An action packed week with plenty of topics to get through
Thursday saw the start of The Hennessy Festival at Newbury with plenty of talent on show. The first potential star to enter the fray was Modus who had impressed first time out with his slick jumping. Modus duly won but it was no cakewalk for the 1/2 shot he mastered the other penalized runner Charmix on the run in. I thought it was fine and Modus will have learned plenty he won a little easier then the winning margin suggests. Modus is still of interest as regards a potential Cheltenham Festival horse,I reckon the Neptune would suit best but that's for another day. Unowwhatimeanharry followed up his easy win with another facile win in the 125 contest. Unowwhatimeanharry can now go back to novice company where he will have to be taken very seriously as he looks a thoroughly progressive horse.This was yet another winner for Harry Fry. The 210 a novice chase would have graced plenty of big race days. Un Temps Pour Tout went off favorite he jumped superbly all the way round but finished second in the end. Native River won the race and did so in taking manner conceding 7 pounds to Un Temps Pour Tout and seeing out the race really well. Native River must go on early RSA shortlists it was another win for the Tizzard stable who have had a brilliant November. The other well touted horses in the contest Beast Of Burden and Value at Risk both hit the deck. This was the second time Beast Of Burden has fallen in two starts and despite his natural ability is one to avoid for now. Value at Risk went at the second fence with a real novices fall he is worth another chance another day. I took out of the race that Un Temps Pour Tout jumping could be a real asset in a strong paced handicap and this is where he may ultimately shine.
Thurles staged an informative card as regards potential for the winter months. Shaneshill who was among Ireland's top novice hurdlers went chasing for the first time. Shaneshill won at odds of 1/4 and will be stepped in class while avoiding stablemate Douvan for the time being. Petit Mouchoir brought his big reputation to the table in the maiden hurdle 125 having won the Land Rover Bumper at the Punchestown Festival in impressive style. Petit Mouchoir won at 1/5 despite racing very keenly and jumping only adequate at times which may have been due to keenness. Petit Mouchoir may be suited by a faster run race over 2 miles in order to settle better in his races. Willie Mullins will be happy with his days work but that is about all we can say about Shaneshill and Petit Mouchoir for now.
To wrap up at Taunton ,Mister Miyagi won under a penalty to follow up the Cheltenham win last time out. This was another winner for the excellent trainer Dan Skelton who has his string firing on all cylinders.
Friday we start at Newbury . The first race was the Juvenile hurdle it produced a breathtaking winner in the shape of Kasakh Noir who tanked through the race ultimately winning by 16 lengths eased down. Kasakh Noir was another winner for Dan Skelton and could take high rank as a juvenile Kasakh Noir is a fine built horse this season will not be the be all and end all for Kasakh Noir. The 130 was the Pertemps Qualifier , it was won by Missed Approach very easily. My own interest in the race was in the shape of one of my Notebook horses Gevrey Chambertin, I managed to get on at 33/1 I was delighted to see Gevrey Chambertin go off 11/1 .I knew my fate early as I had hoped Gevrey Chambertin would race prominent he did not and finished a never near seventh. I still think Gevrey Chambertin could pop up before Christmas with a win but this was disappointing to be polite.
The novice chase featured Activial who was punted from 11/4 to 11/8 for Harry Fry it was burnt fingers for the punters. Activial fluffed his lines with some sloppy jumps (which is always the risk first time over fences) to finish second to Three Musketers who ran out a good winner. Three Musketers had kept good company over hurdles finishing third to Nichols Canyon at the Aintree Festival, Three Musketers looks another good prospect for Dan Skelton. A remarkable stat for past winners of this race Denman ,Bobs worth and Coneygree all won this contest as novices and went on to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup. I would say on the basis of that it is worth following how both Activial and Three Musketers go for the rest of this campaign and beyond both are good prospects.
Little Jon got the turn he deserved in the handicap chase in behind Top Gamble ran a race full of promise and is one to watch in the coming months. Lost legend and Next Sensations connections are probably thinking about trying to get their handicap mark reduced for the Cheltenham Festival as both are firmly in the grip of the handicapper for now. Little Jon is of the most immediate interest with the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup at Cheltenham on December 12th a likely target. I think Little Jon could be a major player in that contest. Champers on Ice won the maiden hurdle despite some X Rated jumping the horse has a huge engine but looks one to take on under a winners penalty the next time out
Voix D'eau won at Doncaster for Harry Fry he could have won a little easier but for a mistake two out . Voix D'eau looks one to keep on side till he is beaten and could win again in the coming weeks. The day ended on a sad note with the news Rock On Ruby had to be retired due to a tendon injury. Rock On Ruby never finished out of the first three in 20 starts over hurdles, he was a horse that jump fans take to heart a real trier who had a touch of class. I owe Rock On Ruby a personal thanks he did me a a very good turn in the Champion hurdle in 2012 when he won it at 11/1 to land my bet. I am sure all Jump racing fans will join me when I say thank you Rock On Ruby go well old friend.
