There was some great racing over the weekend at Aintree, Sandown and Huntingdon, and some interesting results which could well be pointers (or false-hopes) for future glory at the Cheltenham Festival in March.
The Aintree meeting started with what looked like a promising performance from the 5yo novice hurdler Ballybolley when making-all to win. Admittedly, he was a strong 6/4 fav - but this was no mean feat to make-all. While I can't see him winning at Cheltenham, he should make an interesting chaser next season.
The Becher Chase over the National fences went to veteran 13yo Oscar Time, who was given an exemplary ride by Sam Waley-Cohen. The place to be over these National fences is "in-the-van" and that's were Oscar Time was throughout the race; leading over the first few fences then settling-in behind the front runners until chasing and passing the weakening race-fav on the run-in. Behind him, I was taken by the run of Saint Are who ran-on to be 3rd. This 8yo didn't run in the National last April, but was a finisher (ran 9th) behind Auroras Encore in April 2013 off a rating of OR142. He's slipped to OR127 and will struggle to get a National start off that rating (min OR138 in 2014) - but he's capable of running to 137+ on my ratings so he's clearly coming back into form. In 2nd was Mendip Express, who never seems to run a bad race. He is a very consistent performer who I reckon ran up to his OR144 rating - however, he seems to have reached his ceiling.
What was very upsetting was losing Balbriggan to a fatal injury. He appeared to jump the 9th fence well but sustained a leg-fracture a few strides after jumping the fence. I was disappointed that 5lb claimer Ryan Hatch was unseated from Benbens at the 12th fence, just as the horse seemed to be getting involved. The horse remains well-handicapped and relatively unexposed and one to keep on the right-side of.
Later in the afternoon, the Sefton Chase was won by Poole Master who has always been capable of running to his OR142 rating, but never seems inclined to do so - hence his SP of 25/1. Jockey Sam Waley-Cohen was in rare form having won the Becher Chase earlier and, in this, he was riding the talented - but lazy - Cedre Bleu, who looked like winning easily jumping the last fence but (as usual) found nothing. This horse is proving exasperating and, since he last won in March 2013, he's been 2nd x 4 times. He's at least 7lb better than his OR138 rating, possibly more than 10lb better, but he doesn't like putting his head in front.
At Sandown, the feature race was the Tingle Creek, and the result was a bit of a surprise as both the joint-fav's (God's Own and Balder Succes) made jumping errors and ran well below form. I'm prepared to forgive both these horses this run. Balder Succes ran the better of the pair, looking like being involved in the finish after jumping the 3rd last fence, but he'd made a succession of jumping errors over the "Railway" fences and these must've taken a lot out of him - and it must be remembered that he ran a stinker when well-beaten in the Henry VIII novice chase on this card last year. It could be that Balder Succes just doesn't like Sandown. I've rated this race thru' Somersby who is a consistent yardstick. Even so, I don't have him at OR162 as he hasn't run to 160+ since he was 4th to Cue Card at Ascot in Feb 2013 in my book. For me, he ran to 155 (just 3lb below his QMCC performance when 2nd to Sire De Grugy in March), and that puts the winner Dodging Bullets on 158 which is a probably his best chase performance to date. As such, had he jumped cleanly, I'm sure that Balder Succes would've won on Saturday, and so he's still my idea of the QM Champion Chase winner next March.
I was out Christmas shopping yesterday, so missed a cracking opportunity in the Peterborough Chase at Huntingdon, where Wishful Thinking maintained his rich vein of form this season when winning at 13/2. Although he's sneaked up to OR159, the 6yo Wonderful Charm has never looked better than 155 in my book, so he looked held on the weights and will likely struggle in handicaps. And while the race fav Eduard has improved with every run as a chaser to-date, he hasn't entirely convinced me that 2m4f & 110 yards is his trip and, sure enough, he was unable to peg-back the eventual winner after jumping the final fence. Rajdhani Express was very disappointing (again) and was reported to have finished lame. I'll give Rajdhani one more chance, but I'm begining to think that his 3rd in the Ryanair (won by Dynaste) flattered him a bit - maybe he's more of a "Spring" horse.So, Wishful Thinking merely had to run up to the form of his handicap win at Cheltenham last January to win this and he probably had about 7lb in-hand at the line. Sending him off at 13/2 was a real Christmas bonus for connections and his supporters.
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Monday, 8 December 2014
Look-back at the weekends action - Tingle Creek and Peterborough Chase
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