24-12-15 / 25-12-15
No racing in the Uk or Ireland on either day
Saturday, we start at Kempton for the annual King George meeting. The opening race went to Altior who smashed the field to pieces by 13 lengths, Willie Mullins had a look with Open Eagle coming second. I have been very impressed with Altior to date he has to be high on everyone's short list for the Cheltenham festival novice races. The thing that impresses most about Altior is his attitude he really likes racing , he is tough as nails. Full shift won the second race he was on a few radars for the Cheltenham handicap chases after an interesting run at Newbury, Bekkensfirth lost little in defeat and can win again soon. The third race saw a historical moment with Lizzie Kelly becoming the first female rider to ride a grade one winner race over jumps congratulations Lizzie. The race was won by Tea for Two who did it well to be fair I still would not see Tea For Two as an RSA horse if I am honest. The horse who finished third and was beaten favorite, Native River appeared to hate the track at Kempton. I thought Native River did well to get back into it having been under the pump some way out Native River would be happier at Cheltenham. I must admit I do not think the English novice chasers are very good , the Irish novices look much better at this moment in time. Faugheen got back on the trail winning as expected in the Christmas hurdle, we learned nothing new from this at all. Faugheen for some time has been miles ahead of his UK counterparts for a long time. I was amazed to see Faugheen being chopped in the betting for Cheltenham. The horses in behind even the UK cheerleaders have stopped talking up The New One, Hargam is a grand horse but not Champion hurdle class , Old Guard went here as an after thought after a busy spell. I still think Nichols Canyon will be give Faugheen plenty to think about come March 15th
The King George was billed as the best renewal of the race for some time, it certainly lived up to expectation. Silviniaco conti the dual winner took the field along at a brisk gallop accompanied by the strong travelling Vautour. At the eleventh fence Silviniaco conti gave way he would pull up eventually. Vautour powered on jumping slightly to his left all the way around. Don Cossack was on the back foot from this point on , I felt was never really going. Irish Cavalier and Valsuer Lido were never really in the race. Smad Place, so impressive when winning the Hennessy Gold cup was in the hunt till the top of the straight and was then left for dead. Cue Card had got within striking distance , Don Cossack had fought his way back to be within four lengths of Vautour who was going much the best. Al Ferof was plugging on as he does in the King George every year. As they came to the second last Vautour was 3 lengths up on Cue card and Don Cossack, it ended their for Don Cossack who fell. Vautour and Cue card settled down to fight it out going to the last. I felt Ruby Walsh should have left Vautour alone going to the last, Ruby kind of hassled Vautour on the approach to the last fence , they landed in a bit of a heap at the back of the fence. Cue Card had been galvanized by Paddy Brennan the pair landed running although they were still a length down they were finishing strong. Cue Card got up right on the line to pip Vautour it was tough to take for Vautour supporters, it was redemption for Cue Card who finally got his turn in the King George in a brilliant horse race. Al Ferof plugged on for third thirteen lengths behind Vautour and Cue Card. The connections of Cue Card now go for a million pound bonus if they can win the Gold cup. I am sure everybody wishes them well, their horse Cue Card has been at the top table since winning the Cheltenham bumper as a four year old. Cue Card has been called a few names over the years but what ever problem he had it is clearly behind him now.
