Good morning all, and a Happy New Year!
The first of a couple of Friday reports looking back over the Christmas period, and the fallout of them going forward.
Blotted her copybook for only the second time when Silver Streak got the better of her in the Christmas Hurdle. Has it affected her Champion Hurdle claims?
Well, yes and no. I’ll get splinters in my backside sitting on this particular fence, but my thoughts are this. Defeat for her here means she’s lost a bit of that invincibility that she had beforehand, and given she went off a 1-5 chance here, this was considered a formality. It gives hope to other trainers that, if you attack her, she hasn’t always got the answers. I do think Aidan Coleman gave her a lot to do – from halfway it was clear she was probably a length or two further back from Silver Streak than he’d like, and the mistake she made three out was due, in part, to her being asked questions earlier than was probably needed. Whereas Paisley Park dug him out the week before, when he was again in the wrong place at the wrong time, Epatante couldn’t.
But one bad race doesn’t mean she’s gone at the game, far from it. Plenty have bounced back before and when all is said and done, she is the reigning champion. I can’t believe she’ll get the same ride come March and Nicky won’t be leaving her short. The 5-2 available now looks a reasonable price.
The pre-race vibes from Nicky were good, and an interview with Nick Luck with Racing TV didn’t do anything to dampen those vibes, but the betting somewhat told a different story, with one of the best horses of recent years being available at 11-10 five minutes before the off. And the market proved right, with Altior again running flat and was beaten some way out.
Altior’s “flat spot” has been well documented over the past two seasons, but his class has seen him through more often than not, Here, though, he was under the pump from some way out. In fact, there were signs Nico wasn’t happy as early as the third fence, and he never travelled with any great spark. Once again, his class surfaced late on and he dug in for the fight but Nube Negra, rated some 20lb inferior, had jumped and travelled much better and was already quickening away as he was mastering Duc De Genievres for second.
No horse goes on forever, and this, to me, simply looks like a horse that old age is starting to catch up with. A poor scope afterwards gives some excuse, but when all is said and done, it is clear that Altior is now on the downgrade.
It has been suggested that a step up to 20f might help, but I don’t think the trip is the issue. I think he’s just telling us that he might have had enough now.
As a a sideline, I thought at the beginning of the season this might be the year something appeared from leftfield to challenge for honours, and I have no reason to think this form is suspect, given how well Nube Negra jumped. He’s a contender come March.
Delta Work/Minella Indo/A Plus Tard
Two of the contenders for the Gold Cup did themselves no favours by taking falls in the Savills Chase, but A Plus Tard proved a revelation stepped up in trip, and put himself into the Gold Cup picture as a result.
When you think that it was only twelve months ago that A Plus Tard had the speed to beat Chacun Pour Soi over two miles and a furlong, it makes this performance all the more remarkable. It was strangely-run race, with them strung out from a fair way out, and at one stage it didn’t look like the front three would be coming back. Melon, who I have to admit, I have never seen as a three-miler, was still there on the run-in and his stamina only ebbed away in the last 100 yards. Whereas A Plus Tard was doing all his best work late on, and looked a stayer.
Another 2f and a hill will, of course, ask a new question of him come March but we were looking for something to break through in what looked a fairly stagnant field of stayers, and we now have one.
Clan Des Obeaux/Cyrname/Lostintranslation
Hard to know where to start, here. I don’t think the stop-start nature of the King George suited Clan Des Obeaux, who is surely better at coming off a strong pace here, but Cyrname was a major disappointment and, for want of something better, he simply looks inconsistent. At his best, he’s clearly brilliant, but he was done for a long way out here, and was pulled up.
Where they both go from here is anyone’s guess. I still think Cyrname is more a Ryanair type, but it isn't hard to see CDO missing Cheltenham completely (update – he will miss it, says PN) and going to Aintree, and maybe Punchestown.
Lostintranslation ran awfully, again, and this run was merely a reflection of the dreadful season the Tizzards are having, both on and off the track. You can only hope the situation gets better for them in 2021.
Got his own way up front in the KG and made it pay, looking the winner turning in and of course, his superb jumping holding up once again. I still think he’s Ryanair rather than Gold Cup material, but no doubt they’ll want to roll the big dice now, and who can blame them?
Today’s selection goes at Southwell where I like the chances of Duke Of Firenze in the 2.25. Essentially, you’ve got to put a line through his last run, which was dreadful, but you can’t win under the nearside rail in sprints and it’s easy enough to forgive. Concentrate on his previous win here, and he looks overpriced this morning.
Good luck with all your bets today,