Matt Tombs / Monday 1st December 2014 / 12:05
2 of the last 7 winners of the Hennessy won that season’s Gold Cup and Many Clouds is in the Gold Cup mix, having won off 151. That might be a 10lb lower mark than Denman and 9lb lower than Bobs Worth, but this is looking a very winnable Gold Cup. Many Clouds was actually 3/3 at around 2½m and 0/4 over 2m7f+ over fences coming into this, which indicates he has speed as well as stamina – the combination is usually crucial in the Gold Cup. He does like soft ground and if it came up quick that’d be a concern, but if there’s some ease 20/1 for the Gold Cup could look generous.
The Fighting Fifth was a weak Grade 1 with the market leaders all running in the previous couple of weeks. Irving gave Paul Nicholls his 100th Grade 1 win with a gritty performance, (2m, soft). With the ground predictably not suiting Arctic Fire, this was effectively a match. Irving looked in trouble between the last 2, but rallied well to beat the useful filly Aurore D’Estruval 1¾l. He should continue to progress, especially if he brushes up his jumping, but he has to improve a lot to trouble the big three in the Champion Hurdle, (25/1).
More Of That had been a brilliant winner of a strong World Hurdle and it was sad to see him out on his legs on his comeback at Newbury, (extended 3m, soft.) Jonjo O’Neill’s yard isn’t in great form and he’s reputedly fragile. Tony McCoy suggested he might be the sort who improves with racing each season - it’s a watching brief for now, (a wind operation may be on the cards.) He’s 4/1 for the World Hurdle. Medinas had been 8l behind Cole Harden at levels at Wetherby on much quicker ground, but received 8lb here and cruised by on the run in to win by 7l. The winner is 20/1 for the World Hurdle and the runner-up 33/1, but both look to lack a bit of class for that.
Clondaw Court has always been regarded as a top prospect by Willie Mullins, but has been beset by minor niggles. The 7 year old took his career record to 5/5 with a facile win in a minor conditions hurdle at Thurles, (extended 2m6f, soft.) Mullins is considering a switch to novice chasing but it’s hard to see him getting the sort of experience needed for an RSA. He’s 25/1 for the World Hurdle. Given his fragility, he’s not an ante-post proposition but is one to consider when firms offer non runner, no bet.
The Gerry Feilden handicap hurdle, (for novices and second season hurdlers, extended 2m, soft,) looked a good race on paper, but a few failed to give their running and Barry Geraghty suggested it wasn’t a great contest, having ridden easy winner L’Ami Serge, who bolted up off 132. Nicky Henderson described him as ‘very exciting’ in the Racing Post stable tour. He’s still a novice and 25/1 for the Supreme might be generous, but we don’t know much about him as yet and he could easily end up in the Neptune or be kept fresh for a handicap at the Festival.
It was a vintage renewal of the Grade 1 Drinmore novice chase at Fairyhouse, (2m4f, yielding to soft.) Valseur Lido had impressed with his jumping on his debut at Punchestown and he looked a class act here, beating Apache Stronghold by 8l. Given Willie Mullins has Un De Sceaux and Vautour as well it’s possible he’ll try stepping Valseur Lido up in trip now, (unless Pont Alexandre recovers from injury he doesn’t have an obvious RSA contender.) He’s owned by Gigginstown, which complicates his Festival target further, so it’s a watching brief for now – he’s 16/1 for the Arkle, 8/1 for the JLT and 14/1 for the RSA.
Un Ace was an inexperienced horse when a solid 11l 8th in the Supreme. Kim Bailey believes he needed further and, switched to fences, he followed up his win at Huntingdon over an extended 2m4f, with a facile victory at Doncaster, (2m3f, good to soft.) The race seemed to fall apart around him so it’s hard to know what he achieved here. He looks a progressive type though and 20/1 for the JLT looks fair.
One of the best beginners chases so far was at Fairyhouse, (extended 2m5f, yielding to soft,) but it’s slightly farcical in a supposedly level weights event when a horse getting 20lb wins all out by a nose. That winner was Adriana Des Mottes who would have probably won more comfortably but for a mistake at the last. She’s likely to go back into calmer waters for a mares race next but will be hard to beat in novice events in Ireland with her huge weight allowance. She’d only get 1lb beyond the normal mares allowance in the JLT (25/1) though and for the Festival the one to take out of it may be runner-up Rule The World. He was a decent 14l 6th in the World Hurdle but always looked a chaser in the making. Time may show this was an excellent start and 20/1 for the RSA looks fair value.