The after race debate centered on if Vautour stayed or did not stay. I would come at it from this view point , if Vautour gets away from the last fence clean he wins the King George. I also feel Vautour lost about 8 lengths jumping to his left in the race, if I owned Vautour I would be tempted to still try the Gold cup, Vautour will be only seven in March. If Vautour got quick ground on the day he could do a Kicking King on it and free wheel around with his jumping and travelling putting pressure on his rivals. Vautour is still a young horse , I feel there is no shame in trying plenty of great horses have failed to stay the last two furlongs One Man, Wayward Lad and Florida Pearl spring to mind. I also think the supporters of Don Cossack are an incredibly forgiving bunch. Don Cossack has now been to the top table three times in the UK and is now none from three. I can hear his supporters screaming Don Cossack beat Cue Card by 26 Lengths at Aintree in April. Cue card was clearly wrong and time has proven that. I am always very cautious of these end of season races, the same applies to the Punchestown Gold Cup when Don Cossack defeated Djakadam and Road to Riches who had very hard races in the Cheltenham Gold Cup. I am not taking the victories away from Don Cossack they are great pots to win. I have long suspected Don Cossack is a master at destroying small fields, I do not believe Don Cossack has ever really relished a battle . I think he will have to battle to win a gold cup and he wont in my view Bryan Cooper would be wrong to pick Don Cossack over Don Poli in the Gold cup.
Leopardstown also had grade 1 action. The juvenile hurdle saw a clash between Footpad,Jer's Girl and Rashann all of these horse have been doing the business. the race itself was a terrific contest. Jer's Girl brushing aside the market principals but cruelly for Jer's girl it was Willie Mullins second string Apple's Jade who got up on the line to beat Jer's Girl by a head. It was a very good race, both horses will make their presence felt in the juvenile division. The Grade 1 Racing post novice Chase saw the clash of Douvan ,Sizing John and Ttebbob many people including myself thought it would be a real battle it was not even a skirmish. Douvan destroyed the field winning by 18 lengths, Patrick Mullins deputized for the injured Paul Townend it must have been some thrill. Douvan is now even money for the Arkle and unless Ar Mad can race left handed its there for the taking for Douvan . I really feel Douvan could be the horse of a generation he looks that good to my eyes, people will talk about Douvan making a couple of mistakes but they should factor in how appalling the ground was here.The speed that Douvan gets from one side of an obstacle to the other is incredible it was the same over hurdles. Bacardys won the bumper he looks a decent prospect this tends to be a bumper the better Mullins horses are aimed at. Down Royal survived the weather Noble Endeavor won the beginners chase ,Noble Endeavor now has a handicap mark. I reckon he will use that handicap mark to great effect at the Cheltenham Festival in March. Avellino bolted up in the bumper paying a big compliment to his Fairyhouse conqueror Lucky Pass. There were doubles on the day for Gordon Elliott ,Jack Keennedy and Mr N McParlan. The bad news was Limerick was abandoned.
The rest of the Uk racing was a mixed bag following the abandonment of Wetherby which was a shame it was a strong card,I wish the racecourse well on its recovery from flooding. At Wincanton, If In Doubt landed a bit of a punt for Jp McManus to win the pertemps qualifier . Quite by Chance also landed some nice bets to win the 325 for the Tizzard team .There was a double for Evan Williams on the day. There was a double for Brian Ellison at Sedgefield, the Lincoinshire National at Market Rasen went to West of the Edge in a slow motion finish. There was a double for Richard Johnson at Huntingdon as he continued his march to a first and richly deserved jockeys title. There was a winner for Nick Gifford at Fontwell ,the Gifford stable are hitting a bit of form recently after a spell of over 6 months without a winner.
Sunday , The Welsh National at Chepstow was abandoned and will now be run on January 9th I must admit it beefs up January's racing no harm. We start at Kempton all eyes were on Sprinter Sacre again as he continued his rehabilitation . Sprinter Sacre won a terrific race with Sire De Grugy (who may have won with a better jump at the last). It was encouraging for Sprinter Sacres legions of fans to see him get down and battle but I am afraid that is where the good news ends. The Novice chase won by Ar Mad was run in a quicker time over the same course and distance, Ar Mad also posted a five seconds quicker time on Tingle Creek day then Sire De Grugy over that course and distance on the same card. The numbers just do not add up for Sprinter Sacre he is clearly not the same horse as in his prime, however to be fair he may not need to be its a very weak division this year take Un de Sceaux out of the race anything could win the Queen Mother at Cheltenham. I actually think Willie Mullins has to give serious consideration to running Felix Yonger and Champagne Fever in the Queen Mother. In the meantime welcome back Sprinter Sacre one of the great talents, but I think plenty will want to place lay Sprinter Sacre come March 16th. I must mention Sprinter Sacres biggest fan at this point Ger Bond who will be hoping I am wrong ,its nothing personal against the horse Ger just my opinion.
