A quick look back at the three best performances of the weekend seems the best way to start off this weeks column.
Politologue maintained trainer Paul Nicholls good record in the Tingle Creek Chase. Despite some sweating, at the start, the 6-year-old jumped and travelled better than his rivals and once he took up the running after two out there was only going to be one winner. The odds on favourite Fox Norton was never going as well as the winner and although he was closing on the winner right up to the line, the winner was always holding him as he's a horse that just seems to do what he has to do to win his races.
The two-mile trip on the drying ground was just too speedier a test for Fox Norton. Politlogue looks set for the Champion Chase where he will hopefully come up against the likes of Douvan and maybe Altior. This was his first success in Grade 1 company but it won’t be his last one.
On Sunday with no racing in the UK due to the freezing weather attention shifted across the Irish Sea with the seasonal reappearance of Gold Cup winner Sizing John and Un De Sceaux.
Sizing John’s backers must have been slightly worried when he made a mistake at the second in the 2m 4f Grade 1 John Durkan Trophy at Punchestown but any concerns they had were soon banished as the 7-year-old jumped much better through the race than his rivals and once he took over the running from his old rival Djakadam three out that was the race over and he won by an easy looking seven lengths.The runner up has won this race for the past two seasons and the market suggested that he was set for a third win as the Gold Cup winner drifted out to 2/1.
What a great start to the season over a trip, that I thought would be a shade below his best but the heavy ground brought his stamina very much into. Punters seem to be dividing into Sizing John and Might Bite camps for next years Gold Cup and it will take a big performance from the latter in the King George to dislodge Sizing John from his rightful place at the head of the ante-post betting for March.
Finally, a quick word on Un De Sceaux who returned to action with a bold jumping display to beat the useful Top Gamble by 25 lengths, giving that horse 8lb in the process in the big race at Cork on Sunday. He looked as good as ever and on heavy ground, he can beat anyone over 2m. As he proved when winning the 2m 5f Ryanair Chase at last season’s Cheltenham Festival on a sound surface he’s no ‘mudlark’ but he will always be vulnerable to speedier horses over the minimum trip on good ground. Should the ground be soft in March he can win a Champion Chase but what are the odds of the race being run on such underfoot conditions?
One For The Tracker:
I am turning away from Saturday’s big meetings at Sandown and Aintree, for this week’s horse for your trackers, and going for a horse that ran at Chepstow in the Welsh Grand National Trial.
Milansbar trained by Neil King had made a satisfactory seasonal reappearance at Catterick last month and showed the benefit of that run with a 2 ¾ length 3rd in a race he had finished 4th in last year. Racing off an 11lb lower mark and 3lb below his last winning mark the 10-year-old was outpaced at half-way but was staying on all the way to the line and his cause wasn’t helped by faller four out either and he can be rated slightly better than his final position suggests.
Even on heavy ground 3m is short of his best, he was only beaten 2 lengths in the 4m 1f Midland Grand National in 2016, he is a thorough stayer who has now dropped down to a winning mark. Another tilt at the Welsh Grand National looks likely, a race he was pulled up in last year as he was in his other races early this year. Whatever his fate back here in December there is a staying handicap chase in the gelding this season if his trainer can keep him sound.
Monday Racing and Selection:
The freezing weather looks set to be with us for at least another day and is set to play havoc with today’s meetings. Musselburgh has already been abandoned and Southwell’s all-weather flat card, on the fibresand, is subject to an 8am inspection. No inspection is planned at Fontwell where wind and heavy rain is forecast and the ground could well be heavy rather than the soft by the time of racing.
Last weeks selection Tambura was set a bit too much to do by her jockey on the good to soft going but stayed on well enough to take 4th at the finish. Softer ground would have been preferable for the mare who’s on a winning mark when she gets her optimum conditions. This week’s selection is from Fontwell.
2:15 – Only six go to post for this Class 3 handicap chase but a good case can be made for five of them. Fergal Mael Duin had finished 2nd in last years Southern National here and was well backed to go one better in the same race this year. Sadly for his backers his jumping wasn’t really good enough and he could only finish 6th of 10. Fontwell is the 9-year-olds track though with both his career wins having come here with form figures 1126. No problem with the ground either and if his jumping is better today he is handicapped to win a race like this.
The Gary Moore trained Leo Luna is another who likes this figure of eight track, with form figures of 11P2 and also races off his last winning mark. This is first run since running in this race last year and although he’s 0 wins from 7 runs 1 placed when returning from a 90+day break this former C&D winner shouldn’t be underestimated as he’s 3 wins from 10 runs 4 placed on soft or heavy ground. It’s also possible that he could get an uncontested lead here and if he does he will be hard one to catch.
Leo Luna – 6/1
All that’s left now is to wish you a profitable week’s punting.
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