The field sizes might have been smaller than normal on Saturday. On account of the unseasonably dry weather. However, that didn’t stop us witnessing some good racing.
Inside today’s main piece, you can read my thought on the big performances and disappointments. Plus, there’s a selection from Ayr.
At Haydock it was Betfair Chase Day. It was the 17th running of the Grade 1 contest with Bristol De Mai bidding to emulate Kauto Star and win the race for a fourth time.
It wasn’t to be a day for the romantics. Bristol De Mai never got into his usual good jumping rhythm on what was close to good ground. Having Royale Pagaille disputing the lead didn’t help and he was a beaten horse four out before pulling up before two out. He was hard fit for the race so connections will likely give him a short break.
Royale Pagaille ran well on ground that would have been too quick for him. He will better for the run and be seen to better effect when the mud is flying. There was talk after the race that he would now head to Kempton at the King George on Boxing Day. Personally, I would go to Chepstow for the Welsh Grand National, where he’s guaranteed ideal underfoot conditions.
Imperial Aura was still going well enough to think he might have got into the places when falling at the 13th. We still don’t know whether he stays 3m in this company, I think he will. This run will have encouraged connections although the 8-year-old has failed to complete on his last three starts.
Like Bristol De Mai. Waiting Patiently was ready for his seasonal reappearance and first start for new trainer Christian Williams. However, he never got into the race and was another who didn't like the ground.
A Plus Rout
In truth, there was only horse who brought their ‘A Game’ to the Betfair Chase and it was A Plus Tard. The Gold Cup runner-up became the first Irish trained winner of the race in its history.
The 11/10 favourite was a class apart of his rivals. Travelling and beautifully behind the leaders A Plus Tard got an ultra-confident ride from Rachel Blackmore. He cruised past Royale Pagaille coming to three out and went clear of his rivals to win by a long looking 22 lengths.
What had looked a competitive race on paper was turned into a rout by the winner who was really one of the few horses who appreciated the sound surface. The bookies quickly made him favourite to go one better in next year’s Gold Cup. The 8-year-old is now a best priced 4/1 with Bet365 for jump racing’s ‘blue riband’ race and you can see why after this impressive success.
Earlier on the Haydock card. Bravemansgame made it 2-2 over fences when beating three rivals in the Graduation Chase. He jumped well, out in front and comfortably saw off Itchy Feet who was trying to give the winner 4lb.
Bravemansgame is likely to be competitive in the Grade 1 novice chases at the spring festivals whether Cheltenham or Aintree. However, will he be able to beat the best the Irish have to offer?
Arguably the most exciting horse in action on Saturday wasn’t at either Haydock or Ascot but at Gowran Park, Where last season’s Ballymore Hurdle winner Bob Olinger made a winning start over fences. It wasn’t a faultless display of jumping by by means. But it seems like he enjoyed the experience and that’s all that mattered. Last year’s winner Energumene was a smart novice chaser last season and Bob Olinger looks set for a good season over the larger obstacles. Tougher assignments await the 6-year-old but he’s an exciting prospect.
It was a case of old friends reunited at Ascot on Saturday. With both Defi Du Seuil and Lostintranslation bidding to put behind poor 2020/21 seasons in the Grade 2 1965 Chase.
Lost is found
It was Lostintranslation who bounced back to form. Given a confident ride by jockey Brendan Powell. The 2019 Betfair Chase winner seems to have re-found his enthusiasm for the game. Travelling kindly, he took it up from long-time leader Master Tommytucker between the final two fences and a better jump at the last sealed the race in his favour.
The winner will be better back over further and he’s another who could be heading to King George. He has no issues with a sound surface and if he builds on this performance should be set for a good season.
Dashel Drasher lost his unbeaten record at the course. He went well for a long way but was left behind by the front two, after making a mistake three out. His best form last season came on softer ground and his yard has been struggling for winners so in the circumstances it was a good seasonal reappearance from the 8-year-old. He likely needed the run here and there will be other days for him this winter.
Its back to the drawing board for connections of Defi Du Seuil. The former Grade 1 winner travelled fine in the early stages of the race but didn’t find much when asked for his effort on the home turn. He finished last of the four who completed the race. This was his first run since wind surgery but it’s hard to say whether the procedure has had the desired effect or not.
Cesarewitch winner Buzz was back over hurdles in the Grade 2 Coral Hurdle and he made it a winning return. Last year’s winner Song For Someone took the field along at an even gallop and was still in front coming to the last. However, he was challenged by the strong travelling Buzz who quickly settled the race after the last and ran out a comfortable 3 ½ length winner. Song For Someone managed to hold on for second from Guard Your Dreams with the enigmatic Goshen a disappointing fourth. The latter had looked worth a try beyond 2m 1f but he didn't stay.
Buzz had to much speed for his five rivals but I like the way he saw out his race, A step up to 3m beckons for the 7-year-old with a return here for next month’s Grade 1 Long Walk Hurdle looking ideal. His stamina for 3m must be taken on trust. However, if he wins or goes close in the Long Walk, he will be a genuine Stayers Hurdle contender. A race for which he’s now a generally available 8/1.
There are afternoon jumps cards at Kempton, Ayr, and Ludlow and there’s also a tea time all-weather card at Chelmsford.
Good ground means there are just 31 declared runners for the six races at Kempton. And, Ludlow see’s 43 declared for its six-race card. The good to soft ground at Ayr sees 57 declared to run at the Scottish track. If you like big fields then Chelmsford is the place for you. It’s seven race card has attracted 74 runners.
Not for the first time or the last no doubt the more valuable the race the smaller the field. The best quality race today is the Listed Mares’ Hurdle (1:50) at Kempton. The likely race favourite My Sister Sarah will be a rare Kempton runner for Willie Mullins.
After some poor efforts on the tipping front for the column last week. On Friday Victor Value subscribers enjoyed a Venetia Williams double at Ascot. Which kind of goes with territory when your a tipster/pundit.
What will today bring?
I’m off up to Scotland for Monday’s selection.
3:15 – Seemorelights two best performances over fences came here at the end of last year including when a 2-length runner-up to Elvis Mail in a novices’ handicap chase over C&D 12 months ago. First run since wind surgery for the 9-year-old and he maybe better of further and softer ground. On the plus side. Sandy Thomson has his horses among the winners and had two place at Haydock on Saturday. By no means a confident selection. However, on a tricky day for finding solid selections he's the pick.
Seemorelights – 5/1 – Gen
Good luck with your Monday bets