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Monday 15 December 2014

Look-back at the weekends racing 13th/14th December

The feature race on Saturday was the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup (Handicap) over 2m5f, and it turned out to be a cracking display from the eventual winner Niceonefrankie.

The horse didn't even show up in my pre-race review even tho' he'd won LTO at Ascot absolutely slaughtering a decent field of handicappers over 2m3f on 21st November. This was a significant oversight for me but, to be fair, Niceonefrankie won the same Ascot race off the same OR129 rating in very similar fashion (in 2nd was Double Ross off OR133 and he's now on OR159) in 2013, and subsequently ran consistently but was unable to compete off his revised rating (OR135-140).

Where I and, I expect, many others went wrong - as he started at the generous odds of 16/1 on Saturday - was that (apart from his next start at Newbury on 29Nov13) for the remainder of the 2013-14 season Niceonefrankie was campaigned over 3-mile. Also, little improvement was expected of him as he had already had 24 chase races in his short career. 

It seems fairly obvious now that his best trip is 20-21f and, given that behind him LTO at Ascot were:
King Edmund - ran 2nd (btn a short-head) on 24Nov and won on Saturday morning over hurdles (and has since won again today at Plumpton); and...
Al Alfa - won at Cheltenham on Friday (as I should know as he was on my alert list).

Full marks to Aidan Coleman for making full use of the horses strengths to make-all and build up an unassailable lead by running-on at a good pace. Much of the field were toiling about a mile out as they ran up the hill and altho' Niceonefrankie looked to be running on empty approaching the final fence, he'd managed to run the legs off his nearest challengers.

The only horse I was "right" about in the race was Barrakilla who was having only his 5th chase start (whereas Niceonefrankie was having his 25th chase start). Being a half-bro' to China Rock it was no surprise to see him staying on in the final mile, and I expect connections will try him over further next time. His half-bro' has been rated over 152 since winning a grade 3 chase over 2m7f at Punchestown in Oct-10, and Barrakilla looks to have the potential to follow him to be a mid-OR150 chaser. Definitely one for the alert list.

The only other horse to make a race of it on Saturday was Edgardo Sol. This was his best effort (judged on my ratings) since he was 3rd in the "Game Spirit" chase over 2m1f at Newbury in Feb-13. He's not won since April 2012, and it's to be hoped that the handicapper doesn't put him up for this effort as he's not a big horse and not the type to be able to give away lumps of weight in handicaps. Even so, he's a rock solid 150-154 chaser, possibly best over trips up to 2m4f.

Earlier in the afternoon, Sew On Target showed that his best trip (by a long way) is at around 2-miles - he doesn't stay any further than 2m1f with any confidence. He beat the useful yardstick Astracad very easily and had the rest strung out behind. He can defy a weight-rise so long as he's not pushed up in trip.

The remainder of the Cheltenham card looked top-notch. I couldn't quite work out why Port Melon started the 7/4 fav for the 3-mile novice hurdle, and he was comprehensively beaten by Blaklion who confirmed the form of their previous meeting. This result makes the winner of that race, Parlour Games, look very interesting in respect of next March's Albert Bartlett (being a 7yo then would not be in his favour for an attempt at the 2m5f Neptune Novice Hurdle). 

I had The New One running a career-best when taking the Grade 2 International Hurdle over 2m1f. He'll probably need to improve another couple of pounds to win the Champion Hurdle next March, but he seems a more complete horse now than he did then. However, the horse who impressed me most in this race was Olofi who, before he ran last month, had been off the track for 18-months since April-13. Remember, he won the old "Greatwood" hurdle at Cheltenham in Nov-12 off OR136 beating the usual top-quality field for that competitive handicap. As he was a well-beaten 3rd on Saturday, the handicapper is not going to be able to adjust his mark up by much (if at all), and he was looking very comfortable approachng 2-out before the front pair asserted their class. Off OR133 (or thereabouts) he looks very leniently handicapped.

Finally, the 9yo Rock On Ruby took the Relkeel Hurdle over 2m4f & 110 yards with a performance which wasn't far short of his best. While unlikely to win a Champion Hurdle again (unless a few of the better hurdlers don't show up), it would be no surprise should he line-up for the race next March that he comes in 3rd or 4th. He doesn't look the sort to go for the 3-mile World Hurdle but that does look a weaker race in-depth than the Champion Hurdle. In 2013, Solwhit won the World Hurdle on his first attempt at 3-miles, and I'd have Rock On Ruby a 7lb better horse over the Champion Hurdle trip than Solwhit ever was. Current odds of 20/1 for the World Hurdle would be interesting if connections could guarantee that he'd line-up for the race, but it may be that their prime objective will be another attempt at the Aintree Hurdle over 2m4f next April.

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