Matt Tombs / Friday 29th November 2013 / 15:00
1pt Sizing Rio to win the Drinmore @ 5/2
1pt Jezki to win the Hattons Grace Hurdle @ Evens
1pt e/w Grumeti in the Fighting Fifth Hurdle @ 10/1
With 4 Grade 1s there is much more to this weekend’s racing than just the Hennessy. Probably the best betting race is the Drinmore novices chase over 2m4f at Fairyhouse, (good to yielding). Don Cossack (5/2) has been a real talking horse since his impressive bumper hat-trick. He’s also been impressive in his debut over both hurdles and fences, demolishing ordinary fields in heavy ground both times. He’s run decently in his other 3 hurdle races and his 2nd chase, without winning. It might be he’s best fresh, but it might be that he’s not a Grade 1 horse. He hasn’t looked to find much under pressure so far, including when beaten ½l by Morning Assembly at Punchestown last time, (2m6f, yielding). I want to see him beat a good horse before backing him in a good race.
By contrast, Sizing Rio (5/2) looks really progressive. The impression is Henry De Bromhead’s 5 year old wasn’t hard trained as a novice hurdler last season, with chasing in mind, (his trainer has described him as his ‘great white hope’.) He was really impressive last time at Cork, jumping well, which is a crucial asset over these stiff fences. He probably hasn’t raced against a horse as good as Morning Assembly yet, but on what we’ve seen he looks a top class novice in the making and I think he should be clear favourite.
Road To Riches (9/2) looked a real stayer when a decent novice hurdler in the first half of last season, before running poorly at Aintree and Punchestown. He made a successful debut in a decent beginners at Naas, (2m3f yielding to soft), but on the good to yielding ground I doubt he’ll have the pace to win this.
By contrast, Dessie Hughes thinks Art of Logistics (6/1) might be best over 2m. He’s 2 from 2 so far over fences, though the form doesn’t compare with the market leaders. He’s unexposed and with ground making this more of a test of speed than usual, he might cause an upset if he continues to progress.
Don Cossack looks one to take on in top company and Road To Riches looks as stayer, so this could be an ideal opportunity for Sizing Rio, who visually has looked a top class prospect. I think he should be a lot shorter and he’s well worth backing at 5/2.
Given we have Jezki (Evens) in the Portfolio for the Champion Hurdle, you might expect I’d be piling in to him at these odds in what looks an ordinary renewal. The big question is whether he’ll get 2m4f on a galloping, testing track. His brother Jenari did and his half brothers Jered and especially Jetson got even further. He was keen last year though, including in the Supreme when they went a decent gallop, but seemed to settle better on his comeback run. How he’ll settle going 2m4f pace is an unknown. The ground, often bottomless for this meeting, is good to yielding with no material rain forecast and that’s a huge plus for Jezki, (all the family have been much better on a sound surface).
The others look opposable. Rule The World (7/2) was a fine 2nd to The New One in the Neptune before breaking down badly in Jezki’s race at Punchestown. He made a good recovery and returned to win a minor conditions hurdle at Naas last month, (2m4, yielding to soft.) That looked a weak race and the 2nd was beaten miles next time. Mouse Morris is easing him back and I doubt he’ll want him to have a hard race here. Whilst Gigginstown often like to have more than one runner in Grade 1s, the fact that they’ve supplemented Dedigout couldn’t be seen as a great endorsement of Rule The World’s chances.
Last year’s winner Zaidpour (13/2) is a talented horse but is miles better on really bad ground, (all 7 hurdles wins on soft or worse.) Dedigout (10/1) was a smart novice chaser last season. He made a nice comeback in a weak renewal of the Grade 2 Lismullen Hurdle at Navan. That has persuaded Gigginstown to keep him over hurdles at the moment but he’s another who wants desperate ground and I doubt he’ll be good enough on a sound surface. Diakali (10/1) was 22l 4th in the Triumph and has won 3 out of 4 in 4 year olds races since, including a Grade 1 in France. That looks to leave him with plenty to find but the performance of Mr Fiftyone in the Royal Bond, who was 2¼l behind him when getting 11lb at Naas last time, might give an indication of the strength of his form.
Whilst I’m not certain that Jezki will get the trip, he looks a cut above these and the ground is really in his favour. If this race was over 2m, he’d be 1/3 – and I think evens is still too big.
The Grade 1 action in Britain is the Fighting Fifth at Newcastle which revolves around how fit My Tent Or Yours, (8/11) is. If he’s fit enough to do himself justice, he wins. The same connections Binocular was twice a beaten favourite in this though and with so many of the Henderson big guns misfiring first time, I couldn’t back him at odds on, (has won first time out both seasons, but improved enormously for racing last season.)
Melodic Rendezvous’s (11/4) win off 150 in the Elite Hurdle looked decent at the time but Far West rather let the form down at Haydock and he’s plenty short enough against a horse of My Tent Or Yours’s quality.
The mare Cockney Sparrow (14/1) is progressive and highly regarded by John Quinn. Her listed win at Wetherby has been boosted by Alasi and Doyly Carte since. Even getting 7lb, she has plenty to do at this level, though it wouldn’t be the biggest surprise if she’s up to it.
With the dead eight declared, including 2 no-hopers, the right call is to back Grumeti (11/1) each way. He turned round the Triumph form with subsequent Champion Hurdle 3rd Countrywide Flame, when beating him 1l at Aintree two seasons ago. Niggles kept him out for most of last season but he then ran a fine race off 153 to be beaten only 5l in the Scottish Champion Hurdle in April.
Alan King says he’s had a clear run and the horse is in much better form this time, so there’s no reason to think he couldn’t run to the sort of level Countrywide Flame (rated 168) has done. If he’s anywhere close to that he’ll be in the first 3 and if My Tent Or Yours does need the run, he could easily win.
The concern is that, after a cracking autumn, the yard has slipped out of form with 20odd consecutive losers. That’s not ideal but they haven’t actually been running badly and Grumeti looks far too big a price to pass over.
The Royal Bond novice hurdle at Fairyhouse over 2m is usually a very informative race. Jezki beat Champagne Fever last year and it’s produced Champion Hurdlers in Hurricane Fly and Hardy Eustace and a Champion Chaser in Newmill, since the turn of the century.
It’s sometimes a race to watch rather than bet on, as at this early stage of the season it’s hard to evaluate novices who’ve won races easily. That’s particularly the case this year as it looks a strong renewal. Minella Foru took advantage of Very Wood going sidewise last time, but a right handed track gives Very Wood some hope of turning round what could be strong form. Gilt Shadow looked a cracking prospect when beating a good yardstick easily at Down Royal. Gambling Girl has bolted up on both hurdles runs. That’s before looking at Willie Mullins’ unexposed types, Alonso, Arctic Fire and Renneti.
Its not a race to have a strong view on but I was really impressed with The Tullow Tank at Naas when he came from a seemingly impossible position to sprint past the well regarded Turnandgo. He’s a second season novice having been wayward last season, but he still recording an RPR of 131 when 5th to Annie Power in one of the best novice hurdles run in Ireland last season. He’s been supplemented for this following his Naas win and, at this stage of his career, going right handed looks a big advantage. Visually that was as impressive a turn of foot as I’ve seen from a novice so far and he might go off a big price.