Matt Tombs / Tuesday 8th April 2014 / 10:35
The ground was officially good on the hurdles and Mildmay course and good to soft on the National course – the times suggested it was on the dead side on all 3.
The New One had rather frightened off the opposition in the Aintree Hurdle (2m4f), which was a shame considering that it’s been a vintage season for hurdlers. He looked to face a simple task but made heavy weather of it, not really quickening at the business end and only scrambling home from Rock On Ruby and Diakali.
He hadn’t had a hard season so he should have been able to show his form here. Perhaps he had a harder race than it looked in the Champion Hurdle, using energy up early on to get back into contention after being hampered. It might be that he’s much better at 2m and he was just outclassing opponents over this sort of trip as a novice.
Equally, his Champion Hurdle finishing position might be an accurate reflection of how good he is – he didn’t show as much speed as expected here. He deserves the chance to show his true colours in next season’s Champion Hurdle, but it’s hard to see why he’s favourite (5/1).
Disappointing in the Arkle, Rock On Ruby bounced back and, lacking scope, he looks much better over hurdles. Surprisingly, connections are planning to train him for the Champion Hurdle (33/1) for which he no longer looks to have the pace. If they have a change of heart he’d be interesting tried over 3m.
Diakali was held up, (in contrast to the forcing tactics often used, including when a close 3rd in the Hatton’s Grace). That looked to backfire as he was very keen and might have won with a more positive ride. He’s flat bred but is big enough to go chasing and would be a good prospect for the Arkle or JLT next season if that’s the route chosen.
The other open Grade 1 was the Bowl Chase (3m1f). Silviniaco Conti had looked to have a really hard race in the Gold Cup and such horses had a shocking record in this, so it was much to his credit that he could beat a horse of Dynaste’s quality. He ran around again in the closing stages and its understandable Paul Nicholls is considering headgear. He’s 14/1 for the Gold Cup but he’s had a couple of bad experiences in the race and I’d be concerned he’ll remember them. He should be a contender for the top prizes again next year, the King George in particular.
I’d strongly fancied Dynaste to win this and was slightly disappointed he couldn’t get past Silviniaco Conti. This was a solid effort at the end of the season though and this 2nd season chaser is right in the mix for an open looking Gold Cup (20/1) next year.
I’d thought Argocat was a big price and he ran a blinder, travelling much more kindly on better ground over this longer trip. He shouldn’t be used to hold down the form. He should be in the mix for the top chases in Ireland next season and, only 6, can be expected to improve again.
The 3 Grade 1 novice chases drew fields of 5, 6 & 7 respectively. This again showed that 2 Grade 1 novice chases here is the maximum. The Manifesto (2m4f) was again a weak race for the grade, but produced a really likeable performance from Uxizandre, who again benefitted from positive tactics and was always holding Oscar Whisky. This paid a compliment to Taquin Du Seuil who beat him in the JLT.
The winner isn’t straightforward, (running in cheekpieces,) and has to go left handed but, only 6, appeals as a Ryanair (12/1) type if the headgear keeps working. That looks his trip. Oscar Whisky again jumped indifferently and will be 10 next season so its hard to see him winning at the Festival now – though he may well be worth a try over further, (which would help him get organized at his fences.)
It’s not easy to know what to make of Arkle winner Western Warhorse who got himself very wound up in the preliminaries. He was then given a positive ride over this longer trip and didn’t look to get home. He shouldn’t be written off but is clearly a dangerous betting proposition, (25/1 for the Champion Chase).
The 4 year olds Grade 1 hurdle went to the tough Guitar Pete, who’d been 3rd in the Triumph, (had previously won a Grade 1 at Leopardstown,) who benefitted from a typically brilliant Paul Carberry waiting ride. The two that followed him home had looked unlucky at Cheltenham. Clarcam had looked like he might win the Fred Winter when coming down 2 out, (and this form him adds weight to that theory.)
By contrast, Calipto was marginally further behind Guitar Pete here than he had been in the Triumph when Daryl Jacob’s stirrup broke. There were plenty of positives for Cheltenham form throughout the week but one that probably got less attention was the fact that Tiger Roll might be a better Triumph winner than he was given credit for, (33/1 for the Champion Hurdle).
Sam Waley-Cohen used to get a fair bit of stick when Long Run was in his pomp, with some punters ignorantly comparing him unfavourably with Ruby Walsh. Waley-Cohen is a good amateur, (which, naturally, makes him much less able than the top pros), and he gave Warne a fine ride to win the Fox Hunters, (extended 2m5f). Front runners who get into a rhythm are hard to catch over shorter trips on the National course and he gave his mount a breather at just the right time. Having put him up last year when he wasn’t ridden anything like as prominently by Mikey Fogarty, it was frustrating to miss out.
That was because I thought Mossey Joe would outclass these. He was only brought into training in January, (after being sold following an ownership dispute,) and might have needed the run, (had completed a simple task in a point on his only run this season). Certainly I hadn’t expected him to be ridden so far off the pace. In theory he should have a great chance at Punchestown and Stratford as he reaches peak fitness, but it was interesting that Enda Bolger said he’s being trained for next year’s National. He was given a mark of 152 this year and it might be that connections will have in mind getting that down a few pounds in the interim.
I love the Red Rum Chase – there isn’t a handicap like it for pure jumping at speed. Parsnip Pete had been a consistent performer in 2m handicaps and this test of speed really suited him. He’d been left off for 3 months before a prep at Ludlow last month and this was an excellent piece of target training by Tom George. He was winning off 134 here but is just the sort to pop up again in a big handicap like the Grand Annual next season.
My fancy Turn Over Sivola ran well but inexperience looked to just catch him out, (still a maiden over fences,) and he could never quite land a blow. He appears nicely handicapped off 134 but he’ll presumably be kept for a novice campaign next season. He looks the type who’ll progress for more racing so shouldn’t be underestimated.
Claret Cloak was running off 146 after finishing 3rd in the Grand Annual, and again ran a good race. He’s a classy novice on good ground but it’d be a surprise if he was up to the Champion Chase next season, (50/1).
The handicap hurdle over an extended 3m had a range of just 12lb. Doctor Harper had looked a promising novice early in the campaign and the step up in trip really looked to suit, as he ran out a ready winner. He was winning off 138 here and looks a good prospect for staying novice chases next season, although from an RSA perspective it’s worth noting he’s disappointed on both runs at Cheltenham.
Kaylif Aramis had been going well when tipping up in the Coral Cup at the Festival, and ran another blinder here, (another stepped up in trip.) He should continue to pay his way. Meister Eckhart had picked up a minor injury on his chasing debut in early November and didn’t reappear until late February. He’s been campaigned over hurdles to preserve his novice chase status for next season and whilst he’ll be 9 next year, he still rates a decent prospect in that sphere.