3/8/2016 12:21:12 PM
Monday 9th – Sunday 15th November 2015
Deputy Dan – HANDICAPPER
This Oliver Sherwood-trained gelding looked an exciting recruit to the novice chase ranks last season following his good second in the 2014 Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle, only to disappoint on a number of occasions, particularly in the jumping department. However, following reports that he had suffered physical problems, he resumed this season as horse who I felt was feasibly handicapped and made his seasonal reappearance at Carlisle on Monday. Unfortunately, he failed to complete for a second successive run, falling at the tenth fence when still in touch. Given his overall profile and the fact that he jumped with more encouragement than was often the case last term, I feel that he remains a horse to follow in staying handicap chases and has the ability to land a decent prize at some stage during the 2015/2016 campaign.
Shantou Village – TOP PROSPECT
Following his impressive hurdling debut at Carlisle, I was expecting Shantou Village to be stepped-up in class and it was quickly decided that the Neptune trial at Cheltenham’s Open meeting was his intended target. With only four runners declared for the Grade 2 contest, I was slightly concerned by the lack of pace in the race, however, Tom Scudamore aboard Champers On Ice ensured that there was a reasonable gallop and this meant that Shantou Village was able to settle nicely in the early stages of the race. He jumped fluently throughout, a trait that is certain to stand him in good stead when encountering a bigger field, taking it up 2 out under a confident looking Noel Fehily. When asked to quicken turning into the straight, the response was instant and he easily put a distance between himself and his rivals, scoring by an impressive 15 lengths. He still looked green after jumping the final flight of hurdles, therefore further improvement can be expected from this 5-year-old son of Shantou and the Neptune Novices’ Hurdle at the festival is now a realistic possibility. He appears to possess plenty of speed but being a point-to-point winner, he does not lack stamina so that opens up the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle as another option in the spring. It is understood that he will return to Cheltenham for Festival Trials Day in January, a race that is likely to help decide his festival target according to his trainer, Neil Mullholland. Based on the evidence of his three runs under rules to date, he is a horse with an extremely bright future and is one to really look forward to.
Champers On Ice – TOP PROSPECT
A winner of a Punchestown bumper in April, Champers On Ice made his hurdling debut at Cheltenham in the Neptune trial on Friday. He came into the race with a lofty reputation following his bumper success and he was far from disgraced, finishing second behind impressive winner, Shantou Village. A winner of his sole point, David Pipe’s gelding ought to improve for a step up in trip and I expect connections to target him at a 3m novices’ hurdle next. An observation following the weekend’s action at Cheltenham was that a number of Pipe’s horses failed to finish off their races after travelling powerfully into the straight. As a result of this, some of his horses are likely to be over priced on their next outing and Champers On Ice could be one of them so be ready to take advantage.
Knock House – HANDICAPPER
This Mick Channon-trained gelding made a pleasing seasonal reappearance at Fakenham when bumping into another well-handicapped horse, Dan Skelton’s Open Hearted. Although his best runs came over intermediate trips last season, I always expected this horse to progress further when tackling three miles and I was therefore not surprised to see him entered in the concluding race on day one of the Open meeting at Cheltenham – a three mile one furlong handicap chase. He was given a patient ride by Nina Carberry, travelling smoothly on the outside of the field going down the hill on the final circuit. He took up the running after jumping the final obstacle, idling on the run-in, eventually scoring by ½ a length. Although he remains unexposed at the three mile trip, I predicted this horse to reach an official rating of 145 and following his success here, it is likely that the handicapper will give him a 7lb penalty, raising him to a mark of 147. He may prove tough to place off such a high handicap mark but I would not be at all surprised if he is good enough to win another similar event in the coming months.
Un Temps Pour Tout – TOP PROSPECT
French Champion Hurdle winner Un Temps Pour Tout has always had the scope to make-up into a fine chaser and he made his eagerly awaited chase debut at Cheltenham on Saturday. On paper, it looked his race to lose and after a satisfactory round of jumping it was slightly disappointing that he was unable to get the better of the Paul Nicholls-trained Vicente. However, he is entitled to come on for his seasonal reappearance and for that reason I have faith that he will turn the form with the winner if they cross paths in the future. His hurdles rating of 163 means that he is one of the highest rated hurdlers to go chasing this season and given his ideal racing conditions (soft/heavy ground) he can prove well worth following this winter.