Saturday Hennessy Gold Cup Day and one of my favorite Saturdays of the racing year. The Hennessy itself was a great race and no I am not saying that cause I backed the winner. The thing I found most confusing going into the race was the fact that Saphir Du Rheu was rated 163 a rating 2 pounds above Denman at the same stage of his career I thought it was crazy. I then saw Tom Segal tipped him in the Post and was perplexed was I wrong about Saphir Du Rheu the horse who had his novice chasing career abandoned to go back hurdling last season? I have long had concerns about some of these official ratings. The race panned out in a ferocious end to end gallop being dictated by Fingal Bay and Smad Place they went hoof to hoof for most of it. Saphir Du Rheus jumping problems resurfaced and he faded out of contention running a respectable race under his weight to be fair. The further they went Smad Place went further clear it was a tremendous front running display and puts him in the Cheltenham Gold cup picture. I guess for the other horses Bobs worth another horse in the run up to the race ludicrously over hyped on current chasing form. The future for this horse looks back over hurdles where he is undefeated in that discipline,The World hurdle would suit ,Bobs worth has more then enough ability to get into contention. First Lieutenant was talked in plenty of quarters beforehand an ran a blinder to be placed in the race again. I suppose to wrap up The Hennessy I can not see Saphir Du Rheu being a Gold cup horse I could see Smad Place making the frame with his excellent Cheltenham Festival record.
Thistlecrack announced himself as a 3 mile hurdler of massive potential when dispatching reigning World hurdle champion Cole Harden and Whisper in the process. Thistlecrack traveled and jumped superbly through the contest, Cole Harden and Whisper would want better ground but that will not inconvenience Thistlecrack either. Thistlecrack performance has just shaken up the World Hurdle division. The rest of the card produced some good stuff Arzal was a very good winner of the Novices handicap chase and looks a horse to follow. The run of Midnight Prayer in the 115 was noteworthy at a trip below his best he looks sure to be winning over marathon trips soon with the Welsh National an obvious target over the Christmas period. There was a treble for jockey Gavin Sheehan who is having a purple patch just now
The rest of Saturday was about Newcastle and Fairyhouse. The Fighting Fifth at Newcastle is always a decent race.I am afraid this race had another false favorite in Wicklow Brave who never got into. I backed Top Notch myself who ran a blinder but looks like he needs further these days but it was still an excellent run.Irving is a rock solid Grade 2 horse Paul Nicholls took a chance and went for a third run in a few weeks .Irving blew out but no shame in that to be fair. The winner Identity Thief has always promised much supplemented for this and the Morgiana hurdle two weeks ago the clue was their. Identity Thief despite missing the last hurdle, rallied to nail the game Top Notch in a great tussle. Identity Thief still has plenty to find with Faugheen and Nichols Canyon but Identity Thief is a interesting horse who has improvement in him. Wakanda was a good winner of the Rehearsal Chase at Newcastle it was a good contest between Wakanda and Virak both will pay their way this winter.In the same race Masters Hill was disappointing and looks one to avoid for now.
Fairyhouse the first of the two day winter festival meeting. The first race saw the sad loss of the highly regarded Alvisio Ville who was killed in a fall ,in truth nobody outside of Willie Mullins yard saw the best of Alvisio Ville from what regard he was held in it seems. I thought the most taking performance of the day was that of Tombstone jumping well and travelling like a good horse all race. Tombstone beat Pylonthepressure who was a top bumper horse, when Tombstone steps up into graded class we will see what he is made of but I suspect he might be very good. De name escapes me confirmed what I thought when I saw him in Down Royal he is above average he conceded weight all round . De name escapes me supporters never had any worries and he may make up into a smart horse in time. The low point from my point of view was one of my notebook horses ,Blow the doors off running being inquired into by the stewards .We now may have to wait longer for our day with Blow the doors off.
