The ninth edition of Racing Review and in this edition Jamie Taylor looks back on the Tingle Creek at Sandown, the John Durkan at Punchestown and various other notable performances over the past seven days.
BULLETS CONNECTS IN TINGLE CREEK
The feature race on Sandown’s Saturday card saw Dodging Bullets return a career-best effort with the tongue-tie reapplied to land the Grade 1 Tingle Creek Chase in convincing fashion.
He had travelled strongly at Cheltenham on his seasonal return last month but failed to see out his race against two race-fit rivals, and that effort clearly put him spot on for this as he again travelled with the same authority but after taking it up four-out, strode purposefully all the way to the line to record another big-race success for Nicholls & Twiston Davies.
Somersby ran a cracking race in second and the race should be rated around him in my opinion. Hinterland always goes well fresh and returned to form in third having broken a blood vessel on his return at Exeter last month – he wouldn’t be up to this level though normally.
The two disappointments of the race have to be Balder Succes and Gods Own who finished first and second in the Haldon Gold Cup at Exeter last month. Balder Succes looked primed to strike when jumping the last of the Railway fences but he went to pieces a little when asked to go and win his race, and was held when making a mess of 2 out.
Gods Own was never jumping with any fluency and finished well beaten towards the rear of the field, in a race which will be remembered for the sad death of Oscar Whisky. A winner of 16 races under rules including the Aintree Hurdle (x2), he suffered a fatal injury when falling at the sixth and will be very much missed by all in the racing community. RIP Oscar, run free furry friend!
THE DON LAYS DOWN LAW IN DURKAN
Punchestown on Sunday was headlined by the Grade 1 John Durkan Chase, and certainly this year’s renewal was a more competitive heat than the previous year in which just three turned up.
Gordon Elliott had got Don Cossack back to somewhere near we thought he would be prior to him going over fences, and the gelded son of Sholokhov registered another imperious success here in the hands of Brian O’Connell, stringing together three wins in a row.
Don Cossack jumped immaculately throughout until clouting the third last, and that mistake appeared to have an effect on him as he continued to jump out to his left in the home straight after being gun-barrel straight earlier in the contest. He is currently around the 10/1 mark for the Ryanair Chase and is beginning to look like a serious contender for that prize.
Boston Bob was ridden close to the pace this time round but never really travelled with any degree of fluency under Ruby Walsh. He was hampered by the falls of Baily Green and Rathlin at the third, but that was too early on in the race to have made any real impact in the finish – and although the ground and trip were probably not his ideal on this track, he needs to improve to keep any hopes alive of being a contender in this year’s Cheltenham Gold Cup in March.
Lord Windermere exceed expectations when landing what on paper looked a shock Gold Cup last March, but on his return here over a trip short of his best he ran a race full of promise against a couple of high-quality sorts. Held up towards the rear of the field he move into contention to have every chance between the final two fences, but the lack of a recent run and a lack of tactical sharpness over this trip caught him out. This should leave him in perfect shape ahead of the Lexus Chase over the Christmas period and based on this effort he looks in for another promising season, where the current 14/1 on offer about him retaining his Gold Cup looks a bit of a piss-take.
WISHFUL THINKING TAKES PETERBOROUGH
The resurgent veteran Wishful Thinking continued his rich vein of form with a terrific display on Sunday to land the Grade 2 Peterborough Chase at Huntingdon. Sent to the front early on under regular pilot Richard Johnson, the gelded son of Alflora jumped superbly throughout and had enough in the tank to fight off Eduard (getting 1lb) and Wonderful Charm, who are both five years his junior and very good horses in their own right, as you’d come to expect in this sort of grade.
Wonderful Charm could well be worth stepping back up to three miles on a left-handed track next time up.
BLACK THUNDERS TO SANDOWN SUCCESS
Black Thunder continued his improved form with a polished success at Sandown on Friday to take the Listed Intermediate Chase under Sam Twiston-Davies. Settled behind a decent gallop set by Corrin Wood, he gradually inched forwards before heading to the front at the Pond Fence. It looked like he might win by a cricket score at one point but idled on the run-in when he’d already done more than enough to secure a very ready victory.
