Weekend Racing Review

We look at the big weekend races and their impact on the ante-post markets.

Weekend Racing Review

SATURDAY

Ascot

On the face of it, it was a little disappointing that YANWORTH had to work as hard as he did to see off the tough-as-teak Lil Rockerfeller, in receipt of 4lb, in the Grade 2 Coral Hurdle but trainer Alan King had been at pains to emphasize how much his star novice was going to come on for this first run since March. Yanworth raced a little too keenly, wanted to go left at some of his hurdles and although he will appreciate going the other way around, this performance surely rules out any notion that he could be a Champion Hurdle horse. His trainer reported afterwards that he will probably go up in trip now, meaning all roads will lead to the World Hurdle in March, for which he is now a general 10-1 fourth favourite. In a division that has little strength in depth this season, his double-figure price makes some appeal given those at the top of the market highly unlikely to even run in the race. His next test will likely be the Long Walk Hurdle, back at the Berkshire venue.

SIRE DE GRUGY is a bit too long in the tooth to have any pretentions of winning another Queen Mother Champion Chase but Gary Moore’s stable star clearly still has plenty of fire left in his belly judged on his fluent success under top weight in the £62k handicap chase. This run was proof, if required, that he remains a top-class performer on his day and he will be a major player at Sandown in a couple of weeks, where he will attempt to win his third Tingle Creek Chase (ante-post price ranges from 7/2 to 7/1).

Haydock

Ground conditions would clearly not have been in his favour but it was still hard not to be bitterly disappointed in the finishing effort of My Tent Or Yours in the Betfair Price Rush Hurdle. He settled better than he often does and travelled powerfully under a confident-looking Noel Fehily but the pilot was sitting on nothing as My Tent Or Yours failed to quicken when the pace lifted. Connections will doubtless argue that ground conditions were firmly against him and a stronger pace would have been desirable, but My Tent Or Yours now has to prove he isn’t gone at the game and any prospects of another tilt at the Champion Hurdle are hanging by a thread.

The winner of the race, Ch’Tibello, showed a serious turn of foot and looks a horse who can capitalize in steadily-run, small-field contests, but it’s rare that a Champion Hurdle is run in such a way so it’s hard to see him being good enough in the big one.

The £1m bonus is very much on for connections of CUE CARD who returned to his best to win a third Betfair Chase. Paddy Brennan got the tactics spot on this time and this quite superb chaser now looks primed to defend his 32Red King George crown at Kempton on Boxing Day, for which he was slashed into as short as 6/4 (as big as 5/2), before attempting to win his first Gold Cup in March.

Former Gold Cup winner Coneygree ran a belter given it was his first outing in just over a year. His unbeaten chase record has gone but he showed he retains most of his ability and is entitled to build on this next time, so it would be some race if connections decided to head to Kempton (6/1 second favourite) for another crack at Cue Card, while the Lexus Chase at Leopardstown is also reportedly a possibility.

Punchestown

There was a ripple in the Triumph Hurdle market when LANDOFHOPEANDGLORY bolted up in the opening juvenile hurdle. Owner J P McManus already holds a strong hand in this division with Landofhopeandglory and Defi Du Seuil the top two in most bookmakers’ lists.

LET’S DANCE is as short as 4/1 (best price 8/1) for the Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle in March after making a winning return under Ruby Walsh. Rich Ricci’s filly, fourth in last year’s Triumph Hurdle, will reportedly be kept to mares’ only races this term and already looks a leading candidate for the novices’ race at the festival.

SUNDAY

Punchestown

There have been murmurings that team Mullins are considering stepping Faugheen up in trip this season but until that happens, NICHOLS CANYON looks the yard’s best hope of landing the stayers’ hurdle in March. The seven-time Grade One winner did little more than he was entitled to do on the numbers when completing back-to-back wins in the Morgana Hurdle given he got within five lengths of stablemate Annie Power in last season's Champion Hurdle, but the Graham Wylie-owned gelding is arguably more effective over longer trips and looks bound to be in the mix in the World Hurdle, for which he is as short as 5/1 (best price 9/1).

IDENTITY THIEF already looks well on course to play a major role in the Arkle Chase after making it 2-2 over fences in the Grade 2 novices’ event. Henry De Bromhead’s exciting 6yo will surely face strong opposition from the likes of Altior, Min and Yorkhill in what promises to be one of the races of the festival if all the main protagonists make it to the starting tape, but Identity Thief has looked a natural over the bigger obstacles so far and the standout 10/1 (6/1 in places) looks pretty generous even at this early stage.

A TOI PHIL is another Gigginstown-owned unbeaten novice chaser and his seven-length success in the Florida Pearl Novice Chase earned him quotes ranging from 12/1 to 28/1 for the JLT in March. His trainer reported that he would probably have a crack at the Drinmore at Fairyhouse in a couple of weeks time.