Given the lack of racing on grass last week. I was wondering what I would be writing about in this week’s article. Thankfully, racing broke free of the weather’s icy grip over the weekend. As Sandown and Leopardstown both manged to stage fixtures.
Fingers crossed it looks like this week will be milder and wetter. However, I hope it’s dry on Thursday as I will be making my first visit to Huntingdon racecourse.
I’m covering plenty of of topics this week. From the Dublin Racing Festival to next Saturday’s Betfair Handicap Hurdle at Newbury. You can read about both and a bit more inside…
Dublin Racing Festival:
The inaugural Dublin Racing Festival only took place last year, but the weekend has already become the best two day’s racing outside of the big spring festivals.
This year’s festival saw no less than 8 Grade 1 races and 1.8 million Euro’s in prize money. It also produced racing that was in line with the amount of prize money on offer.
Despite the good ground the field sizes held up well on the Saturday. However, on the Sunday there were plenty of non-runners that could devalue the form.
On Saturday, two performances stood out for me.
Apples Has Champion Look
Apples Jade, was dropping back from 3m to the 2m distance of the Irish Champion Hurdle. It was a big ask but the 7-year-old showed her class and versatility by easily handling it.
Making all, she never really looked like she would be caught. Runner-up Supasundae was just a couple of lengths behind the mare coming to the final hurdle jumped but once asked to go clear she did just that and put 16 lengths between herself and Supasundae at the finish.
Granted she jumped a bit to her right at the hurdles which she can’t afford to do at Cheltenham but it now looks likely she will now take on Buveur D’Air in the Champion Hurdle, rather than go for the easier option of the Mares Hurdle.
The Champion Hurdle was in need of a boast and hopefully it will have it with a Buveur D’Air v Apples Jade match up in March.
O’Brien’s Arkle Favourite
The Arkle Novices Chase could be one of the highlights of this year’s Cheltenham Festival. On Saturday Le Richebourg put himself right in to the mix for the race. The 6-year-old was a useful hurdler winning three of his eight starts. But he’s already a much better chaser, with form figures 11211 since going over the larger obstacles.
His only defeat coming when beaten ½ length by Delta Work over 2m 4f. The drop back in distance to 2m 1f has now seen the gelding post his best two Racing Post Ratings.
Once he gets into a good jumping rhythm, like he did in Saturday’s Irish Arkle, he’s a joy to watch. The stronger the pace the better he is and he now heads to Cheltenham the ante-post favourite for the Arkle Novice Chase.
This week’s horse for your notebook is R'evelyn Pleasure, trained by Sean O’Brien, a trainer better known for his exploits in the Irish p2p field.
R'evelyn Pleasure an impressive winner over hurdles at Clonmel last March. The 7-year-old has since taken well to the larger obstacles since falling on his chase debut back in November. Since that mishap he hadn't finished out of the first two coming into Saturday’s handicap chase at Leopardstown.
Given the strong pace the race was run at, he did well to finish as close as he did at the finish doing best of those ridden prominently when finishing 4th, beaten 4 lengths. This was a very promising handicap chase debut. He also jumped much better than he had done in previous races. Hopefully he won’t go up too much in the ratings for this effort and looks capable of winning more races over fences.
Newbury: Betfair Handicap Hurdle
The highlight of next weekend's racing is the £155,000 Betfair Hurdle, which is now the richest handicap hurdle in the racing calendar. Last year’s renewal was won by Kalashnikov and other recent winners include My Tent Or Yours and Zarkander.
The race used to be one of the betting highlights of the season. With plenty of ante-post gambles being landed and thwarted. Despite the prize money on offer. In recent seasons some owners have preferred to wait for less lucrative races at the Cheltenham Festival.
All the emphasis on Cheltenham means that historic handicaps like the Betfair Hurdle have suffered from a decline in numbers and/or quality of participants. Let’s hope this year’s race attracts the sort of field that the prize money deserves.
As the 2009 renewal was cancelled due to the weather. I am looking at some of the key trends for the last nine running’s of the race – 9 winners from 184 runners 35 placed.
Here are some of the headline stats:
Age: 5 & 6 yr olds – 9 winners from 112 runners 27 placed
Last Time Out Placing: 1st 2nd or 3rd – 9 winners from 95 runners 26 placed
Handicap Hurdle Wins: 0 – 8 winners from 95 runners 21 placed
Class Move: Same, Up 1 & Up 2: – 0 winners from 89 runners 8 placed
As these recent trends show. The race traditionally goes to younger horses that the handicapper hasn’t managed to get hold of yet. Not surprising then that the three at the head of the ante-post betting for the race: Al Dancer, Getaway Trump and Monsieur Lecoq have that lightly raced unexposed profile ideal for a winner of the race.
4:15 – The best race on Monday is this Class 3 handicap chase at Taunton. The field size has held up with 11 declared to go to post. If the ground was softer, I would fancy Le Boizelo. However, it looks like it will be run on good ground.
A sound surface makes Touch Kick of plenty of interest. The 8-year-old has won two of his six starts over fences and the Paul Nicholls trained horse made a pleasing seasonal reappearance when winning at Hereford over 2m 5f. No match for Aso when runner-up at Newbury on his next start. He was then sent off favourite, seemed ill at ease on soft ground, when 3rd of 11 at Chepstow on his last start.
The return to a sounder surface will suit and this looks an easier assignment than his last two starts. Just 2lb higher than for his Hereford win he can go close here if he stays the 2m 7f distance. At around 7/2 Touch Kick will do for me!
Touch Kick – 4/1
Good luck with this week’s punting.
Until next week