Ar Mad continued his rapid progression winning the novice chase in a faster time then Sprinter Sacre won the Desert Orchid on the same card in. I love Ar Mad he is everything you want in a top two mile chaser brave, quick and a superb jumper. The race was a superb one with Ar Mad jumping from fence to fence Vaniteux stalked Ar Mad delivering his challenge between the last two fences. Vaniteux was ahead going over the last but a superb leap from Ar Mad meant he landed running , Ar Mad got up to win by a neck. Vaniteux lost nothing in defeat ,it was a superb result for our members as Ar Mad was advised as a 4 point win at 11/4. The chat afterwards centered on if Ar Mad would go for the Arkle at the Cheltenham festival,the Moore team seem to be of the mind to try it, having previously stated Ar Mad would only race right handed. If Ar Mad turns up in the same mood as Sandown and Kempton it could be a good contest with Douvan in the Arkle. The three mile handicap was a great contest with The Last Samuri winning it in tenacious fashion despite seeming uncomfortable on the track at Kempton. The result was good for our members to as The Last Samuri was advised as a 1 point each way bet at 6/1.
The Leopardstown card was superb the opening juvenile hurdle all the chat was for the Willie Mullins trained Let's Dance , Willie had to settle for second as the Aidan O'Brien trained Ivanovich Gorbatov won the race in some style. I really liked this performance Ivanovich Gorbatov is right at the top of my triumph hurdle short list now. The maiden hurdle was won by Supasundae who readily out pointed former Champion bumper winner Silver Concorde by 13 lengths. Supasundae looks a chaser in the making , Silver Concorde needs better ground. The drama story of the day was Un de Sceaux who crashed out of the two mile chase when in command. It was very disappointing to see Un de Sceaux fall but to be fair it used to happen Moscow Flyer as well. Un de Sceaux only has to stand up to win at Cheltenham in my view he is well clear of his UK counterparts and the biggest dangers lurk in his own stable. The race itself produced a fairy tale for one of Ireland's favorite racehorses as Flemenstar got back in the winners enclosure. The other major disappointment of the race was Sizing Granite who ran a shocker, Sizing Granite has recently had a small procedure but he looks one to avoid for now.
The Future novice hurdle was a real deep renewal, it was won by Long Dog who just keeps winning. I know lots of shrewd judges who are not convinced by Long Dog but a bit like Nichols Canyon last season he keeps winning. The race itself was a nightmare for Bryan Copper who made a complete mess of it , Tombstone is better then this result and will have learned plenty. Petit Mouchoir ran really well here and now has to go high on the short list for novices hurdles at the festivals. The fourth horse Bleu et Rouge for JP and Willie Mullins has a lot of ability also. Falcon Crest traveled superbly till the top of the home straight got left and stayed on again, I still think Falcon crest has above average ability a step up in trip and better ground will see improvement I am certain. I think Bachasson hated the ground , Bachasson will be seen to much better effect on a sound surface. I would put a line through this run. Woodland Opera was a little disappointing but it was a big ask straight from a maiden into this contest. I think this was a race which will produce lots of winners and, this field are a good set of horses one for the sky plus.
