Matt Tombs / Tuesday 8th April 2014 / 13:35
There was 1.5mm of rain overnight and the ground was pretty similar to the first day – on the dead side of good. It looked as if it might have dried out a bit more on the National course.
The Melling Chase (2m4f) almost always attracts a couple of top notchers but it was a poor renewal, weakened further when top rated Module was withdrawn with colic. I’ve long been a fan of Boston Bob but talked myself out of backing him due to the sharp trip, (staying types had a bad record in this). For much of the race as Ballynagour tanked along and Boston Bob looked to be struggling to go the pace at the back, that looked a good decision.
They’re contrasting horses in a finish though and when he gets going Boston Bob really sees out his races well. It was an excellent ride from Paul Townend. Perhaps mindful he’d asked Boston Bob for a big one when he fell at the last in the RSA, he allowed him to fiddle the final fence this time and he won going away. He’s clearly not been the easiest to train but he stays really well and 25/1 for the Gold Cup looks very reasonable.
By contrast, Ballynagour travelled beautifully but didn’t find much at the business end. He’s had well documented physical issues so it may well not be a case of an attitude problem. However, he’ll rarely get a better chance to win a Grade 1 than this so unless he just needs to be very fresh, he might be caught in no mans land now off a mark in the high 150s. He’s never run at 2m and, given how he travels, would be worth a try at that trip.
The Grade 1 Mildmay Novices Chase (3m1f) produced the first of 3 Cheltenham Festival handicap winners who went on to win a Grade 1 here - with Holywell routing his field to win by 10l. He’d been let in off 145 at Cheltenham, 12lb below his hurdles mark and he showed he was a Grade 1 horse in some sort of disguise there, with an authoritative performance.
He isn’t the biggest but looks to be the sort of horse for whom blinkers keep working and he stays very well. AP McCoy said Holywell enjoys being ridden aggressively and whether he’s quite quick enough to carry out those tactics in a Gold Cup (14/1) is open to question, but he’s certainly earned the right to be trained for it.
Don Cossack had looked a good jumper before tipping up in the RSA, and he ran a solid race here, travelling well as usual. Whilst you couldn’t describe him as a non-stayer here, he looks well worth a try at shorter and the Ryanair, (not quoted,) rather than the Gold Cup (25/1) might the right target for him next season.
There were plenty of Festival races that got a boost at Aintree but the RSA wasn’t one of them, with O’Faolains Boy disappointing, beating only RSA 7th Just A Par home. The RSA winner doesn’t look the most straight forward and he could go either way next season, (25/1 for the Gold Cup.)
The day kicked off with the Top Novices Hurdle, (extended 2m,) which Nicky Henderson won for the 4th time in 5 years with Supreme runner-up Josses Hill. It looked like it ought to be a good race between him and Supreme 4th Sgt Reckless coming to the last. However, having finished so strongly, (admittedly from a long way back,) in the Supreme, Sgt Reckless didn’t find much here and Josses Hill ran out an easy winner.
This was a boost for Vautour’s Supreme form as he treated Josses Hill with contempt there. Both look to be going novice chasing next season and whilst 5/1 Vautour and 12/1 Josses Hill for the Arkle looks about right on form, both are top prospects for that. It’s too early to be calling whether those prices represent value as we don’t yet know whether the likes of Un De Sceaux or My Tent Or Yours will go chasing next season.
The other novice hurdle was the Grade 1 Sefton over an extended 3m. Beat That had looked a good prospect in the autumn when thrashing Albert Bartlett 4th Champagne West at Ascot and then throwing away a winning chance against Killala Quay with a mistake at the last at Sandown. He’d been sick after that race on December 6th, so it was a fine performance to win this decisively after that break and on just his 3rd hurdles run.
He’s viewed very much as a chaser for next year and he looks to have a good blend of speed and stamina, (this sometimes falls to an out and out stayer who doesn’t have the toe for steadily run novice chases.) He’s not yet quoted for the RSA but that looks the obvious target.
Cole Harden had been beaten a long way by Un Temps Pour Tout at Ascot and Faugheen in the Neptune and really improved for a step up in trip to be beaten only 4l. He’s only 5 and hopefully he can build on this next season – he might be a dark horse for the World Hurdle, (not quoted.)
They pulled miles clear of the others and 3rd home Seeyouatmidnight was a bit disappointing, (rated 155 after winning the Rendlesham,) and perhaps he didn’t enjoy not being able to lead. He’s won a point and remains a cracking prospect for novice chasing for his small yard. He’s not quoted for the RSA but that, rather than the JLT, looks the obvious target, for all he got tired late on here.
You’re supposed to learn from your mistakes and having made a pretty obvious one last year in the Topham, (extended 2m5f), when backing Girogio Quercus even though Barry Geraghty defected to Triolo D’Alene, I managed to repeat the mistake this year. Ma Filleule is one of those frustrating horses that I keep calling wrong. I backed her in the December Gold Cup when she was pulled up and have missed her winning at 13/2 and 9/1 and being 2nd at 33/1 since.
You couldn’t but be impressed with her win here – thrashing her 29 opponents off 150. To put that in context, in the last decade the race has been won off marks between 115 and 141. Whilst she might now be handicapped out of the Hennessy, (Triolo D’Alene won the Topham off 132 and Hennessy off 147), she’s only 6 and it’s not fanciful to see here improving past her Cheltenham conqueror Holywell and being a Gold Cup horse next season, (they’d meet on the same terms and she has 1¾l to find). It would be a speculative bet but 33/1 is tempting.
The 2m4f handicap hurdle had a typically open look and it was the day that Clondaw Kaempfer delivered on his promise. He’d looked a candidate for the Grade 1 novice hurdles at the Festival last season before picking up an injury in the Challow. He’d taken time to find his feet in handicaps this season but looks to be getting the hang of things now, after just prevailing in a bunched finish, (off 137). He looks a chaser and would be one of the brighter prospects for novice chases over 2½m or more next season.
I’d been keeping Caid Du Berlais on the radar for top novice chasing honours, but switched back to hurdles he followed his good 3rd in the Martin Pipe by going one place better here off 145. He won’t be a novice over fences next season but graduation chases were introduced for horses like him and the 5 year old should continue to progress.
This was a welcome return to form for Cash And Go on his first try at 2m4f. He was a Grade 1 novice hurdle winner in Ireland and hopefully he can build on this. If he’s going to go chasing then as a 7 year old it ought to be next season and, as he looked as if he stayed this trip well, he could yet be an exciting novice chaser.
The Mares Bumper (2m1f) isn’t a race I’d try and analyse too much. The winner Avispa improved hugely for better ground and Alan King does well with mares, (L’Unique won at this meeting for the yard last year). She looks a nice prospect for hurdles next season.