First up was the Paul Nicholls' trained Silsol, and I had expected him to at least match the form of his previous race as that would have put him in the frame for this. This wager was a "value" play as while we knew the likely ability of our selection, the odds-on fav was running essentially on reputation only - and sometimes these horses don't live up to the hype. The proximity of Definitely Red suggests that the eventual winner Black Hercules didn't run much above 150. However, the winner looked to have plenty in-hand and should turn out to be a 160+ chaser. Even so, Silsol threw-in the towel a long way out and this was not the form we expected at all. Paul Nicholls' horses are appearing to lack the ability to mix with the best, and the form of the stable this season has been inconsistent when compared to previous years.
Next up was Upsilon Bleu, and this horse was most consistent last season showing good form between 151-155 suggesting that his current OR144 rating was lenient. He had everything in his favour on Saturday too, but was beaten a long way out. His trainer could offer no explanation, and I will keep him on the alert list for another race to see if it was just one of those things. As could be expected (given the poor effort by our selection), the race was fought out by the other two principals; Gardefort and Sir Valentino. As I wrote in Saturdays blog, if Gardefort was on a going day then he had plenty in hand to beat Sir Valentino as he'd well beaten him comfortably when they last met. It all depended on whether Gardefort would be in a racing mood, and he was, running out a convincing winner. He should be capable of following-up and he goes onto the alert list.
Our final selection What A Good Night, had a dose of bad luck. The heavy ground had taken a fair toll of the field at his point of departure, almost certainly contributing to a number of the fallers. With 8 fences to jump, our selection was going well in about 8th position when a couple of fallers at that fence badly impeded him, and he lost a lot of ground.. His jockey decided at that point that continuing was a lost cause, but perhaps he was a bit too quick to pull the horse up. There were eventually only 5 finishers and while I doubt he'd have troubled the 1st-2 home, the 3rd placed runner was out on his feet 3-out and ended-up well beaten. There is plenty of stamina in the make-up of What A Good Night, and he was jumping well enough up until the 15th fence to suggest he wasn't going to be a likely faller. Personally, I think we were unlucky not to recoup the place-part of our eachway wager at 16/1.
The wet weather continues to wreck havoc on the fixture list with heavy ground. As such, we have had a number of meetings abandoned and, with heavy ground, horses can quickly become unhappy - even those that have won on heavy ground before. I've been going through the results in some depth since the beginning of December, and updating my alert list accordingly, with an eye of the Cheltenham Festival in March. Those being added to the alert list are mainly those born in 2009, as they are now 7yo's for 2016; and this is the age-group were many of the improving handicap chasers of the next 12 months will come from.