The fourth edition of Racing Review and in this edition we focus on some top class racing action from both Wetherby and Down Royal, including both the Charlie Hall Chase and JNWine.com Champion Chase. We also have some high quality stuff from Ascot on Saturday, and some creditable performances from novices worthy of mention during the week.
MEADE ON ROAD TO RICHES
Featuring on our Handicap Performances of 2013/14 list last month, Road To Riches was below par at Gowran Park when raced too aggressively on the front end by Paul Carberry after being left alone for much of August after his imperious Galway Plate win at the end of July.
Road To Riches return to form with a bang here to land the JNWine.com Champion Chase, posting his best performance to date in career that is rapidly ascending into the upper legions of the chasing game. Winning by the same distance in which he landed the Galway Plate (11 lengths), he signalled he is ready to take on the very best the division has to offer and has thrown his hat firmly into the Gold Cup picture.
He had shown a tendency to jump to his left throughout the race, and was reported to have lost a shoe during the contest, and I look forward to seeing where he turns up next. Perhaps something like the Lexus Chase at Leopardstown could be an option for him?
Ma Filleule was having her first run back since running away with the Topham Chase at Aintree in April, but looked like she’d come on plenty for the outing and wasn’t knocked about by Daryl Jacob when it was apparent she was beaten.
The same can be said for Grand National fifth Rocky Creek, who ran like he’d come on plenty for the outing, on ground softer than ideal.
Favourite Boston Bob was held up in a hopeless position out the back and did well to make up the sort of ground he did, but Willie Mullins felt afterwards the lack of a recent run found him out. His jumping was pretty on point which is a positive to take from this effort, and he should be capable of winning more races this season.
THE DON BACKS UP RECENT WIN
Just the three runners for the Grade 2 event at Down Royal, which was taken in impressive style with a routine win from Don Cossack, who seems to have come on again this season backing up an impressive recent win at Punchestown.
Wonderful Charm who had looked so impressive on his return at Newton Abbot last month performed below that level here in second, but his rider felt that the ground was too soft for the Paul Nicholls charge and that combined with him not jumping with any real fluency throughout attributed to his defeat.
It remains interesting where Don Cossack goes next, with the wealth of talent Gigginstown House have over this sort of trip but he is quickly gathering pace to be pitched in against the best in his division to see how he performs.
MENORAH BOUNCES BACK
It was at Wetherby on Saturday that the great run of the Philip Hobbs team continued with another member of his old guard landing a big prize, this time it was Menorah’s time to take centre stage as he romped clear to land the Charlie Hall Chase under regular rider Richard Johnson.
The feature race on the card and a strong renewal on paper, featuring the third and fourth from last season’s Cheltenham Gold Cup and JLT Novices’ Chase winner Taquin Du Seuil amongst the field.
Taquin Du Seuil never looked comfortable on the track, and didn’t particularly jump with any fluency throughout the contest and he’ll need to brush up on that if he is to get close to winning any of these top staying chases this season.
Silviniaco Conti was backed to make a winning return for Paul Nicholls, but he was headed three fences from home and put up little resistance when the going got tough weakening out of things, to finish fifth. He probably needed this outing and will now head for the Betfair Chase at Haydock where we can expect an improved showing.
Double Ross showed no ill effects from being brought down at Newton Abbot on his seasonal return, and ran very well for a long way here before possibly not getting home. He remains an exciting sort for the Twiston-Davies camp and could progress into a lively contender for something like the Ryanair Chase next March.
COLE BREAKS CROSS
Just three runners for the West Yorkshire Hurdle at Wetherby on Saturday afternoon, and the Rebecca Curtis trained At Fishers Cross was expected to make short work of his two rivals.
However neither Cole Harden nor At Fishers Cross read the script, as the hot favourite put together a turgid performance on his seasonal return. Cole Harden on the other hand excelled on his first try in open company, and allowed to dictate the pace throughout the contest found plenty when Gavin Sheehan asked him to go and win his race.
The Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury at the end of the month is next on the agenda for this exciting staying hurdle prospect, and it remains to be seen how he fares against the likes of More Of That and Beat That when the time comes.
SIGN OF MORE TO COME
The Nicky Henderson trained Sign Of A Victory couldn’t have been more impressive if he tried at Ascot this past weekend, and barely had to come off the bridle to register a cosy success in the William Hill Listed Handicap Hurdle off a mark of 139.
At a time where the Henderson runners are improving for their first outings, this performance has to be upgraded on that basis, and it wouldn’t be a surprise were he to develop into a possible Champion Hurdle candidate for a yard who lost My Tent Or Yours to injury for the season, just a few weeks ago.
There is talk of him being aimed at The Ladbroke back here in December, and you’d have to think he’ll be very hard to beat if lining back up here in a months’ time. Based on this performance you’d have to expect him capable of being competitive off at least a stone higher in the weights which would put him up to a mark of around 153 – which puts him in the top tier of hurdlers over the minimum distance.
WARRIOR GRITS IT OUT TO LAND ASCOT FEATURE
After making an impressive debut for his new trainer Dan Skelton at Ludlow almost a month ago, What A Warrior came to Ascot on Saturday 13lb higher than when he arrived at the Skelton yard from his ex-trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies.
