My last Monday column until New Year’s Eve. This time next week I will be enjoying some winter sunshine in Mexico. A great opportunity to recharge the batteries for the New Year and boy do I need it, as it’s been a tiring year.
This week’s column takes a look back at Cheltenham’s two-day International Meeting and forward to some of the key trends for the Coral Welsh Grand National. Inside you will also find the Monday tip which is looking for the hat trick…
On paper Saturday’s action seemed pale in comparison to previous week's fare. We needn’t have worried. As seems to be the case each Saturday during the winter there’s always a good story to be found.
The performance of the weekend came from Frodon in winning the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup. His jockey Bryony Frost got the horse in a great jumping rhythm from the off. Baron Alco who had beaten Frodon into second in the BetVictor Gold Cup at the previous meeting couldn’t match his rivals jumping on this occasion and eventually finished 4th.
The only horse who could match the winner was Cepage. The 6-year-old still had a chance coming to the second last. However, jumping is the name of the game and he made a mistake two out whilst Frodon winged it. From then on there was only going to be one winner.
Rather Be Anywhere But Cheltenham
A mistake four out ended Mr Medic’s challenge. The 7-year-old was still travelling well enough at the time although it was probably too early to say where he would have finished. His connections will have been delighted with this run as he showed he can go well left handed. His progress may not have ended just yet.
Nicky Henderson will have been mystified by the performance of favourite Rather Be. The 7-year-old had been well backed ante post for the race, although was weak in the betting before the off. But he was never really in the race and finished a well beaten 5th. There will no doubt be other days for him.
I doubt there is a better ambassador for jumps racing than the winning jockey. Bryony Frost gave a really good interview to ITV after racing and her enthusiasm for the game and the horses is truly infectious.
The New One Retires
Last week I was reporting on the retirement of My Tent Or Yours. Well this weekend another great warrior The New One ran his last race. Connections had said that the International Hurdle would likely be his last race if he didn’t show more.
Racing in the first time visor he was keen out in front. Sadly coming to three out he had nothing more to give and faded out of the race. His jockey sensibly pulled him up after the last.
A Grade 1 winner at 2m 4f. He was just a little behind the very best at 2m. He had a few attempts at the Champion Hurdle crown but the closest he got was when 3rd to Jezki in 2014.
The 10-year-old has been a credit to connections and deserves a happy retirement from racing.
Racing Post Enters A New Era
On Friday It was announced that 31-year-old Tom Kerr would be replacing Bruce Millington as the Editor of the Racing Post.
Tom Kerr has big shoes to follow as Millington has held the job for 11-years and whilst he hasn’t been to everyone’s taste I think he has done a good job at the paper in times of change.
I’m big fan of Tom Kerr’s writing. He’s never been afraid to take on those controversial topics that can be uncomfortable for those who run the sport and sometimes racing fans in general. I think he will do a good job in his new role and I wish him all the luck in the world. I suspect he will need it.
There’s plenty of high quality of racing over Christmas. The Highlight of Kempton’s two-day Christmas Festival is of course the King George VI Chase. Over the Irish Sea we have four-days of high-class racing at Leopardstown. However, on December 27th it’s my favourite race of the festive period the Coral Welsh Grand National at Chepstow.
The Welsh National is a race that that has been hit hard by the weather in the past decade with the 2010, 2012 and 2015 renewals having to be held in January of the following year.
Chepstow – December 27th 2018
2:50 – Coral Welsh Grand National Handicap Chase (Grade 3) – 3m 5 ½ f
Since 2008 there have been 10 winners from 192 runners 40 placed and seven renewals of the race have been run on going officially described as heavy.
Here are some of the more interesting trends of the last 10 years:
Age: 6 to 8yo’s – 8 winners from 84 runners +16.75 19 placed (8 -year-olds – 5 winners from 45 runners +25 11 placed)
Odds SP: 22/1 + – 0 winners from 65 runners 14 placed
Weight: 10-0 to 10-10 – 7 winners from 104 runners 23 placed
Runs In Last 90 Days: 2 to 4 – 9 winners from 102 runners +4.75 28 placed
Wins In Handicap Chase: 1 to 3 – 10 winners from 111 runners +16.75 31 placed (runners with 0 handicap chase wins are 0 winners from 54 runners 6 placed).
Looking at those trends the Henry Daly trained Back To Thatch looks of some interest. He’s won at the track in the past and was a close up 4th in the Grand National Trial at the track at the beginning of the month. He was beaten six lengths by ante-post favourite Ramses De Teille but was still in with chance until a mistake at the last and does get a 4lb pull.
The 6-year-old has winning form on heavy. He was travelling noticeably well in the 4m Eider Chase when falling at the 16th. He’s more than capable of winning a staying handicap chase off his present mark if his jumping holds up. Does need a few to drop out to get into the race though.
If the ground was heavy, I can see Otago Trail running well for Venetia Williams. The 10-year-old has potential for more improvement over this trip and was an excellent 3rd in the Rehearsal Chase after a 665-day absence.
Elegant’s Escape runner-up in the Ladbroke Trophy has to be respected and he should appreciate the longer trip.
Another with potential for plenty of improvement over this marathon trip is Ron’s Dream. The mare is one of Pricewise (Tom Segal's) ante-post selections for the race.
Hopefully the above trends will enable you find the winner of this year’s renewal.
Last week’s tip The Gipper landed a bit of a touch at Lingfield, following on from the previous week’s winner. Can we make it three on the trot?
3:05 – Finnegan’s Garden – 13/2 @ William Hill & Paddy Power – A winner over C&D in the spring. He ran really well to finish runner-up at Lingfield on his seasonal reappearance. Didn’t back that up at Uttoxeter 12 days later but could have been feeling the effects of previous effort. He looks capable of going close.
Here’s wishing you all a very Merry Christmas and see you again on New Years Eve.