Matt Tombs / Monday 18th March 2013 / 15:10
You’re always likely to have a few unlucky near misses during Festival week but the most disappointing one was in the World Hurdle, where Bog Warrior fractured his near fore when clear running down the hill, with the race looking at his mercy. As a punter I knew the risk of backing this fragile type so I’ve no complaints, but as a lover of racing it’s a shame we’re unlikely to see this brilliant sort fulfill his potential. Connections were hopeful he might race again in the future.
With Oscar Whisky and Reve De Sivola perhaps not at their best after a hard race here last time, this ends up looking a very weak renewal. Full marks to Solwhit and Charles Byrnes though for notching up a 7th Grade 1 win after injury had kept him off the track for nearly 2 years. He’d been annihilated by Bog Warrior at Punchestown and had never run over more then 2½m - if I’d studied only this race all week I’d never have backed him.
Tony Martin had better luck in the opener when Benefficient turned over hotpot Dynaste to take the Jewson. He settled much better here in a first time hood and this is probably his ideal trip at this stage, though he looks versatile. He’s not the most consistent but if he has now learnt to relax he could be underrated next season, where he looks a candidate for the open Grade 1s. He’s 14/1 for the Ryanair and 33/1 for the Gold Cup.
Of all the winners I didn’t back at the Festival, Benefficient was the most frustrating as he was clearly overpriced having been quick enough to win the Irish Arkle (albeit effectively left alone) and only just running out of stamina when collared close home by Harry Topper over 3m in a Grade 2 at Newbury. I made the classic mistake of being blinded by this looking an easy opportunity for Dynaste and the fact bookmakers had failed to adjust his price properly when going non runner, no bet. Given ante-post favourite Captain Conan looked a likely non-stayer and the race looked set to cut up, I parked it as one I’d sorted out and didn’t pay attention when Benefficient was diverted to it from the Arkle.
It’s hard not to feel disappointed with Dynaste, who could only finish 1l ahead of 100/1 shot Changing Times. He looked to be going well turning into the straight but his effort flattened out. It may be he’s not at his best in the spring or he needs really soft ground, but it’s worth noting that the Pipe yard had a disappointing week and he was their only representative to finish within 10l, (though Big Occasion won the Midlands National on Saturday.) He’s best judged after another run.
The other eye-catcher in this was Marito who had been brought along slowly this season but was just a neck behind RSA winner Lord Windermere on his last run. He was making stealthy progress when falling two out and is one to keep an eye on next time.
The Ryanair cut up to only 8 runners, almost all of which would have added to one or other of the championship chases. Cue Card was the only horse who’d given Sprinter Sacre the semblance of a race when 7l 2nd in the Arkle (22l clear of the others) and had won the Haldon by 26l off 157. Connections backed away from the Champion Chase though and that approach was rewarded as he silenced stamina doubts for a clear cut victory.
He’s still only 7, and as he learns to settle and to eliminate the odd howler he may get further, (dam ran in the National.) Another crack at the King George looks worthwhile in the hope of better ground, (14/1 looks generous.) He’s 5/1 for a repeat victory in this next season and 25/1 to emulate Imperial Commander by returning to win the Gold Cup the following season.
The Ryanair has favoured strong stayers at the trip and it was a bit disappointing First Lieutenant was brushed aside so easily. He’d have probably benefitted from more aggressive tactics, especially as Cue Card hadn’t proved himself in a battle. He’s a high class performer but that takes his losing run to 9.
I’d backed For Non Stop at what I thought were fancy odds but he didn’t jump well enough and it’s possible he didn’t get home on the ground. The Melling at Aintree is much more of a speed test, and his best run came on that course in the Old Roan, so he ought to give Cue Card more to do if they clash again there.
Pertemps winner Holywell had chased home Trustan Times in the valuable fixed brush hurdle at Haydock and Ely Brown in a qualifier. Despite being up another 5lb to 140 here he was a findable longshot (25/1) for the Jonjo O’Neill yard that specialises in winning staying handicaps at the Festival. The first time blinkers clearly helped but this was just this 6 year old’s 7th run under rules and as a former point winner, he’ll be a good prospect for novice chases next season.
Runner-up Captain Sunshine had had his form boosted in the Coral Cup and ran a blinder here considering Emma Lavelle’s yard has been badly out of form, (now more than 3 months since they had a winner.) He’s been running really well in that period so might still be well handicapped when the yard are going better again.
Perhaps the one to take out of the race is Jetson, who’d been primed for this for 2 seasons having just missed the cut last year. He’s a half brother to several classy performers including Jezki and all like genuinely good ground. He was staying on best of all here and looks the type to run a big race in the 3m handicap at Aintree if the ground dries out further, as he shouldn’t get hit too hard by the handicapper for this, (off 137 here).
A couple of promising novices fought out the Kim Muir with Same Difference just edging out favourite Super Duty. The winner was hard to weigh up. He was potentially well in here on his close 3rd to Unioniste and Hardrian’s Approach 2 runs previously, but neither were believed to have been fit that day and had disappointed in the RSA, and he’d been well beaten on his last run at Kempton. He’s a tough sort and it would be no surprise to see him continue to progress. This has become a real springboard for future Grand National horses and given the Twiston-Davies yard’s record in the big race, that might be a long term target.
The runner-up was reported to still be a bit green but he’s another tough sort and it’ll be interesting to see how he’s campaigned going forward. He’s not looked an out and out stayer so far but is from another yard that loves the National and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Donald McCain aim him at that race next season.
The serious neck injuries incurred by top amateur John Thomas McNamara in his fall from Galaxy Rock cast a long shadow over the week. So many of us racing fans get so much pleasure from the skill and bravery of jockeys, who do a job that few of us would have the courage to do, even if we had the skill. All racing fans will be praying for JT.