Matt Tombs / Wednesday 7th May 2014 / 16:45
The Gold Cup division is in real need of some star quality. Having been a big Boston Bob fan since his novice hurdling days it’s been frustrating to have missed his wins here and at Aintree. The great thing about him is that he finishes his races so strongly. Ruby Walsh says he’s a bit quirky when you ask him for his effort, (Ruby got unbalanced here when Boston Bob drifted after the last,) but once he got going he really stormed clear to beat First Lieutenant by 3¼l, (3m1f).
The form is nothing special and he’s obviously not been easy to train, but he has long shaped as if the Gold Cup (16/1) would suit ideally. However, he’ll be 10 next year and the only horse as old as 10 to win the Gold Cup in the last 20 years was Cool Dawn in 1998. They’ll be another double figure aged horse win it at some point, but younger, fresher legs almost always prevail and given that greats like Kauto Star and Denman couldn’t do it, you’d want to be wary of backing much lesser horses to do so.
The 3m Grade 1 novice hurdle hasn’t always attracted a strong field but it was a cracking renewal this year, boasting the Grade 1 Albert Bartlett and Sefton winners, plus the Martin Pipe winner. It was the Sefton form that prevailed with Beat That beating Martin Pipe winner Don Poli by ¾l.
Best That was having just his 4th run over hurdles here and, with his stamina proved, was given a more positive ride than at Aintree. The vibes were that he ran a little flat here and I doubt he was hard trained for this, as that’s not Nicky Henderson’s style. He’s probably a bit better than the bare result and rates a top prospect for next season. He looks every inch a chaser but so does Whisper and it wasn’t a surprise to hear Nicky say that they would probably keep one of them for the staying hurdle division.
It’s not easy working out how they’re likely to be split. The markets have Beat That at 14/1 for the World Hurdle and Whisper 16/1 with only Whisper quoted for the RSA, (12/1). That lack of an RSA quote for Beat That doesn’t mean much and whilst they both have high profile owners, neither looks to have an obvious other contender for either division. Beat That’s owner Michael Buckley does have Tolworth winner Royal Boy who stays much further than 2m, and if he makes a recovery from the injury that forced him to miss the spring festivals, he might be one for staying hurdles.
Given Beat That and Whisper’s relative levels of experience, it might be that Beat That is the more logical one for another season over hurdles - in which case 14/1 would look huge if More Of That and Annie Power go chasing. The World Hurdle market looks one to focus on at the start of next season when plans for those horses are announced.
Don Poli might have been slightly flattered by his proximity to Beat That but, like so many Gigginstown horses, he looks a chasing type and, seemingly flexible as to ground conditions, he looks a leading candidate for staying novices chases in Ireland next season. He’s 12/1 for the RSA but with his owners having so many potential horses for that race, (Rule The World and Lieutenant Colonel amongst them,) he’s not a betting proposition at this stage.
Lots Of Memories had looked a promising novice during the dry autumn but rather lost his way over the winter, especially when the ground became testing. He bounced back at Fairyhouse to win a valuable novice handicap off 129 and again showed his liking for a sound surface upped in class here. He got into all sorts of trouble on the home turn and in the straight, but closed to within 2½l at the line. He may be ground dependent but appeals as a likely type for the 4 miler next season, (no market yet).
Albert Bartlett winner Very Wood was disappointing. It might be it was a weak Albert Bartlett this year or it might be this was a race too far for a horse that’s been on the go since October. This was his 2nd run in cheekpieces and it may be some more extensive headgear will be needed when he goes chasing next season. He’s 20/1 for the RSA and it’ll be interesting to see how he trains on next term.
Le Vent D’Antan was one of the hyped novice hurdle prospects in the autumn, after a fair 7th to Briar Hill in the Cheltenham Festival Bumper last season when sent off joint favourite. He was much too keen there and I’d had him down as one to follow this season, but he was held up in the autumn, didn’t make the racecourse until January and had been disappointing with just a March maiden hurdle win from 4 starts.
However, Liz Doyle made it clear that he was going to be much fitter here and he trounced a decent looking field in a winners of one hurdle (2m4f.) He’s very much a chaser in the making and if they get a clear run with him next season, he could take high rank in the novice chasing division. He’s not yet quoted for the RSA but it would be no surprise if he ended up in that race – given his interrupted campaign over hurdles he’s the type to be underestimated by punters with short memories.
Given that there are so many bumpers at this festival, it’s easy to forget that one of them is a Grade 1, (2m). It attracted a really strong field with the 1st, 2nd and 4th from the Cheltenham version lining up and Silver Concorde was heavily backed into even money to follow up. Everything looked in his favour but he was readily outpointed in the end by Cheltenham runner-up Shaneshill.
It’s worth remembering that Shaneshill was himself heavily backed into 7/2 favouritism at Cheltenham and Willie Mullins wondered if he was too easy on him in the run up to that race. On this slightly easier ground he turned the tables comfortably and he looks a top prospect for novice hurdles. His breeding suggests he ought to stay well and he’s shown plenty of speed so he looks the right favourite for the Supreme at this stage, although 8/1 clearly isn’t a betting proposition for a horse that may easily contest the Neptune.
It was great to hear Dermot Weld say before the race that Silver Concorde had schooled brilliantly over hurdles. Hopefully he’ll get a chance to show what he can do as a novice hurdler though he might not want winter ground. He looks to have lots of speed and 16/1 for the Supreme is fair.
The other one to take out of the race is Value At Risk who’d met trouble in running at Cheltenham, (finished 12th), but showed his true colours here to be beaten only 2¼l, and given that his rider couldn’t claim his 5lb here he arguably comes out the best horse. He’s a chasing type but ought to be competitive in good novice hurdles first – he’s 20/1 for the Supreme, but may want further.