Matt Tombs / Wednesday 6th March 2013 / 19:00
1pt Lyreen Legend to win the RSA Chase @ 16/1 NRNB
2pts Dynaste to win the Jewson @ 5/2 NRNB
It’s never great writing a 2nd preview of a Festival as it means my original fancy has little or no chance. That’s usually because I’ve picked a horse that isn’t good enough or it goes for a different race or gets injured, which is part of ante-post betting. When you pick a horse like Rocky Creek for the RSA, that shows it is good enough, this is the right target and he’s fit and well – it’s really galling when connections take a different view and bypass the Festival.
That’s what looks like happening though but the silver lining is that it’s left a race that still looks to have a good betting shape. I won’t repeat all the analysis about the right type for an RSA horse – suffice to say I want a strong stayer at the trip with plenty of experience in competitive chases, ideally over a long season.
Dynaste’s (5/2) has been by far the best staying novice chaser we’ve seen this season and the Feltham hoodoo may be less relevant here as it was much more of a test of stamina than usual on heavy ground. He’s the classiest horse in the race but the stamina doubt remains and the fact he’s been off since Boxing Day are both real concerns. I can’t remember a horse ever winning this without running since the turn of the year, and plenty of winners ran more than once in that period. Of course training methods have changed but I think it’s a real negative in this particular race.
Given that history suggests there’s a 50:50 chance of the winner being a double figure SP on the day, to back something at 5/2 they’ve got to be bombproof and, exciting horse though he is, Dynaste isn’t. He’s really weak on the exchanges now too which suggests the Jewson may be the preferred option.
The exchanges are strongly suggesting that of the Wylie/Mullins duo, Boston Bob (5/1) will run in this and Back In Focus (12/1) probably won’t, (perhaps going for the 4 miler if the ground is suitable.) Boston Bob was described by Willie Mullins as the best novice hurdler he’d ever brought to the Festival last year, but didn’t look to enjoy himself in the Albert Bartlett and has a question mark over the track, (and likely good ground).
Additionally, the vibes from the Mullins yard are that Boston Bob just hasn’t been in the same form this season. In consequence they’ve only got 2 runs into him which leaves him very inexperienced for this – the last horse to win off 2 runs was Mullins’ great Florida Pearl and he’d had much more of a clear run. Boston Bob has scrambled home in both starts around 2½m so far and whilst the last occasion was a good Grade 1, he’s very short for a horse with that sort of profile. Back In Focus would be a real player on form if he lined up on soft ground but that’s unlikely and he’s another coming here off a long break.
On the basis we want a staying type who’ll go on the good ground, I’m very keen to be against Unioniste (6/1). He jumps well and has plenty of experience but he’s looked much better over shorter on deep ground. On good ground he won an ordinary 2m4f novice chase in October in unspectacular fashion and was then brushed aside on good to soft by Dynaste and Fingal Bay at Cheltenham the following month. That allowed him to run (after all the allowances) off 131 in the December Gold Cup here and he bolted up on really bad ground. Good though he was, he’d have to run to a mark about 2 stone higher to win this so he’d want to be winning with his head in his chest.
Stepped up to 3m for the first time at Newbury (soft), he looked in control in the straight but tied up close home and would have been beaten by Hadrian’s Approach in another couple of strides. I thought that would lead to him running in the Jewson but it looks like he lines up here and this looks a big ask for such a young horse, (Star De Mohaison did win as a 5 year old but the weight-for-age was 10lb not 2lb then which is a huge difference.) He’s one to oppose.
Hadrian’s Approach (10/1) was 2nd in the Feltham and whilst no winner of that has ever followed up in the RSA, a number of beaten horses have done, relishing the extra stamina test (including the same stable’s Trabolgan.) He looks to stay really well though and based on his not quite getting up to beat Unioniste at Newbury last time he’d be the one of the two I’d take out of the race.
The issue with him is his jumping, as he is probe to real blunders and in the heat of battle in the RSA, one of those is likely to end his chance. The vibes from the Henderson camp haven’t been strong either – you get the feeling his lining up in this as it looks a weak renewal and Nicky doesn’t have anything better.
Of the outsiders, I like Houblon Des Obeaux (25/1) who had the benefit of a run but had to give 4lb to Poungach and Court In Motion when winning a Grade 2 at Wincanton over 2m5f, (good to soft). He would have finished closer than 4¼l 4th to Harry Topper in another Grade 2 at Newbury but for ploughing through 2 out and then was running on strongly on unsuitably heavy ground at Lingfield when failing to catch Court in Motion (who received 7lb), going down by 1¼l. He ran well over an inadequate 2½m at Sandown and gave Rocky Creek a race in the Reynoldstown. He’s experienced, tough and stays well. If his jumping holds up he could go well at a big price.
The one to back at this stage though is Lyreen Legend (16/1). He was a tough and classy novice hurdler last season, winning a Grade 2 and being placed in two others and a Grade 1. After winning his beginners chase, he was a good 4l 2nd to subsequent Grade 1 winner Back In Focus (who gave 1lb) on heavy ground at Punchestown over 2m6f. Whilst Lyreen Legend goes on any ground, Back In Focus is a real mudlark and on a sound surface I’d expect Lyreen Legend to turn the tables.
After falling when going well in the 3m Grade 1 at Leopardstown at Christmas he ran a blinder over an inadequate 2m5f in the Grade 1 Moriarty there last month, beaten just 1l by Boston Bob, (and just behind Lord Windermere (16/1) who looks a doubtful stayer here.). The Moriarty has been a great trial for this with Boston’s Angel and Cooldine both winning it and Weapon’s Amnesty being placed before winning the RSA.
Apart from the blip at Christmas, he’s jumped really well and looks open to plenty of improvement stepped up in trip, with Dessie Hughes’ yard going so well. He’s just the right sort for this in that he jumps and travels well. He’s also versatile in terms of ground which is useful given the forecast is making it less certain we’ll be racing on a sound surface.
You know exactly what you’re going to get with him as he’s so game and consistent – in 7 races in graded company where he’s completed he’s not been beaten more than 4½l. That’s important in this as it can be a brutal race and plenty of the horses cry enough when the taps are turned on. I’d held fire previously as the 4 miler was under consideration (which shows Dessie Hughes sees stamina as his strong suit) but he’s being aimed at this and we have non runner, no bet anyway.
Normally I’d be waiting for the 6 day entries tomorrow but with hot favourite Dynaste so weak on the exchanges, it may be a decision has been made that he’ll run in Jewson. I’m backing Lyreen Legend as he’s good value at 16/1 if Dynaste does run – but he’d be fantastic value if he doesn’t and if Dynaste is scratched in the morning he’ll be a lot shorter, so it makes sense to go in now.
As I mentioned yesterday, Dynaste (5/2) should be about evens to win the Jewson if lining up, so it’s maximum bet time. If, as is entirely possible, it’s all a false alarm and Dynaste does go for the RSA then I’m very happy to be taking him on with Lyreen Legend and we’ll get our money back on the Jewson bet.