Good morning all,
Start of a new week for us, and after a visit to Plumpton yesterday (more on that later in the week) it's onto Lingfield today.
But for now, a weekend review, and from that, I'm toying with the idea of another ante-post bet. I shall decide over the next day or two!
Not the most exciting racing today but one at Southwell worth a (final) try for the selection.
Friday saw a cracking card at Newbury (arguably as good at Saturday’s, if you took the Hennessy away from that card) and we learnt a few things from it.
Firstly, Colin Tizzard has a nice novice in Lostintranslation, who I liked a lot on looks when I saw him at Newbury for his previous run when second to Claimantakinforgan. I’m pleased that he’s won this in the style he has, as it pays a bit of a compliment to Nicky Henderson’s novice, one I’m keen on following this year, especially once he steps up in trip. The way he’s come away after a slight mistake at the last was good to see – he looks a hardy sort, and should do even better over fences next year.
Well beaten in fifth, keep an eye on Present Ranger for the long-term future. He’s a half brother to Ballabriggs, which gives you an idea of where his strengths will lie, and 3m novice hurdles will be more his thing this year.
Can we give up on Yanworth over fences now? For me, we can. He simply doesn’t look a chaser and as I said Friday, seems to be rather shoehorned into going over fences given the riches JP has in the 2m and 3m hurdling divisions (although more on that later). He makes too many mistakes, even at three-quarter speed, and it’s okay saying that he got close in the end – we have always known there’s an engine there, that’s not the issue – but he’ll always give supporters heart-stopping moments with errors like he did here.
Willoughby Court jumped much better than he did at Huntingdon and to me, it’s clear he’s much happier left-handed. When he turned the taps on up the straight, he jumped well, and he’s clearly learning and learning quickly. That’s good to see, and as we know he’s a Festival winner already, targets in March look within his compass already.
Back in third, Adrien Du Pont probably jumped best of the three, and briefly looked threatening two out, but just didn’t have the speed to go with Willoughby Court. If I’m right in my thinking, the handicapper can’t touch his mark under the new Novice Chase rulings, and that means he could be very well handicapped for the Festival. One to put in trackers, so we don’t forget! (Update – he's gone up 2lb this morning. My thinking is obviously wrong…)
Oldgrangewood’s win in the handicap chase only cements some solid formlines – go back through Misterton’s Chepstow win, Elgin’s Ascot and Greatwood wins, and this, and see how well it’s all worked out. More winners to come from those formlines, you’d imagine.
And so to Beer Goggles success in the Long Distance Hurdle. I have no idea what to make of the winner’s progression, although he got the best ride, of that I’m sure. Can he build on this? Probably, he’s always threatened to be a classy sort, but Stayers Hurdle material? Less convinced. All aboard the Rockerfeller Express for me, at this stage.
Unowhatimeanharry looked a threat coming to the last, but couldn’t pick up when asked. For all that he has numerous Grade 1 wins to his name, equally he’s always struck me as vulnerable from time to time, and that came to the fore here. No surprise if he bounces back next time, but at short odds, always worth a look elsewhere.
And to Thistlecrack. I am not going to once again get into a rant about the fitness issues that seem to surround Tizzard’s horses from time to time, but when you get the usual pre-race guff about how well he is and the like, only to get a quote saying “I knew he was beat when he came in to the paddock, all the others looked fitter” then my sap starts to rise again. The consensus is that he’ll come on plenty for the run. I’m not having that. I was at Chepstow last year when he won first time and thanks to the fact I had a share of a runner in the race, was able to get very close up to Thistlecrack. To my eyes, he looked the same Friday as he did then. Yes, big, but that’s his frame and the way he is. I don’t think he’ll come on anywhere near enough to be competitive in the King George and I cannot have him on my mind after this effort.
Tizzard, btw, is later quoted as saying, when asked about the horse, “Do we ever know if they’re fit?” I’ll leave that there.
Onto the Ladbrokes Trophy Was The Hennessy on Saturday. American was the big disappointment for me, and although the excuses are there – lost a shoe and suffered and overreach – he was never travelling from an early stage, to my eyes, and may have simply found things happening too quickly on ground that would been lively enough. He is simply a mudlark, and to that end, might now be of more interest if they can get him back on track for the Welsh National, which has been run in a big since time itself began. It could just also be that the handicapper has already got him, in which case, bog or no bog, it won’t matter, but I could be tempted to give him one more try.
I was struggling to have Whisper on my mind for this but my word, he’s run a cracker here and conceding a stone to the winner, easily comes out the best horse on the day. My worry is that a big field might find his jumping out, but going back, maybe I was a bit harsh in that department. Given his excellent Festival record, and the fact he still appears to be improving, you’d have to say he’s looking a lively outsider for the Gold Cup now.
Total Recall is improving leaps and bounds, but he looks more a National type than a Gold Cup type to me. His stamina really kicked in 200yds out and was always going to get there, you felt. Maybe a Gold Cup on quicker ground might just take him off his feet early, but he’s hard to knock at present.
Much of a muchness in behind – plenty failed to fire, Regal Encore got out of bed on the right side and ran well, Braquer D’Or’s fourth was a pleasant surprise, and Vyta Du Roc chucked it in again very quickly. I could never back him for anything. Missed Approach looks one for the Betfred Classic at Warwick, and Potters Legend falling in for seventh saved my bacon on the race. Never have I cheered a horse home for finishing seventh in my life, and I doubt I will again. Thankyou Skybet…
Over at Newcastle, Buveur D'Air showed he still had four legs and a tail when winning the Fighting Fifth – it's fair to say we didn't learn much more than that. Actually, maybe we did – Flying Tiger seems to have one run of about 100 yards in him these days. Went from looking a minor threat to legs of jelly in seconds. Can't be backed with any confidence at present.
It's the last chance saloon for Rif Raftou at Southwell (2.50) today. I have no doubt she's very well handicapped after another 5lb drop for a moderate effort at Chepstow last time out, you only have to look at the form she showed when second to the well-handicapped Shanksforamillion this summer to see this mark is workable, but the problem has been her weak finishing efforts. Well, to that end, the hood goes on today, which will hopefully help her settle better, and if it does, I think she'll win this. I don't think favourite Sauvignon is anything great, and this race is there for the taking.
Today's selection – Rif Raftou 2.50 Southwell
Good luck with all your bets today,