THE FINAL FLIGHT NOTEBOOK jan 1st to 10th 2016

by The Final Flight Team

3/8/2016 1:04:41 PM

Friday 1st January - Sunday 10th January 2016

Due to the limited amount of racing over the last 7 days, and taking into account that my festive notebook only covered up until the end of December, I have decided to look back as far as New Year’s Day for this edition of my notebook.


I was particularly pleased with the performance of Champers On Ice at Newbury at the end of November and he backed up that run with another solid display on New Year’s Day when winning the Neptune Investment Novices’ Hurdle under a penalty. Arguably his main danger, Captain Chaos, was below par on the day but this David Pipe-trained gelding showed grit and determination to deny Allysson Monterg by a neck, giving the runner-up 10lbs in the process. I expect that there is further improvement to come when this son of Robin Des Champs tackles three miles and taking that into account, the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle at this year’s Cheltenham Festival is certain to be his spring target.  


A somewhat frustrating horse who had previously failed to open his account over hurdles in five starts. However, a new year meant a change of fortune for Emerging Talent as he shed his maiden tag at Exeter on New Year’s Day, winning the 2m1f maiden hurdle by 8 lengths. This was a step down in class after finishing in the frame in Graded races last term and for that reason, I wouldn’t be getting too carried away with his potential as a hurdler. He is an embryonic chaser and I expect that he will embark on a novice chase campaign in the near future, where I advise that he is well worth following.   


This Graham Wylie-owned gelding made a smooth transition to timber when running out an impressive winner of a 2m4f maiden hurdle at Punchestown last month. Willie Mullins selected the Grade 1 Tolworth Novices’ Hurdle as his next assignment which meant dropping back to the minimum distance for his first try in Graded Company, albeit in extremely testing conditions. This 6-year-old son of Presenting jumped neatly, travelled beautifully on the bridle throughout and although he perhaps didn’t win in the manner that he had threatened, his easy defeat of 145-rated O O Seven certainly proved that he is a talented animal. The big question to be answered is his Cheltenham Festival target and that is far from a simple answer. He clearly stays further than the two miles that he encountered on this occasion, but he also has plenty of speed too. Expect the decision about his big-race target to be made much closer to the day but given that his connections are also responsible for Bellshill, I would opt for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle.      


A top-class bumper horse during the 2014/2015 campaign, Bellshill has also made a successful start to his hurdling career, recording his third win in as many starts in the Grade 1 Novices’ Hurdle at Naas on 3rd January. Having already proved himself at the highest level over two and a half miles, I see little reason to complicate matters and I expect that he will take his chance in the Neptune Novices’ Hurdle in March. A lack of concentration in the closing stages on his latest start meant that he made mistakes at the final two obstacles and this is something that he can ill afford in the Neptune. However, his jumping on the whole is more than satisfactory and I am certain that there is no reason for concern.  


This half-brother to Saphir Du Rheu put his two below-par efforts last term well behind him on his seasonal reappearance at Newbury in November and for that reason, I expected a bold bid in the Lanzarote Handicap Hurdle at Kempton on Saturday. He only managed third on this occasion but the fact that he was racing off a 4lb higher mark and also that he was the only horse from off the pace to mount a serious challenge, I rate this run as another step in the right direction. There is no doubt that anything this gelding achieves over hurdles is a bonus and although he still appears reasonably treated in that sphere, he looks to have the size and scope to make-up into an even better chaser. 

The week in brief

The concluding bumper at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day was not one that I was particularly excited about pre-race but there was plenty to take from the British debut of CAPELAND who made a winning start to his career on these shores, landing the spoils in pretty taking fashion. Having been held up for the majority of the race, Sam Twiston-Davies sat motionlessly aboard this 4-year-old as they turned into the straight before unleashing his mount with what proved to be a winning run up the stamina sapping hill. His pedigree suggests that he is certain to make his mark over obstacles and given that he clearly has plenty of ability, he is a horse with a bright future.

I was interested to see how Value At Risk fared on his second start over fences after he tipped up on his eagerly awaited chasing debut at Newbury at the Hennessy meeting. Unfortunately, he got no further than the second at Huntingdon on Wednesday and although I was delighted to hear that he was fine, he now has a bit to prove in this sphere. DRUMACOO was completely the opposite as he raced up with the pace and jumped superbly throughout. Having achieved a respectable rating of 136 over hurdles, this Ben Pauling-trained gelding was making his seasonal and chasing debut here and with headgear applied, he routed his rivals by 38 lengths. Assuming that the runner-up Fletchers Flyer was short of his best on this occasion, it is probably best to not take this form too literally but there is no doubt that Drumacoo rates an exciting recruit to the larger obstacles and a step-up in class awaits this talented 7-year-old son of Oscar.

