The third edition of Racing Review, and this week we will be focusing back on the Old Roan Chase meeting at Aintree, a particularly hot novice chase at Carlisle and a few other races dotted around the country which were of interest.
WISHFUL GETS ROAN REWARD
The veteran Wishful Thinking made it third-time lucky in the Old Roan Chase on Saturday afternoon at Aintree, with an emphatic display of alacrity and staying power as he slammed his younger rivals by twelve lengths at the line.
Campaigned over a variety of trips throughout this career, the gelded son of Alflora has been known to struggle with his wind on the soft winter ground, but didn’t face any of those problems here as he smashed his rivals into submission.
The race was run at a strong pace throughout so you can respect the effort from Rolling Aces who was to the fore throughout, along with Uxizandre. Rolling Aces to my eye looked the second best horse in the race here, and given Nicholls’ form he could well be worth chancing next time up in the right sort of race, given fitness concerns of the Ditcheat handler in recent weeks.
Uxizandre was having his first run since winning the Manifesto Novices’ at Aintree last April, and it was his first run without headgear since before Cheltenham. His two recent efforts signalled an improvement in form, so it could be that he’ll improve from the application of these next time – he could be an interesting prospect for the Paddy Power Gold Cup should he line up.
The performance of the day, and most likely of the week however goes to Wishful Thinking, who won this off a mark of 162 and could now head to Cheltenham next month where if he’s in a similar vein of form will be hard to stop.
BLAKLION ROARS TO WAR GLORY
In a race marred by the sad fatal injury sustained by exciting prospect Son Du Berlais, Blaklion enhanced his reputation with a strong staying performance to out-point all his rivals with an authoritative display.
The stamina-laden sort was sporting a hood for the first time, and was well placed to the fore by Jamie Moore and galloped them into the ground in the style of a horse improving. He remains unbeaten under rules and looks sure to be competitive in all the Grade 1 novice races over this distance and above, when tried further on in the season.
The Twiston-Davies camp hinted at a trip to the Paddy Power meeting as being the next port of call for this likeable sort, and he is worth following.
The Pirates Queen in receipt of the mares allowance travelled well into the race for a yard in-form, however had no response from the second last against a couple of smart novices. She looks an ideal sort to campaign against her own sex this season, and could pick up the odd Listed event here or there.
Vincente battled on bravely to deny Present View at Cheltenham on his return in October, but bumped into one slightly better here on his next outing. Given a hard ride by Sam Twiston-Davies, this is about as good as he is, although gave the impression he’d benefit from stepping up in distance to three miles given his late closing effort.
It’s good to see him back up efforts after bursting a blood vessel at Ayr in April, and his career appears back on track.
DEPUTY SECOND BEST ON CHASING BOW
Last seen when running a terrific race in last season’s Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle, Deputy Dan was well backed to make a successful chasing debut for Leighton Aspell. However his supporters hadn’t banked on the Paul Nicholls trained Virak showing drastic improvement on his spring hurdles form on his return to fences.
With the Paul Nicholls runners showing in-different form at present, this can be seen as a very taking and encouraging effort from a still lightly raced sort. His jumping still needs some work but he’ll get that with experience and it’ll be fascinating where he goes next.
Deputy Dan took a couple of runs over hurdles last season before he hit top form, and it could be the same story here. He is a big old-fashioned chasing sort, didn’t look at home on the track throughout, and most likely needs a good three miles over fences to be at his best.
Both horses are expected to improve off the back of this race, and it’ll be worth keeping an eye on where they go next.
DUNRAVEN STORMS TO CHASING GLORY
On a Tuesday afternoon earlier in the week, we saw what is one of the novice chasing performances of the season from Dunraven Storm who, despite being a latecomer to the larger obstacles, attacked them with relish and won comfortably from a pair of classy hurdling recruits in Far West and Puffin Billy.
Puffin Billy weakened like he was badly in need of the run, and outpaced over the minimum distance and can be seen in a better light next time, where Far West looked like he’d tighten up for this outing and should be making amends in due course.
Dunraven Storm is a very decent horse on right-handed tracks where his form reads (1111644111) compared to left-handed tracks (024P08). He is certainly worth keeping in mind for some of the better races over this distance when getting his optimum conditions, and perhaps something like the Henry VIII at Sandown could be within his realm?
MEMPHIS KICKS OFF IN STYLE
The opening race at Fontwell on Wednesday saw a well above average sort in the shape of winner Miles To Memphis, who continued his winning form by making a taking winning debut over hurdles for Alan King and Wayne Hutchinson.
Settled towards the rear, he gradually closed on the leaders as Hutchinson exuded confidence from the third-last flight, and only had to be shaken up as they jumped the last to win with umpteen amounts in hand.
I got the impression his station is well above this level, and he is a very taking type who should continue to progress over hurdles this season, and perhaps a race at the Cheltenham Festival in March could be well within his sights.
SUNRISE MAKES WINNING CHASE DEBUT
The Philip Hobbs team remain in rude health this time of year and they saddled a smart novice chasing prospect in the form of Sausalito Sunrise, to make an impressive winning debut over the larger obstacles.
On ground probably softer than ideal, the gelded son of Gold Well jumped well throughout the contest and only had to be kept up to his work to score convincingly over his five rivals. He never does anything impressively in my opinion but there was plenty to like about this effort, and he remains an exciting prospect to follow throughout the year.
Mosspark didn’t look at all natural on his chasing debut, making some very untidy efforts late on in the race. It could be he was getting tired and needs a return to the sort of trips which brought about an impressive listed hurdle win last February, the form of that has worked out well.
Minella On Line put in a good jump and the last to stay on into the places, and he could be an interesting proposition off his mark of 125 should connections look to exploit that down the handicap route in the near future.
NAVAN BATTLES TO DOWN HYMN ON FENCING DEBUT
A high-class pairing of Duke Of Navan and Urban Hymn pitched up at Carlisle on Thursday afternoon to do battle, and they did just that with a prolonged duel from two fences from home.
A relatively slow pace throughout set by Urban Hymn, the race was run to suit Duke Of Navan more so than the eventual second but both horses came out with immense credit in what will turn out to be a pretty good race in time.
Urban Hymn was on the front end throughout and it was surprising to see Brian Hughes sitting and waiting on a known stayer over three miles over hurdles, attempting to out-speed a proven high-class two-miler over his preferred trip. This isn’t the first time I’ve found Brian Hughes trying to be clever, and is one of the most frustrating pilots riding the National Hunt circuit in my opinion.
Urban Hymn can be upgraded on this effort and once he gets to extend himself over a trip more suitable, then he looks sure to take high rank against this seasons novices based on both his hurdles form last season, and this first effort over fences.
Duke Of Navan was a high quality hurdler and looks like being just as good over fences for a yard coming back into the limelight. He was getting pretty tired late on and it is predicted he’ll be even better when getting quicker ground underfoot than what he encountered here.
The jumping of the pair on the whole was superb, and both look to have exciting careers as novice chasers back on this showing.