3/8/2016 1:10:23 PM
Monday 25th January - Sunday 31st January 2016
BITOFAPUZZLE – TOP PROSPECT
This Harry Fry-trained mare made an impressive start to her chasing career when bolting up at Exeter in December before unseating her rider at Thurles on her second start. On that evidence, she looked a contender for the Grade 2 Towton Novices’ Chase at Wetherby on Saturday. However, after being ridden handily in the early stages, she weakened tamely from four out, eventually pulling up. It was reported that Bitofapuzzle had a breathing issue here and if that is the case, she is likely to be pencilled in for surgery on her wind shortly. On the back of this display, I advise that she is best watched but I do remain hopeful that she is capable of fulfilling her potential in the chasing sphere.
DANGEROUS GAMES – POINT-TO-POINTER
Since finishing second behind a useful prospect in his sole point, Dangerous Games has failed to fire under rules and the fact that this latest effort where he finished seventh at Naas on Sunday was a step in the right direction proves that. After being ridden patiently in the rear on all of his starts under rules, this son of Scorpion definitely has a future in handicaps and his connections have plotted him perfectly to ensure that he is given a competitive opening mark. I will be interested to see the handicap mark that he is allotted but assuming that he is given a mark around 100, he should be capable of winning an ordinary handicap hurdle.
DELOITTE NOVICES’ HURDLE (GRADE 1) 2m2f
Last weekend saw this year’s publication responsible for the first three home in the Neptune Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham and I expected a bold showing from both BELLSHILL and PETIT MOUCHOIR in the Grade 1 Deloitte Novices’ Hurdle at Leopardstown on Saturday. Unfortunately both horses underperformed and it was the unexposed Bleu Et Rouge who after finishing fourth at the same venue in December took a good step forward to record an impressive three length victory, turning the tables with runner-up Tombstone. Bellshill was sent off the 4/6 favourite and ultimately failed to fire. A bad mistake at the first summed up his afternoon and I was disappointed by the manner in which he dropped away so tamely. I certainly hope that something comes to light else he is likely to fall short at the highest level when contesting the novices’ hurdles at the spring festivals. Petit Mouchoir previously split Tombstone and Bleu Et Rouge in the Future Champions Novices’ Hurdle in December, but couldn’t back that run up here and finished a well beaten fourth. On the back of this display, I feel that his future now lies in handicaps and assuming that the handicapper drops him a few pounds, he is one to consider for a festival handicap hurdle, where a strong gallop is sure to suit.
The week in brief
CLONDAW BISTO won a Kirkistown 4-year-old maiden on his only start in the pointing sphere and after being subsequently sold for £22,000, he made his rules debut for Suzy Smith in the concluding bumper at Plumpton on Monday. After hitting the front from a long way out, he stayed on gamely up the run-in to record an 8 length success. Although this was nothing more than an ordinary bumper, I was particularly taken by the attitude of this gelding and he looks to a have a bright future as a jumper.
The Openbet Novices’ Hurdle contested over two miles at Taunton on Tuesday looked a particularly strong contest on paper and I expect that the winner, BLOODY MARY will turn out to be above average. A five-time bumper winner in France before landing a minor hurdle at Auteuil on his final start for his old connections, this 5-year-old mare made a winning start for her new connections. Now trained by Nicky Henderson for leading owner JP McManus, Bloody Mary travelled powerfully in the hands of Barry Geraghty turning in and although she had to be ridden right out to win by 2 ¼ lengths, I expect that a step-up in trip is likely to bring out significant improvement. I understand that she is held in high-regard by her handler and the Dawn Run Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival ought to be on her agenda.
Another Nicky Henderson-trained inmate caught my eye at Ludlow on Wednesday, this time in the form of 5-year-old gelding DIVINE SPEAR. Runner-up behind a useful prospect on his hurdling debut when far too keen, he didn’t need to improve to land this weaker contest but the manner in which he recorded this five length success was enough to earn his place in this week’s notebook. Taking into account his physical presence and that he is closely related to useful chaser Jadanli, I regard this son of Oscar as a smashing chasing prospect when he switches to the larger obstacles. He should be followed in that sphere but it wouldn’t be a surprise if he was able to land a decent prize over timber in the meantime.
