In today's column, I wrap up my weekend recap by delving into Sunday's Grade 1 John Durkan Chase at Punchestown. Additionally, I highlight two noteworthy contenders to keep an eye on for the future.
Fastorslow Emerges Victorious in Thrilling John Durkan Chase, Upsetting Cheltenham Gold Cup Winner Galopin Des Champs
Sunday's John Durkan Chase unfolded into a gripping Grade 1 showdown, featuring six runners, with five hailing from Willie Mullins' stable. Despite the anticipation surrounding Cheltenham Gold Cup champion Galopin Des Champs, it was the non-Mullins contender, Fastorslow, who stole the spotlight.
Having previously triumphed over Galopin Des Champs at the Punchestown Festival, Fastorslow's potential was underscored in a recent column where I stated,
Get All of John's Selections
When you Trial his Victor Value service
Just £7 for 14 Days
“I think Fastorslow's win here at the festival has been underestimated by many punters. He's a genuine Gold Cup horse.” However, I admitted, “I'm thinking he might not be as sharp for today's race as the favourite.”
My expectation of a less-than-peak performance was proven wrong, as Fastorslow demonstrated remarkable sharpness against his rivals.
While Appreciate It led for the majority of the race and seemed poised for victory at the last, Fastorslow exhibited a powerful finish, securing a comfortable win. Despite dropping his whip near the finish, the victory showcased his remarkable improvement since finishing fifth in the previous year's renewal.
Fastorslow's notable progression now makes him at 6/1 for the Cheltenham Gold Cup, a regrettable missed opportunity for not backing him for that race prior to Sunday. In contrast, Galopin Des Champs struggled, displaying lacklustre jumping and a sluggish performance, raising concerns about his Cheltenham Gold Cup aspirations.
Has a hard Cheltenham Gold Cup claimed yet another victim?.
Appreciate It got his chase career back on track. He jumped best of all and going from the front really suited him.
Meanwhile, my selection without Galopin Des Champs, Asterion Forlonge, appeared in need of his seasonal return. He was never put into the race should have gained a confidence boost from this.
I thought Stattler ran well for a long way, over trip well short of his best, until he was predictably outpaced five out. He will come on for this.
Fastorslow's victory stands is a good result for Irish racing, with a Martin Brassil-trained horse prevailing over the formidable Mullins contenders.
Planned Paradise – Christian Williams
Planned Paradise still seems to be finding his feet since joining his present yard in the summer and in truth there wasn’t really much to take from his 27 length 5th of 9 at Ascot (3m) on Friday. That aside he’s on down to a good mark when everything does finally click. He remains with potential beyond 3m 2f. On his two starts beyond that distance he finished placed including when a 4 length 2nd of 11 in the London National at Sandown last December (first time cheekpieces). That race could be on his agenda again.You must wonder if the cheekpieces could return for the first time season.
Eleanor Bob – Venetia Williams
The mare had made most when winning handicap chases at Chepstow & Huntingdon early in 2022. Returning from a 625 day break she ran a belter and showed she’s retained plenty of ability when a 4 ¼ length 4th of 10 to Famous Bridge. She was plenty keen enough out in front but jumping well and was only beaten when headed at the last. On the evidence of this run she can surely win races this season but given she will have had a hard race after such a long absence she might well bounce if returned to the track too quickly.
Recent eyecatcher Famous Bridge improved for the step up to 3m. He’s an old fashioned chaser and given he doesn’t win his races by much can remain one step ahead of the handicapper. Typically, I remove a horse from the tracker after a victory, but in his case, I see merit in retaining him, recognizing the potential for more success and strategic handicapping advantage.
Finally, an honourable mention for Saint Segal. I think Saint Segal would have held off winner Boothill in Saturday’s Jim Barry Hurst Park Handicap Chase at Ascot but for falling at the last. He settled much better than he had on his seasonal return. A track with easier fences can see him back in the winners enclosure.
Saturday’s Betfair Stayers Hurdle at Haydock should prove strong form.
I mentioned Crambo’s run in Monday’s column. He needs more of a stamina test and stiffer three miles and can win again when he gets them.
I remain convinced that there is a nice handicap hurdle pot in Lord Snootie. The 6-year-old ran well to finish an honourable 8 length 6th of 15. The tight track and drying ground wouldn’t have suited him.
Runner-up Fine Margin was weak in the market on his first start for Willie Mullins but shaped very well. A mark of 124 underestimated him and there are races to be won with the 6-year-old.
Today features a total of 21 races spread across Sedgefield, Southwell, and Tramore. The most lucrative race of the day takes place at Tramore, offering a prize of £5,841 for the winner. Interestingly, among the 14 races on this side of the Irish Sea, none surpasses a winner's purse of £5,000. This observation raises concerns, pointing to a notable decrease in race values over the past two decades. The diminishing financial rewards for winners underscore a significant issue within the racing industry.
Let's dive into Tuesday action. Here's the lowdown on today’s prospects in less than 150 words.
2:20 – El Jefe ended a lengthy losing streak with a second C&D victory just 12 days ago. True, he's 5lb higher this time. However, jockey Conor Rabbitt can claims his 5lb allowance and with favourable soft ground could go in again.
2:50 – Ashjan, a two-time course victor, showed promise in his recent comeback, finishing 16 ½ lengths fourth at Kelso. Now 21lb below last year's winning mark, this 10-year-old might just seize the day.
12:40 – Generous Day may not be the most consistent these days, but remember, he clinched this race from 2lb lower last year.
1:10 – Star Flyer, bred for success over fences, shaped with promise when third at Huntingdon on chase debut. The step up to 3m should suit and he can win races over the larger obstacles.
There are few solid betting opportunities but today's selection comes from Sedgefield.
2:50 – Ashjan – 9/1 @ Bet365.
Wishing you the best of luck with your Tuesday bets!