Matt Tombs / Wednesday 7th May 2014 / 16:55
The Grade 1 3m hurdle produced one of those totally unfathomable results that often seem to happen when top class horses are running in May. Jetson was having his 24th race over hurdles and had been beaten at Cheltenham and Aintree off marks of 144 and 145. Nothing he’d done suggested he could trouble the principles – he officially had 29lb to find with Quevega and 17lb with At Fishers Cross.
However, he got a brilliant ride from Davy Russell and it looked as if Ruby Walsh and AP McCoy were guilty of watching each other, allowing Jetson first run. Both Quevega and At Fishers Cross were closing fast at the line but were beaten 1¼l and 2¼l respectively. This was Jetson’s moment in the sun and showed the value of bold placing at this stage of the season as he more than doubled his career earnings with this big pot.
There are genuine flukes – the 33/1 Arkle win of Western Warhorse certainly looks like one, (although having injured a tendon when well beaten at Aintree we may never know for sure.) Sometimes every horse is primed for that particular day, has their conditions and you get an unaccountable fluke result. That’s rare though and its more common that you get this sort of result, where the best horses just can’t produce their best form at this stage – which lead to results like Jetson winning.
Quevega was seeking a 10th consecutive win and with a more positive ride she might have won. Even so, it looks as if she’s not as good as she was and the decision to retire her looks well timed. She’s been the best mare of the modern era, (although she may soon lose that title to Annie Power who is rated 4lb behind her on official marks but is already 2lb higher on RPRs.)
I can’t help feeling a sense of missed opportunities as she bows out though – never running her in a Championship race meant we didn’t find out how good she was. Most of us follow the sport for the tiny number of outstanding horses – in particular to see them taking each other on as, for example, Kauto Star and Denman did. If those elite horses are deliberately kept to pot hunting smaller races, that can only reduce the attractiveness of the sport.
At Fishers Cross has had a frustrating season, troubled by injury early on and then unable to take advantage of the absence of the top two staying hurdlers at Aintree and here. He’s 14/1 for next year’s World Hurdle and if he gets a clear run that could look generous if More Of That and Annie Power go chasing.
The season in Ireland has been typified by Ruby Walsh dictating graded races from the front and judging the pace brilliantly. After arguably being caught napping on Quevega, it may be he went too quick on Champagne Fever in the Grade 1 2m novice chase. Champagne Fever needs further than 2m and so it might be Ruby was trying to make it a real test of stamina and Champagne Fever simply didn’t perform, (bombed here last year too.) He’s not the most consistent performer but I wouldn’t be getting too discouraged. He’s 14/1 for both the Ryanair and the Gold Cup and I think he’ll end up a leading contender for one of those races.
Balder Succes arguably emerges as the best horse in the race as he chased the cut throat gallop up front and was the only one of those in the van who kept up the gallop, (beaten ¾l). This looked a classic case of a horse being ridden to keep close to the favourite, even when that meant going too quickly. Had he been given a more patient ride he would surely have won and he remains a leading contender for the Champion Chase - 14/1 looks generous.
God’s Own and Moscow Mannon picked up the pieces here and after Module was taken out in the open event earlier in the week, few begrudged Tom George a change of luck. God’s Own was a maiden over fences coming into this and whilst he’d shown useful form (rated 142) there was nothing to suggest he’d be up to winning.
He may prosper over further and whilst he’s entitled to be trained for the Champion Chase (20/1) after this, the Ryanair (not quoted) may be a more realistic target. He’s still a novice in Britain because of the slightly different season ends, which leads to the absurd situation that he could run in the Arkle or JLT, (not quoted). This is a British/Irish sport and it really shouldn’t be beyond the wit of the two authorities to agree a system to prevent this sort of anomaly.
Moscow Mannon was a close 4th to Champagne Fever in the Festival Bumper two years ago but had been a bit disappointing over jumps since and was miles behind Balder Succes at Aintree. He’s already 8 and doesn’t look to have the scope for improvement of some of the others.
Arguably the best handicap of the week was the 2m handicap chase which was fought out by a pair of novices. Mallowney hadn’t looked the most resolute in a battle earlier in the season, but really looked to appreciate a faster run race here, (also sported a first time hood,) to win cosily off 139. He’s not straightforward but is just the type to go off a big price in open Grade 1s next season and run really well, (he might be one for back to lay in-running punters).
6 year old Art Of Logistics is two years younger than Mallowney and might be the one to take out of the race for next season’s Festival. He jumped much better here and, with this experience under his belt, should be one for top handicaps under these sorts of conditions. If trained for the Grand Annual next year he’d look the ideal type for that, (rated 136 here).
The mares novice hurdle (2m) looked an open event but it was the unexposed 4 year old Morga who prevailed by ½l from Vicky De L’Oasis. Morga had been running at around 1m on the flat for Jim Bolger, winning a fast ground 1m maiden in July and showing decent handicap form to end up rated 93.
She’d only made her debut over hurdles the previous week when winning at Cork and took advantage of the weight for age allowances here to beat some fair rivals, who were much more experienced over timber. Given her flat speed it will be fascinating to see how she’s campaigned over jumps from now on. She has obvious stamina question marks but she’s only 4 and if she does progress over hurdles she might be one for the 2m4f mares race at the Festival next year.
Now that Quevega has retired the whole shape of that race will depend on whether Annie Power (an easy winner at 1/6 of a typically uncompetitive mares Grade 1 over 2m2f here on Saturday), goes chasing or whether connections looks for a penalty kick in the mares race at Cheltenham, (7/4).
If Annie Power doesn’t line up then that race is wide open and novices and 2nd season hurdlers have a good record in it – Whiteoak won the inaugural running as a novice and 4 of the 6 mares to have chased Quevega home were in their first or second seasons over hurdles. If Annie Power does jump fences next season, it could be a Festival market that provides plenty of value.