3/8/2016 12:28:50 PM
Monday 14th December to Sunday 20th December 2015
SAUSALITO SUNRISE – HANDICAPPER
Philip Hobbs’ charge proved that he was in fine fettle when winning at Cheltenham’s Paddy Power meeting last month, a performance that was a significant step forward after his disappointing reappearance at Chepstow the previous month. Sausalito Sunrise swerved his engagement at Cheltenham’s International meeting to take his chance in the Graduation Chase at Newbury on Wednesday, where he ran a credible race to finish second behind the rejuvenated O’Faolains Boy. Sent off the 11/8 favourite, the 7-year-old travelled well throughout the contest until making an error three out and although he rallied between the final two fences, the Rebecca Curtis-trained winner was too strong on the run-in, eventually winning by a comfortable 15 lengths. Given that the winner looked to be back to his brilliant best that landed him the RSA chase at the 2014 Cheltenham Festival, Sausalito Sunrise lost nothing in defeat and I expect that he will continue to be competitive in some of the best staying handicap chases this season. It is understood that the Scottish National is his end of season target, where the likely drying ground conditions and the extreme stamina test will play to this geldings strengths.
BITOFAPUZZLE – TOP PROSPECT
Following an excellent season over timber during the 2014/15 campaign, Bitofapuzzle made her eagerly awaited chase debut at Exeter on Thursday. As expected, she made no mistake in landing the odds, making all of the running to win by a very easy 11 lengths. There is no doubt that bigger challenges await this Harry Fry-trained mare and given that she has plenty of class, I expect that she will prove herself to be capable of competing against the opposite sex over the larger obstacles. There is no reason why her talented handler shouldn’t be eyeing a tilt at one of the novices’ chases at the 2016 Cheltenham Festival, where I expect the RSA will prove to be most suitable for this out-and-out galloper.
SEMPRE INVICTA – POINT-TO-POINTER
Paul Nicholls made it pretty clear that he wasn’t expecting his point-to-point recruit to make a winning debut in a bumper at Ascot last month but I was quite impressed with his performance that day when he finished a respectable fourth. It was no surprise that he was switched to the hurdling ranks on Friday at the same Berkshire venue, where he was particularly weak in the market beforehand, sent off an unfancied 25/1 chance. He was ridden patiently by Sam Twiston-Davies throughout the early stages of the contest and it was encouraging that he was still in touch with three hurdles to jump. He showed a good attitude when his rider asked him a serious question, sticking to his task well and was only beaten 11 lengths in 6th place at the line. Although he is unlikely to reach the summit of the jumping game, this gelding has the potential to be a useful staying chaser in time and therefore should be considered a long-term prospect following his hurdling debut.
YANWORTH – TOP PROSPECT
A winner of both starts in the hurdling sphere since switching from bumpers, Yanworth was out to enhance his Cheltenham Festival claims in the Grade 2 Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle Trial at Ascot on Friday and did so with the minimum amount of fuss. The most impressive thing about this easy success over the highly-regarded Charbel was the manner in which he quickened up on the bridle, proving that he possesses plenty of speed. I was also particularly pleased with his jumping, where he was slick at all bar one of his hurdles and that will be an essential string to his bow when faces stiffer opposition. I have always held this gelding in extremely high-regard and I genuinely believe that he could be a ‘superstar’. The last three winners of this trial have gone on to contest the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle in March and I expect that Yanworth has the perfect blend of speed and stamina for that particular race. However, Alan King has made it clear that he will consider the Neptune Novices’ Hurdle over 2m5f as another option for his talented chestnut and that is understandable with plenty of water to pass under the bridge before March. One thing is for sure, regardless of his spring target, I am backing him to taste Cheltenham Festival glory in 2016.