The handicap hurdle saw Copy That land yet another Christmas punt for JP McManus it looked unlikely at one point but Copy That eventually won by 6 lengths staying on really well. The Paddy Power chase was the usual tricky puzzle with JP McManus sending eight horses to post. The race was won by JP in the end with Minella Foru coming home best to deny Ucello Conti in a rousing finish to a thrilling contest. of the horses behind there was plenty to note Folsom blue ran a blinder he must be noted for future handicaps, Gilgamboa the subject of hefty market support (8/1 to 4/1) ran really well . The Job is right did the business for our members placing (5th each way on this race) 1pt each way advised at 25/1. I would like to see The Job is Right aimed at The Eider Chase at Newcastle or the Midlands National at Uttoxeter. Rivesrside City Continues to progress and ran a top race here, Dromnea ran well but does not stay 3 miles, he is of massive interest for a 2m 5furlong handicap possibly at the Cheltenham Festival where Dromnea ran an excellent race last season. The Leopardstown card was closed by a 50/1 winner in the Bumper in the shape of Winsome bucks.
Limerick got to race , The Grade 2 Novice Chase went to Outlander who is a very likable horse , Outlander saw his stable mate Avant Tout (who ran an excellent race on debut) off in a good finish. The race also contained Free Expression who was not well backed this time, I have been convinced for some time Free Expression will win a handicap he is very much on my Cheltenham radar. Rosie Alice won the Novice hurdle it was another festive race to forget for Dermot Weld as his Show Court was stuffed at 4/6. There was a ghost of past glory on the Limerick card as former gold cup winner Lord Windermeres half brother ,It came to Pass won the hunter chase.
Monday we start at Leopardstown which hosted a superb card for Lexus chase day. The opening maiden hurdle saw a large punt on Road to respect (5/2 overnight to 4/6) go astray , the race was won by Chain Gang who stayed on really well to nail Minella Aris on the line. The pertemps qualifier was won by Forever gold who held off our members selection Russian Bill 1pt each way advised 14/1 in a good finish. Zabana won a very decent beginners chase, tell us more and balbir du mathan ran very well for a long way.It was a day to forget for Blazer who ran a stinker, Zabana will only improve from this and having run so well in the Coral cup last year he must have a chance of making amends at Cheltenham in March. The three mile hurdle was intriguing with Artic Fire trying 3 miles for the first time it did not happen for him but Willie Mullins was quick to say it was not the trip that beat Artic Fire , I am not so sure. The race itself went in really impressive style to Prince of Scars who readily took care of Alpha des obeaux , this was very good in light of the fact that Alpha des obeaux was in the process of giving Thistlecrack a real race last season when falling at the last hurdle. Whatever happens next to Prince of Scars he is a horse with a bright future. The race also saw the reappearance of Martello tower his connections warned he would need the run beforehand, Martello Tower ran that way and on the basis of that this was perfectly satisfactory comeback run.
The big race was The Lexus it saw Don Poli go to post 4/6 fav. The race itself produced an exciting climax with Don Poli going to the front at the last , Don poli was tackled by Foxrock and a fast finishing First Lieutenant . Don Poli won by a half a length in the end in horrible ground , once again the jumping of Don Poli was flawless the disappointment of the race was sir des champs who may have bounced after his comeback win,I hope he is now aimed at the Ryanair Chase at the festival. The post race analysis left much to be desired plenty of people not giving Don Poli the credit he deserved, Don Poli remains a leading Gold cup candidate . I am afraid because of the style of racing Don Poli has it will be forever thus, for those people I say if you can not see the light you will feel the heat on March 18th, Don Poli is undefeated at the Cheltenham festival , Don Poli loves the Cheltenham hill and has powered up it on his two visits. The fact is if Don Poli is within 5 lengths turning into the straight at Cheltenham he will be finishing best . The card at Leopardstown ended with the bumper there was the mother and father of a punt on Gurteen (8/1 overnight to 9/4) who won well paying a compliment to Min who beat Gurteen in a maiden hurdle
At Limerick there were two impressive winners Domesday Book got off the mark in the beginners chase, he looks a decent prospect and is a horse I like. Dicosimo won the listed hurdle in commanding style by 10 lengths . There was also an attempted punt on Fade in trained by Robert Tyner backed from (14/1 overnight to 4/1) the money stayed in the bookies satchels, as Fade in could only finish fifth ,fourth would have been good enough for his each way supporters. In the Uk Bristol De Mai won at Leicester boosting the form of Ar Mad. At Catterick ,Nautical Twilight won again and Champagene at Tara got off the mark.
