In this week’s post. You can read my thoughts on how the dry weather is impacting on jumps racing and more inside…
Racing Needs Rain!
Watching racing on Sunday from Punchestown, it’s amazing that in January the ground is still good. Normally at this time of year Irish racing would be taking place on soft or heavy ground. It’s a problem affecting most Irish racecourses as well as tracks this side of the Irish Sea.
Kempton had to water to maintain the good ground on Saturday. This comes ‘hot on the heels’ of Doncaster racing on good, good to firm in places at a recent meeting. Which would have been even quicker but for the track having watered in the days leading up to racing.
Field Sizes Taking a Hit
The field sizes are really taking a hit. As connections don’t want to risk their horses on this unseasonably dry ground. Our jumps track clearly need a spell of heavy rain to ease the going. When will it arrive? The forecast is for rain for middle of the week but how much remains open to question. After that it looks like cold and mostly dry weather for the weekend with some potentially hard frosts.
Next week, if the weather predictions pan out then we could be seeing a reappearance of that white flaky stuff that drops out of the sky.
Maybe it’s a good time to start brushing up on the all-weather form.
Has the Jumps Season Got Going for You?
The small field sizes, due to the going, means that the jumps season hasn’t really got going and we're only two months away from Cheltenham. I don’t mean there haven’t been some great individual races I am talking about season as a whole.
On a positive note Cheltenham ante-post markets are wide open but there is less form to go at in particular in the novice division. The novice races, both over hurdles and fences, have been under-subscribed, as have many NHF races.
Plenty of trainers both in Britain and Ireland had problems getting their horses out onto the grass in the autumn and are now struggling to get them out on the track.
Add in the potential for a freeze up and how many horses are going to go to Cheltenham, not as fit as their trainers would like. Indeed, it’s possible that some of Irish Stars might only peak come Aintree and Punchestown.
Soloman Grundy, trained by Dan Skelton, wasn’t unsupported for Saturday’s Lanzarote Hurdle. The 7-year-old had returned from a 300-day lay off when last of seven at Doncaster in December.
Always travelling well on ground that suited. The gelding still had every chance coming to the last but was no match for well handicapped rival and had to settle for second. At least he proved he stayed 2m 5f.
He will probably go up 5lb or 6lb for this run but should remain competitive off his new mark. One to note in those big field spring handicap hurdles run on a sound surface.
Looking Forward To The Weekend.
Un De Sceaux Seeks Fourth Clarence House
Ascot and Haydock stage the weekend’s best racing. Ascot’s feature race in the 2m 1f Grade 1 Clarence House Chase. A race that Un De Sceaux has won for the last three years and has an entry for again this year. Can he make it four on the trot? Well the going is officially described as good to soft at the time of writing which won’t play to the 11-year-old's strengths.
And if Altior takes up his entry in the race then it’s hard to look beyond the Nicky Henderson trained horse whose a best priced 1/3 with William Hill.
Fox Norton hasn’t been seen on the track since pulling up in the 2017 King George VI. The 9-year-old has plenty to find with Altior on ratings but he’s got winning form after a long lay off and 9 of his 11 career wins have come on good ground. The Colin Tizzard trained runner could be the one to chase home Altior ahead of last years winner.
If the rain doesn’t arrive and Altior runs its’ likely this race will cut up and a small field can be expected.
Peter Marsh Handicap Chase
Over at Haydock it’s the Peter Marsh Handicap Chase. Haydock in January is normally synonymous with the mud flying and heavy ground. Since 2005 the race has fallen victim to the weather on two occasions and nine of the last 11 renewals of the race have been run on heavy ground.
You have to go back as far as 2004 to find the last time the race was run on good to soft. It seems unlikely that it will be heavy on Saturday and it could be nearer to good to soft on the day.
I was going to look at the race from a trends perspective but the likely different going to recent years means the trends may not be worth following this season.
Last Monday’s selection Wot A Shot (7/2) was a welcome winner at Musselburgh. Today’s selection runs at Wolverhampton.
Aircraft Carrier has won his last two all-weather starts here and at Chelmsford 25-days ago. Both wins have come over 1m 6f but he should be should be fine over today’s 2m ½ f. The 4-year-old is a horse on the upgrade. He takes a further step up in Class into the AW Championship Fast Track Qualifier but his improvement shouldn’t have levelled out just yet.
6:15 – Aircraft Carrier – 4/1 – Gen
Good luck with this week’s punting.
Until next week