn you have to question the lack of use of the whip.

While in camera shot Last Shadow was not hit with the whip, and after reviewing his flat runs you can see that he does respond very favourably to strong handling.

For me the above should have been asked within the confides of the Stewards room, and if at any point the Stewards were unhappy with the responses then trainer could have been charged with breach of Rule (C) 45.3: A Trainer must not send any horse to race with a view to schooling or conditioning the horse and jockey with breach of Rule (D) 45.1.2: A Rider must take and be seen to take all other reasonable and permissible measures throughout the race, however it develops, to ensure the horse is given a full opportunity to achieve the best possible placing.

Trainers and Jockeys recently on the end of a charge relating to the above rules are Graeme McPherson and Jodie Mogford (appeal upheld), Brendan Powell and Charlie Poste (Brendan Powell appeal upheld), Oliver Sherwood and Leighton Aspell (appeal dismissed). Not exactly a Jonjo O’Neill or an A P McCoy.

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