Matt Tombs / Wednesday 7th May 2014 / 16:45
The ground was watered all week to keep it basically good to yielding, and it looked to ride just on the slow side of good throughout the meeting.
It’s been as low key a season for chasers in open company as I can remember but it ended with a heartwarming swansong win for Sizing Europe, who won the Grade 1 2m chase. The former Arkle and Champion Chase hero has a great record on the track – this was his 7th chase win here. He’s the first 12 year old to win a Grade 1 since Monet’s Garden won the Ascot Chase four years ago.
It was great watching him show the youngsters how to jump at speed, but this was a poor Grade 1 – especially when Hidden Cyclone fell and knocked Module out of the race. I’d fancied Baily Green but, despite having ideal conditions and the run of the race, he simply wasn’t good enough.
Ballynagour is another who’s looking exposed as below the top level. He travelled well on his first try at 2m, but any suggestion it may have been a stamina issue that was stopping him finishing his races was dispelled here, as he was readily outpaced before staying on to snatch 2nd.
Grand Annual winner Savello was much the least experienced in terms of competing in top races, (running in his first Grade 1) and is probably the only one to take out of the race with next year’s Festival in mind. His Grand Annual win off 147 was the highest mark defied in that race this century and he looks to be progressing with each race – without having the obvious profile of a Champion Chase contender next season. 33/1 looks decent value.
The 2m Grade 1 novice hurdle was rendered all the more interesting when the Mullins / Ricci team ran Neptune winner Faugheen rather than Supreme winner Vautour. Whilst both were really impressive at Cheltenham, there was a question mark over how 2m on good ground would suit Faugheen, as he’d run over between 2m4f and 3m over hurdles and his jumping had been clumsy on occasions.
It very much looked like a fact finding mission to help decide which of the Mullins team would go the Champion Hurdle route next season and which would go novice chasing. The positives for Faugheen were that his breeding suggested 2m on good ground should suit and he’d run only in 3 soft races over hurdles before Cheltenham, which suggested he’d have learnt a lot for jumping at speed for the first time there.
Faugheen was hugely impressive, jumping really well going 2m pace. Whilst he got a soft lead, he demolished plenty of those that contested the Supreme – arguably more convincingly than Vautour did at Cheltenham. It’s always dangerous to get carried away with end of season form, but it’s arguable that Mullins’ suggestion that Vautour is better, is holding up Faugheen’s price, (6/1 for the Champion Hurdle and 10/1 for the Arkle).
Western Boy was the only one who tried to mix it with Faugheen and he ultimately paid for that in the straight as beaten horses ran past him. He may be the other one to take out of the race and it’s worth noting that he’s the only horse to have really given Vautour a race, (on testing ground). He’s not bred to be a chaser but he looks to have scope and, only 5, could be one to follow in the novice chasing division next season.
Wicklow Brave was well fancied for the Supreme but was only 6th there and ran a flat race behind Valseur Lido at Fairyhouse. He’d been on the go for a year so it was a surprise to see him show up here. He went sideways at the start, but had closed to still be in contention when falling 2 out. If a tough end to the season hasn’t bottomed him, he looks a good prospect for next season at around 2m.
Valseur Lido looks like a chasing type, probably over further on softer ground, (first of the principals off the bridle here and stayed on to take a remote 2nd.) He’s likely to be one of Gigginstown’s leading novice chase prospects for next season, (none of the beaten horses are quoted for Festival novice chases.)
With the Gold Cup division looking so open, any staying novice chaser putting up an impressive performance at one of the spring festivals would look a contender for the blue riband next season. The Grade 1 3m chase didn’t produce that. Only 5 lined up and with Mozoltov being far too keen stepped up in trip, it was effectively 4, all of whom were beaten in the RSA.
Despite the small field they went a good gallop and the race set up perfectly for Carlingford Lough. He did well to finish within 10l in the RSA as he jumped poorly and, whilst he wasn’t always fluent here, he was much more efficient and won going away. He’s been on the go a long time and it’s been a great effort from John Kiely to produce him to win a Grade 1 at this stage. That was his 15th chase start and he could be hard to place next season, looking to be below Gold Cup (33/1) standard.
Ballycasey was still on the bridle coming to the last, but having seen his stamina ebb away in the RSA, it wasn’t a surprise to see that Ruby was holding onto nothing. He looks a classy performer and might get home in a steadily run Lexus or Hennessy at Leopardstown if the ground isn’t bad, but looks very much a Ryanair (16/1) rather than Gold Cup (50/1) horse next season, (owner Rich Ricci indicated the Ryanair would be his target before this race.)
Considering how few of the others at the front of the ante-post market are likely to run, 16/1 looks a tempting price as his form over that sort of trip, (won the Moriarty and looked set to win the Powers Gold Cup when falling,) looks strong.
Given there’s a €59,000 first prize for the Goffs Land Rover Bumper but its restricted to horses that were offered in a specific Goffs sale – it’s not surprising the race has a mixed record. In the last decade it’s been won by subsequent Grade 1 winner Glencove Marina and Grade 2 winner Texas Jack – as well as Moyle Park last season, (who picked up a minor injury and hasn’t run since Christmas but who Rich Ricci was mentioning in the same breath as Faugheen and Vautour this week.) It’s also been won by some ordinary types, (a couple of which never won again from several attempts.)
Given that profile, the dogs are usually barking for one or two on the day, but that didn’t happen, which suggests this might be a weak renewal. Willie Mullins had one runner but unusually Patrick Mullins took an outside ride, Native Display for Nicky Henderson. Punters took that as a hint and piled in but he ran no sort of race.
Patrick missed out on a winner, as Willie’s Very Much So caused a minor upset to edge out Snow Falcon by ½l. Whilst Ger Fox’s 7lb claim is understandably the most sought after around at the moment, I was impressed with Johnny Burke here. He locked horns with Nina Carberry, (who has won the Irish National and races at the Cheltenham Festival,) and compared very favourably in the straight.
4 year old Very Much So apparently hadn’t shown much at home and was described by Mullins as green. He’s a half brother to Jessies Dream and looks a decent prospect – he’s 16/1 for the Supreme and 14/1 for the Neptune, (you’d want to see more before considering backing him.) Snow Falcon was giving the 7lb claim away and arguably therefore emerges as the best horse. He was racing in a hood, (this season’s fashionable headgear,) and is another for the notebook for next season, (not quoted for Festival novice hurdles).
Just over an hour after Very Much So had scooped that €59,000, Forgotten Rules earned a more modest €6,900 by winning the other bumper on the card. The vibes before and afterwards suggested he was the bumper horse to take from the day. He was backed into even money and destroyed what is usually a good 4 year old bumper field, (Albert Bartlett winner Very Wood won it last season.) With the second favourite chasing him home, (beaten 13l on the bridle), Forgotten Rules looks a top prospect.
Being trained by Dermot Weld and flat bred, there’s always the chance he’ll be campaigned on the level. However, whilst Weld was keeping his options open afterwards, he said he might be put away for the summer. He’s 10/1 for the Supreme and whilst that’s hardly generous, he couldn’t have been more impressive here so if you punt on visuals you might be tempted if he gets the go ahead to run over hurdles.