After finishing second in last season’s Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle, BOUVREUIL was somewhat disappointing in his three subsequent runs. He bounced right back to form when claiming the scalp of Nicky Henderson’s talented grey Vyta Du Roc in the two mile three furlong novices’ chase at Doncaster on Friday, on only his second start over the larger obstacles. He was thrown in at the deep end on his chasing debut in the Grade 1 Henry VIII Novices’ Chase at Sandown and that allowed him to gain valuable experience which he used to his advantage here. Given that this Paul Nicholls-trained gelding was rated 13lb lower than the runner-up over hurdles, I rate this as an excellent performance and I feel that this horse has plenty more to offer as a chaser. As long as he is none the worse for his exertions, I predict that he will return to the same venue for the Grade 2 Lightning Novices’ Chase, a race that Nicholls won with Woolcombe Folly in 2010.

Nicholls and Twiston-Davies doubled up on the card as LE PREZIEN landed the odds in the two mile novices’ hurdle by a comfortable 19 lengths. Since finishing second to Alan King’s smart novice Yanworth, Le Prezien hasn’t put a foot wrong in his two subsequent starts and has proved that he has plenty of ability. I have to admit that there was little depth to this race but Nicholls’ gelding barely had to break sweat as he sauntered up the Doncaster run-in and it was difficult to not be pleased with the visual impression that he created. Following this win under a penalty here, he will need to step-up in grade and although he is unlikely to reach the summit of the novice hurdling division, he is a horse that I want to keep on my side for the future.  

RACING PULSE showed plenty of ability over hurdles when in the care of John Quinn but had been bitterly disappointing in his two starts over fences since switching to Rebecca Curtis’ stable. For that reason, he was allowed to race off a mark of 130 (9lb lower than his hurdles mark) on his handicap debut in the three mile novices’ handicap chase at Chepstow on Saturday. He appears a relentless galloper and the step-up in trip here suited him perfectly as he got the better of Subtle Grey in what can be described as nothing better than atrocious conditions. It was well publicised that Curtis’ string had been out of sorts, so his much-improved effort may have been down to that and he recaptured something near his best to defy his opening mark. Racing Pulse proved that he handles heavy ground here and on the back of a solid display, I can confidently say that he has a bright future in the staying handicap chase division.  

Plenty of speculation regarding the form of Paul Nicholls’ string rumoured the racing world at the back-end of 2015 but he has made an excellent start to the new year and ADRIEN DU PONT gave him his first Grade 1 winner of the current season in the Future Champions Finale Juvenile Hurdle at Chepstow on Saturday. There is no doubt that Adrien Du Pont is an extremely exciting horse for the future but he had already shown a good level of form over timber when beating Sceau Royal on his British debut before finishing behind that rival at Cheltenham on his latest outing and he enhanced his lofty reputation with his 2 ¾ length victory here. He had to fight off the intentions of Chic Name in the closing stages and it was pleasing that his jumping held up well when it mattered. He put himself firmly in the Triumph Hurdle picture after making it two from three over timber but taking into account that this was a weak Grade 1 event, I get the feeling that he will come up short when facing stiffer opposition. 

YALA ENKI created a good impression on his second start for Venetia Williams when routing his rivals at Exeter, before finishing a respectable fifth in the Fixed Brush Handicap Hurdle at Haydock. Williams selected the Lanzarote Handicap Hurdle at Kempton as his next assignment and after racing keenly throughout the early stages, he ran out an impressive winner under an enterprising ride by Charlie Deutsch. Taking into account the excitement that he displayed during the race, he proved that he has a serious engine and a good attitude to deny the late challenge of Westren Warrior and Ibis Du Rheu. He defied a mark of 130 on this occasion and I expect that there is further progress in this son of Nickname, especially if his talented handler can teach him to settle.

Since his exciting British debut at Punchestown in December, MIN has arguably been the most talked about horse in National Hunt racing and he was out to further enhance his Supreme Novices’ Hurdle claims in the Grade 2 Moscow Flyer Novices’ Hurdle at the same venue on Saturday. He did just that with an authoritative display, toying with his rivals upon entering the home straight, before showing a devastating turn of foot to put the race to bed in a matter of strides. Many punters appear to have taken fancy prices about this son of Walk In The Park but I have to confess that I have no financial interest in this gelding at all. However, I have been blown away with the talent that Min clearly possess and I think that he will take the world of beating in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at this year’s festival. He looks to have all of the attributes required to land the festival curtain raiser; a good temperament, an accurate jumping technique and plenty of tactical speed. His current ante-post price makes absolutely no appeal but if he is successful then the bookies will be running for cover, as I predict that another memorable opening day for Mullins and Ruby Walsh is on the cards.

After a promising start to his hurdling career when third behind Anibale Fly at Navan in December, SUTTON PLACE was sent off the odds-on favourite for the concluding bumper at Fairyhouse on Sunday and he made no mistake in landing the odds in fine style. He travelled extremely well under Jonathan Moore and although he showed inexperience when asked to mount a challenge, he picked up nicely inside the final furlong and won with plenty in hand. He looks a big raw horse who is likely to benefit from a summer at grass but he clearly has plenty of ability. I expect Gordon Elliott to give him a light campaign in bumpers to protect his novice status over hurdles and he is one to follow when his attentions are switched back to jumping.