Sunday a privilege to be at Fairyhouse for one of Ireland's great national hunt days 3 grade ones on the card . I was really looking forward to seeing Missytata who had really impressed me at Down Royal. Rashann smashed the field to pieces and won by 13 lengths and it could have been much more. The performance of Rashann was high class, I was initially very disappointed with Missytata but my gut feeling is she ran into a very smart horse in Rashann time will tell. The first grade one was the Royal Bond it looked a match between Long dog and Bachasson so it proved. The two Willie Mullins charges fought out a good finish with Long dog sealing it with a great jump at the last. I would say Long dog did not convince me with his jumping overall , Long dog might struggle at a quicker pace with his jumping.The opposite applies to Bachasson who never traveled he did jump well and fought very hard Bachasson was actually in front just after the line. I think Bachasson is better then this result and spring ground will suit him ideally.
The Hattons Grace was at the mercy of Artic Fire he did it really well and quickened in good style on ground he would not be mad about. Artic Fire had been keeping company with Jezki and Hurricane Fly there was nothing in that class here. Artic Fire will run a big race in the Champion hurdle again especially if Nichols Canyon makes it a good strong pace Artic Fire could travel into the race swinging on the bridle. Of the rest of the field Alpha Des Obeaux ran very well after a lay off ,he will pick up a race shortly. The Drinmore looked a cracker on paper and I think it was there is hope for the first six home here for another day. I will deal with the winner first No More Heroes this was a really good performance No More Heroes jumped a traveled beautifully all race. This performance marks No More Heroes as high class potentially. I am not sure he needs the RSA either as he would have enough pace for the JLT at the Festival to my eyes. Monksland ran really well and he could make into RSA horse as he was staying after a couple of slight mistakes but he jumped fine in the main. Free Expression was the subject of ferocious market support 9/2 overnight to 7/4. I thought Free Expression ran really well he nearly has a handicap mark and he could do something like many JP McManus novices have done before win a Cheltenham Festival handicap. The other horses Sub Lieutenant could be another horse for a decent handicap or possibly the kim Muir at Cheltenham. I think Shantou flyer and Captain Von trappe could easily go the 4 miler route at Cheltenham both could be very interesting runners their. Shantou flyer has already won at Cheltenham this season.
The rest of the card I thought Bless the wings could make into an Aintree Grand National horse. I also had a few quid each way on College Boy at 16/1 he placed, College Boy may pop up in a handicap over the Christmas period he will be a December notebook horse. There are two other horses to note from that race Harvey Logan and Smoking Big Cigars. The Bumper went to Lucky Pass for Willie Mullins the second horse Avellino came home very well the first and second were well clear of the rest. The day go all well for Willie Mullins as Gitane du Berlais was surprisingly beaten at odds on at Carlisle.
Monday brought the news that Sprinter Sacre would not face Un De Sceaux in the Tingle creek it was a blow to the race. I would say after Nicky Henderson nursing the horse back he is entitled to train the horse as he sees fit, we just have to wait longer for this much anticipated clash.
It was an ordinary days racing Violet dancer won a novice chase at Plumpton meaning he is now eligible for a large bonus payment bonus if he can win at the Cheltenham festival. Leith Hill Legasi landed a bet for me and can probably win again in these type of conditions
Tuesday not much to report two ordinary jump cards at Lingfield and Southwell. Solstice Star won for me at Linfgield and continues to be a horse to be with in these conditions. Cheat the Cheater impressed me at Lingfield and could win again in deep ground before the handicapper gets him.There was a treble for Harry Skelton (all for outside Skelton yards) at Southwell and a double for Richard Johnson.
Wednesday the action centred on Catterick and Ludlow. In the Juvenile hurdle Romain De Senam was turned over at 1/4 this is the second time he has gone off favourite and not delivered he looks one to avoid. The winner Jaleo is well bred and stuck at it well having moved from Jim Bolger to John Ferguson. There was compensation for Paul Nicholls as Stilletto won the beginners chase in a pleasing fashion a rare winner for the Nicholls team in Catterick.
At Ludlow the 240 race was carnage with four fallers at the first three fences,Helium stuck on for third but it looks like the handicapper has him now. Bella won the mares handicap hurdle ,Bella was quite an expensive purchase by the pipes for Caroline Tisdall. I reckon if David Pipe has found the key to Bella she could win a few races on the spin as she is on a workable mark. Poppy Kay bolted up in the bumper and could be a very nice horse for the Hobbs yard.
The Racing Week That Was ends on a low note as Willie Mullins declares that Un De Sceaux will not run in the Tingle Creek at Sandown on Saturday. A shame for the race Un De Sceaux is now expected to appear at Leopardstown on December 27th in the Paddy Power Dial a bet chase.