Sausalito Sunrise – HANDICAPPER
Twice a runner-up to Kings Palace last season, Philip Hobbs’ gelding looked to be on a reasonable handicap mark for the 2015/16 season. I was left bitterly disappointed after his seasonal reappearance at Chepstow last month when he stopped very quickly after appearing full of running when travelling into the straight. It was reported that nothing had come to light post-race and he took up his engagement in the 3m3f handicap chase at Cheltenham on Saturday. He was sent off a fancied 7/1 chance for the race but it was far from plain sailing for his supporters as he made a number of errors on the way around. However, his mishaps in the jumping department seemed to take little out of him as he was still going well when he hit the front on the home turn. After jumping the last, he idled, meaning that he was value for more than the winning distance of 1 ¼ lengths suggests and he is a horse that I feel has plenty more to offer in the staying chase division. He ultimately could be better than a handicapper but following this success, I expect his connections to consider a tilt at the Hennessy Gold Cup at the end of the month. If that race comes too soon then the Welsh National in late December is a possibility, a race which will require him to dig deep into his stamina reserves.
Cogry – HANDICAPPER
This horse is another who features in ‘The Final Flight Jumps Guide’ as a handicapper to follow and he also contested the 3m3f handicap chase at Cheltenham on Saturday. Unlike Sausalito Sunrise who had the benefit of a recent run, Cogry was making his seasonal reappearance in this race and although he has a good record fresh, I expect him to come on plenty for the run. Ryan Hatch gave this Nigel Twiston-Davies-trained runner a patient ride, sitting midfield throughout the majority of the race and making steady progress at the business end of the contest. He eventually finished a staying on fourth, possibly not able to go with the leaders when the tempo increased and based on this evidence, he is definitely one to keep on side this winter in staying handicap chases. I expect him to be targeted at the Welsh National next month where the extra two furlongs will suit and the likely ground conditions (heavy) will be no problem at all. His long-term aim could well be the Grand National itself but seen as he is only a 6-year-old, I expect Twiston-Davies to mind him carefully.
Theatre Territory – POINT-TO-POINTER
An impressive winner of a competitive point-to-point, this mare was subsequently purchased for £200,000 by Robert Waley-Cohen and switched to Nicky Henderson’s Seven Barrows stable. Given the impression that she created when winning her point-to-point, I was excited to see her declared for the concluding bumper at Cheltenham on Saturday, a Listed contest for fillies and mares. As expected, she travelled powerfully throughout the race, with jockey Sam Waley-Cohen finding himself in the lead at the bottom of the hill. However, the eventual winner Copper Kay was on her tail, travelling much the better and Theatre Territory appeared to lack the speed to go with the impressive winner, eventually finishing a promising third. I expect this race to throw up a number of winners in the coming months and therefore Theatre Territory rates as a smart recruit to novice hurdles. The programme for mares has improved over the last couple of seasons meaning that there are plenty of decent prizes on offer and I would be disappointed if this mare isn’t good enough to win one or two of them.
Garde La Victoire – TOP PROSPECT
Rated as one of Britain’s leading Arkle hopes, I fully expected Garde La Victoire to step-up on what he achieved at Uttoxeter last month and land the Arkle trial at Cheltenham on Sunday. It was not as simple as I expected for the Philip Hobbs-trained gelding as he scored in rather workmanlike fashion after having to be being pushed along to get to the long-time leader, Fox Norton. Once he hit the front he always looked like he would see off the attentions of his rivals in the closing stages and his excellent attitude is a trait that I cannot help but admire. The most pleasing thing about his run on Sunday was that he jumped much better than on his debut, where he failed to give his fences enough respect and assuming he can continue to improve in that department, he has scope to improve further in this sphere. He is a sizeable individual who I expect takes his races well and for that reason, I assume Hobbs will get plenty of experience into him before the spring. The Henry VIII Novices’ Chase at Sandown next month is a likely target where he could face fellow Arkle contender L’ami Serge.