Set out to make all from the drop of the flag, he didn’t help himself by jumping left at many of the fences throughout the three-mile event, but was mostly left alone in-front to dictate a tempo Harry Skelton was happy with.
He gradually broke his rivals one by one, but had the well backed show plunge Black Thunder hot on his heels for much of the final two-furlongs having being settled towards the rear of the field throughout. Nick Scholfield wound his mount up to throw down a challenge to What A Warrior, but the Dan Skelton trained runner lived up to his name, pluckily fighting off the challenge of Black Thunder to hold on by a diminishing half-length.
The Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury at the end of the month is said to be the aim for What A Warrior, who will likely have more competition for the lead against better opposition, but a return to a left-handed track will be ideal. Black Thunder on the other hand also looks likely to be going there, and you’d imagine he can reverse form over the extra couple of furlongs and given how much he stepped up here on his debut effort, you’d have to think he’d have a say if turning up a similar vein of form.
SGT IN CHARGE AT UTTOXETER
A fairly low key card at Uttoxeter on Friday which saw the chasing debut of the Mick Channon trained Sgt Reckless. Having his first outing since April, he travelled well throughout the contest jumping well at each obstacle presented to him.
Sent into the lead as they approached the last by Brian Hughes, Sgt Reckless only had to be nudged out to score with plenty in hand. On the bare form he’s about a stone behind some of the better performances we’ve seen so far in the early weeks of the season but it is expected he has plenty of improvement in the tank.
In the press afterwards Mick Channon was reported to have said they’re going to keep him away from the top novice events until he has more experience, with a view to stepping him up in grade towards the end of the season. Either way this was an impressive debut and I look forward to seeing more of him over fences this term.
APACHE IMPERIOUS FOR CARBERRY
Apache Stronghold was a very good novice hurdler last season for Noel Meade, and was last seen when finishing runner up to Vautour at Punchestown in the spring. However he looks like being at least as good over fences, after putting up one of the most impressive chasing debut’s I’ve seen for a while.
Sent to the front from the drop of the flag, he flew over the first with a massive leap before jumping his rivals’ silly under Paul Carberry. He jumped with alacrity throughout, and the odd one or two he wasn’t on a stride at impressively organized himself to get over them. Only shaken up in the closing stages to put the race to bed, he came home with plenty in hand over rival Thunder And Roses.
Noel Meade stressed he would have liked to have got another run into Apache Stronghold before the Drinmore Novices’ at Fairyhouse but it is now unlikely time will allow that to happen – either way that race is quickly shaping up into a very exciting contest.
MORNING RUN IMPRESSES DOWN ROYAL ONLOOKERS
A very decent card on Friday at Down Royal, which was part of their JNWine Champion Chase meeting (to be run the following day), and one of the stars on show was the Willie Mullins trained Morning Run, who looks to be another exciting recruit for a yard which has so much strength and depth in talent.
Making just her second start over hurdles, she wasn’t foot perfect and will have learned plenty from this outing, racing in ear-plugs she was keen in the early exchanges with Ruby Walsh electing to let her go forward rather than try and anchor her in-behind runners, she was full of running when beginning to draw clear from three-out and made quite a clunking error at the final flight when already well clear of her rivals.
Certainly is interesting where they will send her next, she is one of the most exciting mares out there at the moment over hurdles.
LITTLE KING ROBIN SAYS NONE SHALL PASS!
Featuring in this column a couple of weeks ago, Little King Robin hits the headlines again with another brave swashbuckling victory to defeat some high quality rivals at Down Royal at the weekend.
Following in the hoof prints of some classy mares including Feathard Lady and Voler La Vedette in the last 10 years, Little King Robin added her name onto the winners roll with her usual attacking display, with plenty of guts thrown in when needed.
Quickly into her usual lengthy lead, she jumped impeccably throughout the contest however her lead was dramatically reduced in the final half-mile, and as they came into the home straight it looked like Arctic Fire had her measure as Mark Walsh was hard at work on the Colin Bowe trained mare.
However as the she attacked the final flight in her usual vigour, she admirably stuck to her task responding to her ridings urgings all the way towards the line, breaking the heart of Arctic Fire in the process before pulling away to a three-length success at the line.
Her big aim for the season has to be the OLBG Mares Hurdle at Cheltenham in March, and has had plenty of racing in recent times to think that perhaps Colin Bowe will attempt to freshen her up now with a view to races later in the season.
SHANAHANS TURNS ON THE STYLE AT PUNCHESTOWN
A decent novice hurdler last campaign, Shanahan’s Turn did all you’d expect of him on his chasing debut. Settled quite well towards the head of affairs, he was allowed to dictate the pace in front under Johnny Burke and jumped quite professionally throughout the race.
He is a lovely sizeable sort who will make up into a lovely chaser in time for Henry De Bromhead, and you’d expect he can improve upon this effort with further experience over the larger obstacles. He ranks an exciting prospect and will be of real interest for something like the JLT Novices’ Chase at Cheltenham in March were he to continue his education in this enthusiastic manner.