Trying to pinpoint his main hope could be trickier than unravelling the most cunning plan that Baldrick has to offer with Vautour, Don Poli, Djakadam and Sir Des Champs at his disposal and to my mind if I was backing one of the quartet then I would have to stick with Don Poli. The ease from 10-11 to a starting price of 6-5 probably told its own story as Don Poli took awhile to to warm to his task before finally pulling four lengths clear of Many Clouds in the Betfred Chase at Aintree when in receipt of 5lb from the runner-up. However, considering that Many Clouds won both the Hennessy Gold Cup and the Grand National last year it was a pleasing enough effort from a horse who has his quirks but keeps his best form for the stiffer inclines of Cheltenham in March.
History shows that Don Poli was a comfortable four and half length victory from Thomas Crapper in the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle off a mark of 143 in 2014 and twelve months later he put up arguably his most imperious performance in the Grade 1 RSA Chase. The Gigginstown-owned gelding was travelling as smoothly as a Rolls Royce when in the lead approaching two out in the RSA and was not hard pressed to score by six lengths from Southfield Theatre. Horses for courses so they say and we know Don Poli will relish the final run up a hill that has killed off the hopes of many pretenders.
Djakadam could only finish eighth to Many Clouds in last year’s Hennessy Gold Cup when still only a five-year-old but his progress since has been truly remarkable. Rich Ricci’s chaser was rated 142 then but now figures on a mark of 168 and, probably reaching the zenith of his powers, he is clearly right in there in the mix too.
Djakadam’s performance in the John Durkan Memorial Chase at Punchestown on Sunday was a copybook effort over a distance of two miles and a half that is well short of his optimum trip and his slick jumping made it a performance to whet the appetite of all NH fans.
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However, it could be that Don Poli will dust down best of that pair and with the jumps season in full stride there are some exciting months ahead.
At Sandown, the Monopolies Commission could be excused for knocking on Gary Moore’s door shortly as three winners on Friday and a further three on Saturday confirmed that his team are in cracking form. Star of the show was Sire De Grugy who remerged from the shadows when beating the tough as teak Special Tiara to register his second success in the Tingle Creek Chase.
Sire De Grugy looked full of all his old zest when holding Special Tiara by three quarters of a length and more will be revealed after a next engagement in the Desert Orchid Chase at Kempton on December 27 or the Clarence House Chase at Ascot. However, after a lacklustre last season the 2014 Queen Mother Champion Chase winner looks back in the mix and a close watching brief is advised as present.
One of the most eyecatching performances of the weekend came from Seeyouatmidnight in the two mile and seven and a half furlong novices chase at Kelso.
The winner of the Grade 2 Rendlesham Hurdle in Haydock in 2014 didn’t have the rub of the green and looked in need of the run when third to Silsol on his chasing bow at Carlisle last month but he summarily reversed the placings with the winner at Kelso when making all for a 13 length success.
Seeyouatmidnight was 10lb better off with Silsol on Sunday but it was the manner of his victory that impressed as he measured his fences beautifully under Brian Hughes. He has been given a quote of 25-1 for the RSA Chase but the advice is to hold fast for now and collect some necessary readies in the interim as this exciting prospect racks up the wins.