Tuesday we start at Leopardstown, it was Ryanair Hurdle day. The big race did not let us down with a tremendous battle between Nichols Canyon and identity Thief. It had looked for long periods like Identity thief would win, but Nichols canyon is all guts and picked up his sixth grade 1 in just over a year. I personally think this was a really good run and Nichols Canyon will be a far better horse on decent ground, I can not see Nichols Canyon out of the frame in the Champion hurdle. Identity Thief could take plenty of positives also and he must have a shot at the Champion Hurdle now also. No More Heroes won the Grade 1 novice chase in good style beating Rule the World by 9 Lengths . This was a good performance from No More Heroes he is among Ireland's best Novice Chasers and is now 7/2 for the RSA. The bumper went to Lucky pass who looks a bright prospect. There was a rare setback for Willie Mullins in a mares race as Morning run and Whiteout were both brushed aside by the Jessica Harrington trained Keppols queen. Morning Run ran a lifeless race fading quickly having tried to make all she also jumped poorly and was a big drifter in the betting on the day. The Leopardstown Festival was brilliant as always but I must finish on a sour note. I was fortunate enough to be a guest on the 28th ,but I met several racegoers in the betting ring who I know who were less then impressed with Leopardstowns €30 admission price. I paid in myself on the 29th .I feel its short sighted by Leopardstown and it smacks of fleecing the once a year racegoers, Leopardstown should be above that despite the on going refurbishments at the track
In the Uk, Newbury had a good card. Fixe Le Kap won the opening juvenile hurdle bursting the Kasakh Noir buuble ,who could not concede the winners penalty and was well beaten off by 12 lengths . Barters Hill won the Challow hurdle grinding it out to beat the Paul Nicholls trained Politlogue by 12 lengths. Paul Nicholls insists his horses are fine I do not believe him. Barters Hill did it well but he would not blow you away, he also looks like he may have a bit of an attitude he thought about running out at the stables on the first circuit. Violet Dancer did it well in the end seeing off Paul Nicholls, Stilleto who looked the most likely winner but did not see it through like many of his stable mates recently. Premier Bond won the last race for Nicky Henderson ,giving him a remarkable 8 wins in 9 years in this contest a sequence only broken by a horse called Rock On Ruby ! At Kelso there was a double for Micky Hammond as Caraline won again and Maxie T won the last by 18 lengths . At Southwell La Estrella broke the record for most all weather wins and was retired on the spot.
Wednesday we start at Haydock, the ground was very testing. Bigmarte got the better of Vintage Clouds in the novice hurdle, Vintage Clouds may have won with a better jump at the last but they are two decent novices. Rigadin De Beauchene won the Final Fling chase, it was a good result for our members who had 1pt each way at 4/1. Rigadin De Beauchene also featured in my "Notebook Horses" for November on the site. The conditions were ideal for Rigadin De Beauchene here ,I could see him running well in the Welsh National on January 9th if he lines up in it. At Taunton the ground was very testing also .Modus was looking to defend his unbeaten hurdles record, but Modus could not give 10 pounds to Miles to Milan who Modus had beaten earlier this season by 9.75 lengths off level weights. It was another disappointment for the Nicholls team who have endured a poor Christmas by their own high standards. Waldorf Salad ploughed through the mud for Ventia Williams ,he looks one to be with when the mud is flying. The listed mares hurdle went to Willie Mullins with his first ever Taunton runner as Myska won easily from Jessber's dream who is a useful mare the other fancied horse Lifeboat Mona pulled up for Paul Nicholls, the ground by this stage was bottomless. Myska will be aimed at the new mares novice hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival , Willie Mullins will have plenty of options for that I reckon.
Well that's it for 2015, Happy new year to all of our readers