CHALONNIAL, a half-brother to three winners including the smart Activial made a lovely start to his career with a commanding success at Wincanton on Thursday. Trained by Harry Fry, this gelding was ridden handily and after taking-up the running with three furlongs to race, he showed that he possesses plenty of raw ability to quicken away from a decent looking field and record a five length victory. He showed a lack of experience in the closing stages, but that gives me further confidence that he is an excellent prospect for the future and one that is definitely worth keeping on side.
I highlighted OUR THOMAS in a previous notebook and he deserves a mention once more after finishing second to the John Ferguson-trained Jaleo at Catterick on Friday. I was impressed with the ability that he showed at Wetherby when third behind two useful prospects and he showed a similar level of form on this latest outing. As mentioned before, he could be the ideal type for the Fred Winter Juvenile Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival but in terms of long-term objectives, I hope that he will progress into a useful staying chase prospect. It is highly likely his connections will look to exploit the 4-year-old allowance in novices’ chases in the autumn and he is definitely a horse that I will be keeping a close eye on.
On the same Catterick card, DOUBLE W’S was extremely unlucky to not shed his maiden tag in the two mile three furlong novices’ hurdle after being badly hampered at the seventh obstacle and failing to reel in the winner, Wade Harper. Having looked to have no chance after being interfered with, it was encouraging that he finished so strongly and on this evidence, he is certainly capable of winning a similar event. However, given that he is currently rated 121, I hope that connections will switch back to handicaps as I think that he is on a lenient mark and has the ability to score in decent company.
CONNETABLE finished behind the Alan King-trained Gibralfaro when making his British debut for Paul Nicholls at Ascot in January, but he made amends for that defeat when landing the Contenders Hurdle at Sandown on Saturday, beating the consistent Rayvin Black and last season’s Triumph Hurdle winner, Peace And Co. Although he was in receipt of weight due to being the only 4-year-old in the race, Connetable took a marked step forward here and announced himself as a genuine Triumph Hurdle hope in the process. Obviously he further enhanced the prospects of Gibralfaro with this victory and in my opinion, both deserve to take their chance in the juvenile showpiece.
The Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase was a competitive event on paper and it lived up to expectations with both BRISTOL DE MAI and TEA FOR TWO earning their place in this week’s notebook for different reasons. The former is renowned for his bold jumping technique and Nigel Twiston-Davies’ put his rivals to the sword with another exceptional display. Since an early season defeat to Garde La Victoire, his only blemish is a Grade 1 second place behind Ar Mad but since stepping-up in trip, he has showed drastic improvement. It appears that all roads now lead to the Cheltenham Festival and the Grade 1 JLT Novices’ Chase. I have slight concerns over the likely quicker ground conditions that he will encounter in the spring but there is no doubt that he has plenty of ability and in my opinion, he is one of the most exciting chasers in training. The Nick Williams-trained Tea For Two landed the Grade 1 Kauto Star Novices’ Chase on his latest outing and although I expected that the drop back in trip was far from ideal, a mistake at pond fence ultimately sealed his fate. Other than that error, he jumped well and remains a high-class novice. A return to three miles will be right up his street and although he appears to be better going right handed, he has the ability to feature in the RSA Novices’ Chase at the Cheltenham Festival. I spoke with Liz Kelly after the race and she was pleased with his performance stating “he handled it very, very well. Other than the one mistake, he handled it like a professional and he doesn’t feel like a novice at all”.
NATIVE RIVER was an impressive winner of a Grade 2 at Newbury two starts back and although he was last of the three finishers at Wetherby on Saturday in the Grade 2 Towton Novices’ Chase, I still rate him as an ideal type for the National Hunt Chase over four miles. He has shown this season that he is a dour stayer and given that the ground conditions were perhaps on the soft side, I hope that he can re-capture his form in the spring. His jumping is a real asset, something that will stand him in good stead at the festival and assuming that he is on the leader’s tails turning in, there is unlikely to be many horses staying on better than Colin Tizzard’s talented gelding.
