Arguably the biggest new story in racing last week took place off the track. I am talking about Claire and Paul Rooney’s decision to stop having runners at Cheltenham, for the foreseeable future.
In this week’s post I have some thoughts on the subject. I also look at two top-class performances yesterday from Plumpton. From two horses that we’ll be hearing a lot more of during their careers.
There’s also a look at next Saturday’s Classic Chase at Warwick from a trend’s perspective. You can read about this and more inside…
The Rooney’s Take Centre Stage
There was much talk in the racing press as well as the various online betting forums about the decision by leading owners Paul and Claire Rooney not to run their horses at Cheltenham for the foreseeable future, due it said to concerns over the number of deaths at the track. As a point of information 78 horses have died at Cheltenham since the start of 2010. Far and away the track with highest equine fatality rate.
The racing community, as is normal in such situations, closed ranks against the owners. The comments ranged from describing the pair as narcissistic attention seekers to they a duty of responsibility towards the sport, its image with the wider public as a whole. Now both those viewpoints have merit. However, they are the owners of the horses, they pay the bills, and can decide where they want to.
In recent years the Rooney’s have lost both Starchitect and Melrose Boy at Cheltenham. Indeed, the former’s death has probably had a huge bearing on their decision given how tough it was to watch.
Were the Rooney’s, right? For me, yes. Not only do they pay the bills but they may well be privy to information about horse welfare that their critics and I don’t have.
A few more Starchitect’s at Cheltenham and it won’t be long before one of Britain's leading newspapers begins a campaign to ban NH racing, which has now occurred, in all but one state in Australia.
Knocknanuss No Match For French Raider…
It’s not often that my look back at the weekend’s best performances takes me to Plumpton. This week it does. As two horses put up outstanding performances in their respective races.
The first came from Master Dino. The French trained 5-year-old beat Knocknanuss in a cracker of a novice chase. The second put in a good performance too. Jumping really well from the off he was only headed by Master Dino after the second last. Trying to give 5lb to what is an undoubted classy young chaser in the making was a great effort from the 9-year-old. He was just run out of it by a stronger stayer. He will win a good race this season.
Gordon Elliott sent over Glenloe for the race. The 8-year-old who finished second in last year’s 3m Pertemps Final at Cheltenham was making his chase debut.
The 2m 4f at a track, like Plumpton was always likely to prove short enough for the Elliott horse and so it proved. He was making a bit of headway from the rear when making a bad mistake four out. Any chance he had, went there, and he was allowed to complete in his own time without being subject to hard race.
Even if he hadn’t made that error he would probably have finished 3rd at best. Still it was a nice introduction to the larger obstacles for him and a return to 3m should see him get into the winner enclosure.
…But Master Dino Stakes JLT Claim
Master Dino was the star of the show though. An impressive winner on his chasing debut at Auteuil last month. He wasn’t as bold at his fences as the runner-up but he was accurate and economical. The jockey had to briefly chase him along coming to two out but once he took it up after the second last he never looked in danger and eventually pulled away to register a comfortable 7 length victory.
Not surprisingly he was made ante-post favourite for the JLT Novices Chase at Cheltenham Festival on the back of this win. It will take a good one to lower his colours come March.
Two Amigos Win National
The Two Amigos produced the other top-class performance in landing the Sussex National. The 7-year-old has been a bit of a revelation since going chasing with form figures 1211.
Leading most of the way, he was given a race by the Calin Du Brizais but he was always travelling and jumping better than the eventual runner-up. He’s a strong chasing type who can carry big weights as he showed here under 11-12 and had done previously at Exeter.
According to his trainer he would have preferred softer ground than he faced on Sunday. He will go up a bit in the weights for this run but the bigger the stamina test the better he is. He should stay 4m and can go well in some of those long-distance handicaps chases later in the season.
The 2020 Grand National Winner maybe?
Happy Diva, trained by Kerry Lee, has been one of the few positives in what has been a tough few months for the stable. The daughter of King Theatre won three times over fences last season and looked set for a good campaign when finishing runner-up to Mister Whitaker at Carlisle. The mare then ran in the BetVictor Gold Cup at Cheltenham. She was brought down four out that day, when still travelling well enough.
The 8-year-old returned to Cheltenham last week finishing runner-up to Aso. It was a good run given the trainers form. Even more of a positive was that she ran a career best according Racing Post Ratings. All her best form has come on softer ground, than she faced last week, and with two or three previous runs in the last 90-days.
One has to be careful here, but if you want to see what her optimum conditions look like you could do worse than:
Race Distance: 2m 4f+
Going: Good to soft, soft or heavy
Month: December to March
When getting those conditions she is 5 winners from 8 runners 63% +7.1 8 placed 100% with her form figures being 11211212.
Warwick Classic Chase Trends
Looking forward to the weekend. Saturday’s biggest race is the Classic Chase, a handicap over 3m 5f. It’s Warwick’s biggest day of the season and ‘Classic’ is the tracks most famous race.
Looking at the eight renewals. The race has produced – 8 winners from 117 runners 25 placed. Here are some useful trends that will hopefully help you shortlist the contenders:
Age: 8yo & 9yo – 5 winners from 56 runners +12 16 placed
Wins in Handicap Chases: 0 to 1 – 6 winners from 51 winners +12.5 15 placed
Runs In 90-days: 2 or 3 – 7 winners from 83 runners +5.5 19 placed
Last Time Out Placing: First Five – 5 winners from 62 runners +1 14 placed
Odds SP: 14/1 & Under – 7 winners from 71 runners +7.5 20 placed
Maximum Distance Won: 2m 5f ½ f to 3m 3f – 8 winners from 72 runners +27.5 16 placed
Here are a some notable trainer records in the race.
Emma Lavelle -1 winner from 3 runners +7 3 placed 100%
Colin Tizzard – 1 winner from 3 runners +12 32 placed 67%
Alan King -1 winner from 8 runners +3 3 placed 38
2:25 – Wot A Shot, won over C&D back in December 2017 and can now race off a 5lb lower mark. Granted the 10-year-old hasn’t run particularly well on his two starts this season, excuses last time as the ground would have been to soft at Market Rasen. Good ground is the key to his chance with the sounder the surface the better.
At around 5/1 he looks worth a bet for a trainer whose horses are going well.
Good luck with this week’s punting.
Until next week