Bellshill – TOP PROSPECT
The best of the Willie Mullins-trained runners in the Champion Bumper at the Cheltenham Festival when only tenth, Bellshill did nothing but improve, with a win in the Punchestown Festival easily the highlight of his season. He made a low-key start to his hurdling career when running out an easy winner of a Maiden Hurdle at Cork on Sunday and he remains as an exciting prospect now switched to timber. Given the opposition, he did what he was expected but it is very difficult to knock his debut performance. Other than a sketchy jump at the first obstacle, I was impressed with his jumping display, something that will stand him in good stead when he tackles better company. I expect him to be stepped-up in class following this debut success, however, with the number of novice hurdlers that Mullins has in his powerful string, it is extremely difficult to highlight a definite target at this stage. I think that he will prove pretty versatile trip wise which will make it easier for his handler and with his size and scope, I would not be surprised if he shows more improvement when he tackles a longer trip.
The week in brief
It looks like Paul Nicholls will have a strong team of novice chasers during the 2015/2016 campaign but it was second season chaser Salubrious that created a good impression in the Graduation Chase at Carlisle on Monday. Returning from a 13-month absence, where his first and only start over the larger obstacles was a winning one, Salubrious settled nicely in the hands of Sam Twiston-Davies, jumping with the sort of fluency that you expect from a seasoned chaser and given the time off the track, he won in pretty taking fashion. He understandably got tired after jumping the last but seen as the front pair pulled well clear of the third, this form can be taken seriously. He appeared to appreciate the step up to three miles after his win over two miles and five furlongs on chase debut and I expect this horse to continue to improve over the fences.
It was another Paul Nicholls-trained horse who earned his place in the notebook at Taunton on Thursday, this time in the form of Champion Bumper runner-up Modus. He was making his stable/hurdling debut after last season’s exploits in the championship bumpers and he made a very pleasing return to action, scoring in impressive style by 3 ¾ lengths in the 2m3f novices’ hurdle. He jumped extremely well throughout the contest before he showed a scorching turn of foot to bound clear of his rivals. Given the level of form that he has already shown, he has the ability to go right to the top over timber and is another horse that his connections should be really excited about.
Unbeaten since arriving from France, Vroum Vroum Mag was fancied to make it 6 out of 6 over fences in the Grade 3 Mares Chase at Clonmel on Thursday and she duly obliged, landing the odds by a comfortable 7 ½ lengths. At some stage, I expect her connections to take on the geldings with this talented mare and on what she has shown so far, she has the ability to make her presence felt in better company. She hold entries in the Hennessy Gold Cup later this month as well as the Cheltenham Gold Cup so that alone tells you how highly regarded this mare is. She is currently rated 153 so given the opportunity, she would warrant serious respect for a race like the Hennessy.
Neil Mullholland trained Shantou Village to success in the Grade 2 novices’ hurdle on the first day of Cheltenham’s Open meeting but he was previously unlucky to not land the opening race on the same day with Minella Present finishing a close second in the handicap chase over two miles. He had far from a smooth passage throughout the race which possibly cost him victory on this occasion but he has a progressive looking profile and remains a handicapper that is well worth following.
I remember the day when More Of That made his racecourse debut at Folkestone, sent off the unfancied 20/1 third choice in the betting under Richie McLernon with AP McCoy opting to ride the Warren Greatrex-trained Westward Point. I knew that day that I had witnessed an above-average horse but I was already dreaming of the day that this fellow would tackle the larger obstacles and Friday was the day for the long-awaited chase debut of the 2014 World Hurdle winner. Following a disappointing reappearance at Newbury last season, this Jonjo O’Neill-trained gelding clearly had questions to answer but in my opinion, as long as his breathing issues had been resolved, he was impossible to oppose. For a chase debutant, he put in a satisfactory round of jumping and it was great to see him back in rude health after a frustrating 2014/2015 campaign. He quickened away nicely to score by a comfortable 2 ½ lengths and in doing so confirmed himself as a lively RSA contender. The step back up to three miles is sure to suit this 7-year-old son of Beneficial and I am quietly confident that he can add the RSA to his World Hurdle success in the spring.