The Grade 1 Spring Juvenile Hurdle has been a tremendous guide to the Triumph Hurdle in recent years and this year’s renewal is certain to produce plenty of winners, with LET’S DANCE being the one to take out of the race. Although she reversed the form with Ivanovich Gorbatov on this occasion, she still failed to land the prize, finishing 2 ¾ lengths behind Footpad in third. However, I was most taken by the attitude that she showed once headed and that is a trait that I admire. She rallied well in the closing stages to remain within touching distance of the front pair and taking everything into account, I hope that the Triumph Hurdle will be an ideal test of stamina.
JOSHUA LANE has showed some decent form in handicap hurdles recently and once again ran well without winning in that company at Leopardstown on Saturday. He once again bumped into a couple of well-handicapped rivals in the form of Blazer and Mighty Concorde and assuming that he can continue to progress, I expect that he will get his head in front in the near future.
Having showed some decent form in his two previous bumper starts, including finishing fourth in a race at Fairyhouse where the form is particularly strong (first three have won since), SUNNI MAY got a deserved success in the concluding bumper at Leopardstown on Saturday. After travelling powerfully throughout, he picked up well inside the final furlong to score by a comfortable 1 ¾ lengths. Although I rate the runner-up, Some Neck as slightly disappointing, I have been impressed with the Jessica Harrington-trained Sunni May up to this point and I expect that he will be a useful prospect when switched to timber next term.
It was a shame that Musselburgh’s trials day didn’t attract larger fields but there was still a couple of notable performances including TOMMY SILVER’S impressive victory in the Scottish Triumph Hurdle Trial. His second placed effort behind fellow Triumph Hurdle hope Fixe Le Kap has recently been franked and therefore, it was not surprise to see him make light work of his four rivals. His class shone through here and with further improvement likely, it is difficult to rule out this Paul Nicholls-trained gelding in what looks like an open Triumph Hurdle.
CARDINAL WALTER made a positive return to action in the Scottish County Hurdle, finishing a staying on third behind Shrewd. Nicky Henderson’s gelding was last seen in a Grade 2 at Aintree in April where he was far from disgraced and on this evidence, he looks feasibly treated off a mark of 139. He was understandably keen throughout this belated return to action and after using so much energy early on, it was pleasing that he put in his best work at the finish. Taking into account that his only try beyond two miles ended in success at Doncaster last season, I hope that this talented gelding has plenty more to offer when tackling longer trips and the Coral Cup over two and a half miles looks the ideal spring target.
It took until the third race at Naas on Sunday for me to get really excited this week and that was thanks to FAIRLY LEGAL’S victory in the two mile and three furlong maiden hurdle. After racing prominently throughout, this 6-year-old son of Beneficial travelled supremely well in the hands of Barry Geraghty and took-up the lead at the second last. After jumping the final flight, Geraghty pushed his mount out on the run-in to record a very easy ½ length success, beating the useful Call It Magic with any amount in hand. This gelding clearly has plenty of talent, but given that both his trainer Robert Tyner and Geraghty regard him as ‘a lovely long-term chasing type’, I wouldn’t be surprised if he was carefully campaigned for the remainder of this season. I expect that he will be an excellent recruit to the larger obstacles and I hope that he can reach the summit of the chasing game.
I was firstly mortified to see BLOOD CRAZED TIGER get beaten in the concluding bumper at Naas on Sunday, but I was equally disappointed to see many people on social media describing him as ‘a dog’. Firstly, the winner A Genie In Abottle is a useful prospect in his own right and therefore, the fact that this 5-year-old got within ½ a length after being ridden a long way off the pace was extremely promising. Granted, Blood Crazed Tiger did get to the winner’s hind quarters on the run-in and un-gamely didn’t go past, but he used plenty of energy to get to the leaders in the straight and I believe that this son of King’s Theatre has a bright future. It doesn’t take an expert eye to notice that this gelding has a serious amount of size and scope and chasing is certain to be his game. However, I for one will not be surprised if he progresses into a smart recruit to the hurdling ranks next term and I certainly hope that he proves his doubters wrong.