THISTLECRACK – TOP PROSPECT
Thistlecrack was particularly impressive in the Bet365 Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury last month and Colin Tizzard made it pretty clear that his next intended target was the Grade 1 Long Walk Hurdle which was run at Ascot on Saturday. This progressive 7-year-old took another step forward with a commanding success in the feature race of the day and in doing so enhanced his chances for the Ladbrokes World Hurdle at the 2016 Cheltenham Festival, for which he is now the best-priced 3/1 favourite. Settled in behind the leaders by Tom Scudamore, Thistlecrack was always travelling powerfully and he was still full of running at the second last where he took up the running from three-time winner Reve De Sivola. He bounded clear of his 7 rivals in devastating fashion to score by 8 lengths and at this stage, he looks the one to beat in the staying hurdle division. His trainer has highlighted the Grade 2 Cleeve Hurdle as the next target and although his only trip to Cheltenham was a bitter disappointment, that run is easily forgiven and it will take a good horse to beat him.
The week in brief – A CHRISTMAS CRACKER AT ASCOT
The Rebecca Curtis-trained PRESELI ROCK was making his hurdling debut at Ffos Las on Monday after showing plenty of promise in his four bumper starts and he ran a solid race to finish second behind the more experienced hurdler Never Equalled. The eventual winner had the run of the race, making most of the running and I thought it was particularly pleasing how Preseli Rock plugged on and he was only beaten by a short-head at the finish. It should be noted that this gelding is yet to encounter a sound surface in his five career outings and given that his action doesn’t suggest that he needs cut in the ground, I think it would be worth trying him on better ground. His future over timber lies in handicaps and assuming that the handicapper isn’t too harsh, he is a horse to follow.
Seventh in last season’s Champion Bumper, THEO’S CHARM made an encouraging start to his hurdling career when he finished third in an above average contest at Kempton last month. He made amends for his debut defeat when winning at Plumpton on Monday, scoring by 7 lengths from Draco’s Code. Although this was a much easier race than his debut, where he didn’t need to improve to shed his maiden tag, he proved that he is a decent hurdling prospect for Nick Gifford and is definitely one to follow when stepping up in trip. He is more than capable of winning a similar event under a penalty but equally he could be stepped up in trip and grade for the Grade 1 Challow Novices’ Hurdle over 2m5f.
LE PREZIEN finished a close second to the exciting Yanworth on his British debut last month and this Paul Nicholls-trained 4-year-old made no mistake in following up with a victory in the opening maiden hurdle at Ludlow on Wednesday. He has been given an opening handicap mark of 125 and based on his two runs to date, I expect him to prove feasibly treated. He may well prove better than a handicap hurdler in the coming months but it would be no surprise if Nicholls gives him an opportunity to take advantage of what looks a lenient mark.
It was another Nicholls-trained horse who caught my eye at Newbury on Wednesday, this time in the form of CLAN DES OBEAUX. Off for 8 months since winning a 7-runner bumper in France, this 3-year-old gelding made a stunning hurdling debut in the juvenile hurdle, dashing clear of his 7 rivals to score by a very easy 21 lengths. The runner-up Jaleo was successful on his debut over timber at Catterick which makes this win even more impressive and there was no surprise that this performance earned him a 25/1 quote for the Triumph Hurdle in March. However, given that he looks an embryonic chaser, I expect that Nicholls will mind him carefully during his juvenile campaign with a look to the future. Taking that into account, I doubt that he will take his chance in the juvenile showpiece at the festival.
OUT SAM is a horse that I have always thought a lot of and following the switch to Warren Greatrex this summer, I was excited to see how he would be campaigned this time around. After a crashing fall in last season’s Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle, I was certainly not surprised to see Greatrex give him a run in a handicap hurdle on his seasonal reappearance. However, I was surprised that he was pitched into such a strong race for his chasing bow at Ascot on Friday and although he was well beaten, he emerged with plenty of credit. Runner-up in two Irish points, I have always regarded Out Sam as a chasing type and he took well to the larger obstacles with a satisfactory round of jumping before eventually finishing third, 12 lengths a drift of the winner, Le Mercurey. Using Killala Quay, who was 7 lengths back in fourth, as a yardstick, this was a satisfactory first effort as a chaser and I expect that Out Sam has plenty more to offer in this sphere. Assuming that his connections opt to run him in less competitive novices’ chase on his next outing, I expect him to have little trouble in shedding his maiden tag.
