Tom casts his eye over the main races from the weekend and has a couple to keep onside for the festival…
Altior was at it again on Saturday, winning for the seventeenth time in a row in the Matchbook Clarence House. Although this time it was all a little left.
Nicky Henderson pointed out after the race that jumping left can happen at Ascot. He also suggested his two-mile champion was ‘bored’ and therefore not jumping as accurately as we know he can. Perhaps his mind wasn’t fully on the job. He has gone left before too and there were some interesting theories doing the rounds on Twitter as to why.
He seemed to go out that way when changing his legs (to an off fore lead) in the approach to a fence, he then ran down the fence a little to give himself more time. When not changing his legs pre fence he was far straighter. Ultimately, he was allowed to do this because of the lack of pressure on him and I’m not sure it should detract from his performance. And Cheltenham is left-handed, after all (his record right-handed isn’t exactly ropey either).
Perhaps we’re looking for faults as opposed to actually finding them.
I’d imagine he won’t be bored on March 13th.
Very impressive was the winner of the race formally known as the Kinloch Brae. Tout Est Permis was back in trip and that showed. Running down the long-time leader in the shadow of the post, he’s now three from three for a trainer having a stellar season and Grade 1 company awaits.
Noel Meade suggested that it will be the Ryanair if we see him at Cheltenham and he can now be backed on the Matchbook Exchange at a bigger than anywhere else 31.0. Ryanair is preferable given his age, apparently. The last six-year-old to win a Gold Cup was Long Run and he was the first for half a century. But it’s hard to argue that, trip wise, Ryanair would be more suitable than Gold Cup.
Personally, I’d love to see him rock up over three and a quarter miles. I know he’s young but he has the right profile, unexposed at the trip second season chaser with a fair bit of chase experience.
True that the general 34.0 can’t make too much appeal given his unlikelihood of showing up there.
Elsewhere chase wise, Jerrysback gave best (and half a stone) to Castafiore in the Grade 2 at Haydock. Interesting he was also entered in a handicap chase at Ascot. More on the winner shortly but first to say I think Jerrysback is a talent. His jumping let him down here. Not seeming to get the height required at some of those big Haydock fences and he went out to his right at a few too. He’s done that before and perhaps he wants to go that way round.
I’m inclined to think his below par effort on reappearance at Cheltenham was due to the absence and not the track but, all things considered, he can’t really be had as a live one for the festival. If the handicapper took a literal reading of the form with the 128 rated winner, he could be dropped to scrape into the novice handicap (145 tops) but, with two 145 rated horses in behind, that seems unlikely.
Castafiore caused something of a surprise but she jumped well and was strong at the finish. The third did break a blood vessel and the form may not be worth going crazy over but her rating clearly underestimated her and it’s great to see her trainer with yet another very talented mare.
Smart Novice Hurdle
Mister Fisher made it two from three this year with a gutsy win, if still a little green. He has plenty of speed by the looks of it and I’m inclined to take a positive view of the form. Nicky has quite the juggling act to perform with his plethora of novice hurdlers.
This one looks sure to stay at two miles and is as short as 12.0 for the Supreme, double that of market leading stable companion Angels Breath.
A few questioned afterwards whether Cheltenham, with its greater emphasis on stamina, would suit Mister Fisher given the pace he shows. I’m not on board with that track wise, the old course at Cheltenham is that little bit sharper, but I’d take the point with regard to a flat out Supreme, which often places emphasis on stamina.
Either way it’s hard not to be impressed with him and he has a few more runs under his belt than some so far, which is definitely a plus for the the festival curtain raiser.
I was impressed with the second too. Bright Forecast, 34.0 for the Supreme, looks a horse who wants further. And a lead. He has gone forward on his last few starts but I’m not sure that suits him ideally, apart from being able to set fractions which should play to his stamina reserves. He was outpaced and outclassed but I’m surprised there’s no price for him in the Ballymore market.
If it came up soft, that’s a race which could suit him. The novice hurdle entries are a few weeks away but his name is worth keeping an eye on.
Another For Nicky
We also saw Downtown Getaway win on Saturday, just. Positives; he stuck his head down, rallied and battled. A wonderful quality. Negatives; he didn’t jump brilliantly and still looked in need of experience with an eye on the festival. His trainer nominated three miles as most likely but, yawn yawn, you want experience for the potato race (I’ve mentioned that before, right?) and his profile doesn’t overly excite me for that contest.
21.0 for the Ballymore, 26.0 for the Albert Bartlett if you’re interested.
Chepstow held an excellent Friday card and a particularly interesting novices’ hurdle won by Lisnagar Oscar. He jumped slickly and clearly stays well, not helping himself by running around a little late on. The Albert Bartlett was nominated as the likely target and he can be backed at a general 21.0.
The second was the real eye-catcher, running a very promising race on first start and looking to want further. The race should bring him on plenty too, given the inexperience he showed late on but still went down by just a head. Big baby, bright future. There’s 21.0 available about him for the potato race too. I’d expect him to reverse form with the winner in future but that test would be a stern one for a horse of his limited experience.
Back to the winner, he was second over three miles to Rockpoint in the Bristol Novices’ Hurdle and, with that form now franked, the 22.0 knocking around for Colin Tizzard’s horse in the Albert Bartlett looks too big. I’ve talked, at length (apologies), about experience counting for plenty in that three-mile slog. Back in 2010 the winner was having his fifteenth hurdles run, it was one more for Uknowhatimeanharry, Penhill two years ago having his eighth. The list goes on. Rockpoint was beaten last time on his eleventh hurdles run, back in trip under a penalty where they made plenty of use of him. That suits him but it was almost a strange race to run him in at Warwick given that penalty and the trip.
Now, with his Cheltenham form boosted and the Albert Bartlett the likely target, I’m happy to have him on side. He has a lovely profile for the race.
Saturday’s Taunton card saw two interesting novice hurdles. Before Midnight made it a Saturday treble in that sphere for trainer Nicky Henderson but it was Thomas Darby, winning earlier on the card, who has me hovering over the back button. 27.0 for the Supreme is very fair.
In fact it’s too tempting.
We didn’t necessarily learn anything we didn’t know about him. Talented, wants decent ground, can be keen and stays well. He won as might have been expected. A course and distance winner with regard to the Supreme, that came back in October from a subsequent Grade 1 winner. He’s the only horse to have beaten Elixir De Nutz this year (trainer Olly Murphy also has Itchy Feet for the Supreme and his form ties in with the Tolworth winner, second to him at Cheltenham when giving weight away). Thomas Darby had his pocket picked by a quicker horse at Ascot and then struggled to settle, give weight and match the speed of Mister Fisher at Kempton. He’s got experience, always useful for a Supreme, and the test should suit him given he’ll want pace to settle and already looks to want further.
He’ll love going back up that hill.