The 3m Grade 2 novice chase at Newbury attracted only 3 runners, one of them a no-hoper. Carraig Mor jumped a bit to his right, (saddle slipped early on,) but more fluently than Southfield Theatre, (who gave 7lb,) and won more easily than the 1¼l margin suggests. Carraig Mor had been a bit disappointing after his hurdling debut but Alan King has always liked him and perhaps he’s now fulfilling his potential. He might head for the Feltham next. He’s 33/1 for the RSA, which looks about right. Southfield Theatre was a bit disappointing, for all he’d like better ground. Perhaps he’s more one for the 4 miler than the RSA (25/1).
Un De Sceaux had jumped brilliantly until failing to get the landing gear out properly at the 3rd last at Thurles, (2m2f, soft,) leaving Mr Fiftyone to pick up the pieces. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a big novice chase field strung out so quickly and winning jockey Robbie Power said “we went quicker than they will in the Arkle in March.” It’s obviously not ideal to have tipped up on his fencing debut but the reality was that Un De Sceaux looked to love jumping fences. That was the big unknown before the race and, as he was fine after his fall, Ladbrokes pushing him out to 6/1 looks a big over-reaction. He’s still my idea of the Arkle winner.
Un De Sceaux might be the highest rated hurdler going chasing in Ireland this season, and probably the highest rated hurdler in Britain going chasing, Saphir Du Rheu, met a similar fate when unseating at the 7th in a Grade 2 at Newbury, (2m4f, soft.) After all the controversy at Plumpton it was great to see Coneygree land a nice prize here, beating Dell’ Arca by 1½l. He’d looked a potentially top class stayer as a novice hurdler 2 seasons ago and he jumped really well on his fencing debut. The RSA (25/1) looks a realistic target.
The Grade 1 Royal Bond novice hurdle at Fairyhouse, (2m, yielding), looked fascinating beforehand but with Allez Colombieres sadly breaking down and Tandem bombing, it’s not clear what 111 rated flat horse Nichols Canyon beat. He was fast, if a bit novicey, at his hurdles and as his technique improves, his hurdling could become a real asset. He won at 9f and at nearly 2m on the flat, so you could see him in either the Supreme (16/1) or Neptune, (16/1).
There was a strong novice hurdle at Newcastle, featuring Champion Bumper 7th Definitely Red, (who received 5lb,) and the unbeaten Chidswell, but it was won going away by Native River, (2m6f, soft). Colin Tizzard described the winner as a real 3 miler and he might be the right sort for the Albert Bartlett (25/1.)
Brother Tedd has now won two novice hurdles at Kempton by wide margins, the latter by 19l, (2m5f, soft.) It’s not clear what he’s beaten but he looks a real 3 miler in the making and could develop into an Albert Bartlett horse, (20/1).
Jollyallan belied signs of inexperience to win a good novice at Exeter and followed up at 1/8 in a bad race at Newbury, (extended 2m, soft.) He looks the type to be bought on steadily. 25/1 for the Supreme doesn’t appeal at this stage but he’s not an obvious shortener and is worth keeping an eye on nearer the race.
Monetaire had been a real eye-catcher at Cheltenham when travelling really strongly, but spoiling his chances with mistakes off 123. He was a cosy winner of what looked a strong handicap at Newbury 2m1f, (soft) off 126, jumping much more soundly. He was racing over further in France and his owner/trainer combination has won the last two runnings of the open 2m4f handicap chase at the Festival. A rise for this win should get him a run there and it’d be no surprise to see him go there without another run.
Finally, some bookmakers make it their business to have a mole in a top yard. Last season when Pricewise put Annie Power up for the Champion Hurdle, Paddy Power were a stand out 14/1, (10/1 was the biggest price other layers in the Pricewisebox were offering.) During the summer Paddy Power seemed the first to know that Faugheen was staying hurdling and Vautour and Un De Sceaux were going chasing. It’s interesting they offer only 7/1 on Ballycasey for the Champion Chase, (Stan James go 16/1). Whilst they’re ducking Vautour generally, they are especially under the general price for the JLT, (they offer 9/4, top price is 100/30). In the Gold Cup they’re top price Champagne Fever (12/1) and Sir Des Champs (25/1) and bottom price Boston Bob, (14/1 – top price 25/1). If you’re thinking of backing a Willie Mullins horse ante-post, it’s worth checking Paddy Power’s prices.