The Nigel Twiston-Davies-trained BALLYANDY has always been held in high-regard by his handler and he created a deep impression when winning a Listed race at Cheltenham last month. He ran up to his previous best when he very nearly followed-up under a penalty in the Listed bumper at Ascot on Friday. The winner Coeur Blimey took a huge step forward after his debut effort at Uttoxeter but it was Twiston-Davies’ inmate who emerged as the moral victor, conceding 7lb to the winner and he remains one to follow, especially when his attentions are switched to jumping.
After Thistlecrack’s impressive win in the Grade 1 Long Walk Hurdle, JOLLY’S CRACKED IT made it a ‘Christmas cracker’ at Ascot on Saturday when dead-heating with Sternrubin in the Ladbroke. Harry Fry’s charge was highly tried as a novice hurdler last term and boasted some solid form, especially at Ascot. His reappearance run at the Berkshire venue in a Listed handicap hurdle was a good effort but I was always under the impression that Fry had left himself a bit to work with and the horse proved me right on Saturday with a career best effort. I expect this 6-year-old to remain over timber for the remainder of the season before his attentions will be switched to fences in the autumn where I advise that he will be one to follow. He is a horse with the size and scope to make a chaser and therefore, I expect that he will take high-rank in the novice chase division next term.
KILLULTAGH VIC was sent off the long odds-on favourite for the opening novices’ chase at Fairyhouse on Saturday and he justified his position at the head of the market with an easy 15 length success. Given that the race was run over an inadequate trip for this Willie Mullins-trained gelding, it was most definitely his class that prevailed on this occasion and with no disrespect to his ten rivals, this was nothing more than a schooling session. There is no doubt that stiffer opposition awaits this Grade 1-winning novice hurdler, but he couldn’t have been any more impressive on his chasing debut and I expect him to take a rise in class in his stride. He beat Thistlecrack at the Punchestown Festival at the end of last season and with that horse already winning twice this season, the form looks rock solid. Already a winner at the Cheltenham Festival when winning last season’s Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys Handicap Hurdle, I hope that he will return to that venue in March with a live chance in either the JLT or RSA Novices’ Chase.
Willie Mullins also won the 3-year-old maiden hurdle on the same card with Allblak Des Places but it was the runner-up OUTSPOKEN who earned his place in this week’s notebook. He looked a huge danger to the odds-on winner before blundering at the final obstacle and that mistake cost him any chance of upsetting the favourite. He kept on at the same pace on the run-in, unable to get to the winner but 21 lengths clear of the remainder. Based on this evidence, this ex-flat racer should have no problem in shedding his maiden tag in a similar event.
With the festive period around the corner and the entries on Sunday looking nothing more than average, I didn’t expect any horses to enter the notebook. However, ARTICULUM, the runner-up in the concluding bumper at Thurles, was the one horse who got the juices flowing late in the day. A winner of his sole point in March, he contested an above average bumper at Punchestown in April, where he finished third behind two subsequent winners in Champers On Ice and First Figaro. On Sunday, he travelled within himself until the home straight, where he was ridden to keep tabs on the leaders with two furlongs to race. The manner in which he stayed on inside the final furlong was particularly pleasing and this is a horse that has plenty of scope to make-up into a useful jumper. At the age of five, he already looks an embryonic chaser and that will definitely be his game when the time comes. However, with an imminent switch to timber predicted, he is one to follow in novice hurdles. Also, as he is not associated with one of the leading stables, he is likely to be underestimated in the betting.
Finally, many thanks to everyone who has supported The Final Flight Publications during 2015; the response to our first publication has been overwhelming. I hope that you all continue to enjoy my weekly notebook during 2016 and that you have a very Merry Christmas!