I was delighted with Theatre Territory’s debut in the Mares Listed bumper on Saturday which means that the first two home deserve a mention in this week’s notebook. Copper Kay came into the race with a solid fourth in a Listed contest at Sandown and she used her experience to full advantage, running out an impressive 4 ½ length winner. Which One Is Which made a memorable racecourse debut at Uttoxeter in June and proved that she is a lovely long-term prospect when staying on strongly in the closing stages to finish second. Like Theatre Territory, both of these horses rate as exciting prospects when switched to timber and I expect them to be contesting the best novices’ hurdles against their own sex this season. The first three in this bumper are all likely to appreciate a step up in trip in time with Which One Is Which most likely to begin her jumping career over intermediate trips.
Outlander and Free Expression took each other on in the beginners chase at Punchestown on Saturday and although he finished second, it was the latter who caught my eye with some fantastic leaps on the way around. He had reportedly schooled exceptionally well and Gordon Elliott’s gelding would arguably have made a winning start over the larger obstacles but for being interfered with before the second last. However, he lost little in defeat and I expect him to waste no time in shedding his maiden tag over fences before stepping up in grade.
Outstanding steeplechaser Sprinter Sacre make a sensational reappearance in the Shloer Chase at Cheltenham on Sunday and in doing so, enhanced his chances of regaining the Champion Chase crown. Out of sorts since pulling-up at Kempton with an irregular heartbeat, Nicky Henderson’s 9-year-old travelled with all of his old exuberance under Nico de Boinville and showed a superb turn of foot to bound clear up the hill to score in facile fashion. Yes, the conditions of the race where in his favour but the manner in which he jumped throughout, especially at the fourth last where he was huge, gives me plenty of confidence that the Sprinter Sacre of old is back and I, like many others sincerely hope that this is the case. Although it was stated that he was ready to run, I expect that there is still some improvement to come and with that in mind, he will take the world of beating in what looks a below-par two-mile division. On the same card, Ballyandy won the fiercely competitive Listed bumper for Nigel and Sam Twiston-Davies and he looks a horse with a bright future once sent jumping. His trainer made the comment that they have always thought that he was very special and even mentioned him in the same breath as Cheltenham Gold Cup winner, Imperial Commander – very high praise indeed. He is only a 4-year-old so it remains to be seen whether his connections decide to switch him to the hurdling ranks this year or remain in bumpers but whichever route they take, he is one to follow.
Champion Hurdle winner Faugheen whose record read a perfect 10 out of 10 returned to action on Sunday in the Morgiana Hurdle at Punchestown and the racing world was stunned as Nichols Canyon beat him fair and square. The four-time Grade 1-winning novice hurdler has always been held in high-regard by his handler and following this result, he looks a lively Champion Hurdle contender. Although Sunday’s result will give the connections of other Champion Hurdle contenders hope, I still rate Faugheen as the most likely winner in March and bookmakers may have acted slightly prematurely pushing him out to as big as 15/8. It will be interesting if anything comes to light as Faugheen did hang throughout the contest, suggesting that there may be a slight physical problem. Assuming that Willie Mullins confirms that he is A1 then I fully expect him to regain the winning thread and prove himself as the best two-mile hurdler in training.
Commeragh Trix was sent off an unfancied 33/1 shot for her debut at Cork on Sunday but created a very good impression, staying on powerfully to finish a close second. The winner got first run and with a couple more strides the Charles Byrnes-trained filly would have made a winning racecourse debut. She handled the heavy ground adequately and the manner in which she ran on in the closing stages of the race suggests that she will appreciate a step up in trip when he is sent jumping. She looks a sure fire winner of a bumper before switching to hurdles and is certainly one to follow for his relatively small but successful stable.