After a couple of quiet days on the racing scene, I’ve had a bit of time to reflect upon the weekend’s results (and non-events).
Saturday, saw the Victor Chandler Chase at Ascot go to MASTER MINDED by the skin of his teeth. However, the margin of his victory does not reflect the manner of his victory. The running of the race was severely affected by the departure of Petit Robin 5-out, and that fall led to Kalahari King being nearly carried-out. That Kalahari King managed to stay on to be 4th, just under 2-lengths behind 3rd-placed Mad Max, makes you wonder where he’d have finished had he not suffered interference. Prior to the departure of Petit Robin, MASTER MINDED had already jumped himself into the lead and, from then on, was not headed being well clear (4-lengths plus) at the 2nd-last. He had perhaps been on his own a tad too long by then, and started to lose interest which meant AP McCoy (not his regular rider) had to “drive” him into the last fence. On the run-in, Somersby kept on and very nearly led on the line. Much has been made of this result on the forums, but the fact remains that MASTER MINDED won the race and he had the race in the bag at the 2nd-last fence. It looked a decent performance from MASTER MINDED to me, and the odds of 11/4 for the QMCC (from Vic Chandler) look a bit generous as he won’t be allowed to saunter into a 4-length lead at the 2nd-last in that race. The extra competition will keep his mind on the job. In my opinion, MASTER MINDED is still the only chaser capable of a 170+ performance over the QMCC trip, and he has the potential to hit 180. Whereas Somersby has improved this season to a 164+ 2-mile chaser, it won’t be good enough for the QMCC, and he is unproven at Grade 1 level over 21f – the distance of the Ryanair.
For the Queen Mother Champion Chase on 16th March
MASTER MINDED, 1pt win @ 11/4 (with Victor Chandler)
We lost the meeting at Haydock on Saturday and it was a big blow to Donald McCain and PEDDLERS CROSS. Preparation for the Festival is now in full-swing and even minor upsets can have an effect on performances come the big day. That McCain was so angry about the abandonment of the meeting suggests he needed the race to go ahead. Despite the non-show of PEDDLERS CROSS, he has been trimmed in the Champion Hurdle betting to 11/2 (from 6’s). McCain is now looking at a final race prior to the Champion Hurdle on 5th February – either at Ffos Las or Sandown. If all else fails, the Kingwell Hurdle at Wincanton on 19th Feb remains a possibility.
Over in Ireland, Sunday saw a cracking meeting at Leopardstown with the Irish Arkle and the Irish Champion Hurdle. Peddlers Cross had been entered for the hurdle and then diverted to Haydock, which must have been particularly galling for McCain. The Arkle was the first of those races run and it was a cracking line-up of 6 of the best Irish novice 2-mile chasers. The fav was REALT DUBH who eventually won, but the market had plenty of support for NOBLE PRINCE and FLAT OUT. The latter was going well and looked likely to go close when falling at the 2nd-last. It was an over-exuberant leap that was his downfall and it’s since been learned that the horse chipped a bone in the fall and is out for the season. Let’s hope he returns next season, and he could be on a cracking handicap mark! It was left to REALT DUBH and NOBLE PRINCE to fight out the finish. NOBLE PRINCE led after the last but was unable to maintain the advantage and went down by the shortest of heads. To me, it was an excellent piece of form as both horses had their jumping put under test as speed. At this point, punters have to make a decision – whether to value Irish form or English form higher. RP Ratings have valued both these horses at 154, which is 6lb less than GHIZAO (trained by Paul Nicholls) and 2lb less than FINIANS RAINBOW (trained by Nicky Henderson) and the latter has yet to jump a fence under pressure at speed. I would put the Irish form a few pounds higher than 154, but then I rate GHIZAO a better horse that 160.
Next up was HURRICANE FLY who won the Irish Champion Hurdle beating Solwhit (again). For me, this was the best performance I’ve seen from HURRICANE FLY as he had both Solwhit and 3rd-placed stablemate Thousand Stars flat-out to the boards trying to match him coming to the final flight. He quickened well from the last into a comfortable lead which he was able to maintain to the line. No doubt about it, this performance puts him in the mix for the Champion Hurdle. However, given that Henderson was confident when asked on Saturday (Morning Line on C4) that he knew the “key” to Binocular (plenty of work and hurdling practise as speed), it is likely that the “Fly” will need to improve another 7lb or more on what he’s done to date to master Binocular.
On known form, I reckon Binocular is a worthy fav and he could go to post as short at 9/4 (he’s 100/30 with Corals). Hurricane Fly will probably be 7/2 on the day (currently 9/2 with various bookies), with Peddlers Cross at 9/2 (currently 11/2), but it all depends on his next run. Menorah is currently at 5/1, but I can see him drifting in the market, as statistically he’s not favoured and he seems to relish coming off a slightly slower pace than he’ll get in the Champion Hurdle. When he won the Supreme last March it was run in a time 2.68 secs slower than the Champion Hurdle time of Binocular later on the card.
There are no selections for today’s racing. We dropped 2pts last Saturday.
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