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”
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.
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
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.