Rocky Bender had no chance on ratings so has done well to run into second. Corrin Wood finished very tired having his first run for the season, but is going to be difficult to place from here on in and also could be another victim of the Bank House Stables set up – who continue to perform below par in line with their spending budgets.
Black Thunder holds a Welsh National entry and looks to have plenty of stamina in his pedigree so would be nice to see him head down that route, although a possible tilt at the Argento Chase at Cheltenham next month could instead be a preferred option for the Nicholls team.
VIBRATO LANDS HENRY VIII NOVICES’ CHASE
The Henry VIII Novices’ Chase was numerically not a great turn out for a race of its stature on Saturday, but produced a good effort in victory from Vibrato Valtat. Arguably given too much to do at Cheltenham last time up, a switch to Noel Fehily saw him produced at exactly the right time to draw away to a comfortable success.
Dunraven Storm lost little in defeat setting a solid pace throughout the contest. He made an error at the last which cost him a length, and was also bumped on the run-in by the eventual winner so would probably have been a length closer but for either of those. He remains keeping in at this level and will continue to pay his way for the Hobbs yard.
Irish Saint travelled better than anything into the race and looked the most likely winner as they came into the home straight but was readily put aside by the winner, and gallantly fought off by the second. He has often promised much and not delivered before, but I’d give him a go back up in trip before writing him off just yet but my guess at this stage is he isn’t quite up to it at this level.
SAPHIR OOZES CLASS AT EXETER
After unseating on his chase debut last week at Newbury when well backed, it was little surprise to see Saphir Du Rheu make amends here for his supporters. A 165-rated hurdler last season, he travelled well throughout this contest and was slick and economical with his jumping.
Although he will now step-up in class for the Feltham at Kempton on Boxing Day, this performance merits his place in that sphere and if he continues his improvement over fences that he showed last year over hurdles he is going to be a serious force to be reckoned with.
Horizontal Speed ran to his best in second, Deputy Dan was bidding to give away a penalty for his win at Plumpton and the drying ground here probably worked against him. That said his jumping was wayward when put under pressure and he needs to find some improvement to get competitive in this sphere against some of the better types.
OTHER POINTS OF INTEREST
On Monday at Plumpton, Chris Pea Green finally shed his maiden tag over fences at the fourth time of asking. He has found one too good on his first three outings over fences this term, but he’s come up against some smart types in Court Minstrel, Un Ace and Irish Saint but with nothing of that quality in this field this should prove a confidence-boosting win for a likeable sort, who should progress nicely into handicaps in due course.
Ludlow on Wednesday saw a well handicapped individual in the shape of Vivaccio follow-up a recent course and distance success, and the manner of both victories suggest there is more in the tank to get another win or two on the board before the handicapper catches up with him.
Over at Market Rasen on Thursday and we saw Warrantor follow-up a recent success at Chepstow with another good quality victory here. Giving away weight to his rivals he won this with a good degree in hand and looks another smart prospect for Warren Greatrex who will now surely step up in grade.
Bitofapuzzle made her hurdling debut at Wincanton on Thursday and looked an exciting type as she stretched her unbeaten record under rules to four. A winner of a couple of listed bumpers prior to this outing, she jumped soundly throughout and showed plenty of zip in the air when the gallop quickened. She had to be shaken up to go and win her race after the last but did it well enough, and came away to win from what is probably a fair mare in second in the shape of Kilronan High who should have no problems getting off the mark on her next outing over hurdles.
The Grade 2 Winter Novices’ Hurdle at Sandown on Friday went to the battling Vyta Du Roc who continued his good form with another gritty display in the heat of a fight. He gets outpaced during his races but seems to find plenty for pressure and looks one of the more likely types for something like either the Neptune or Albert Bartlett Novices’ hurdles at this stage, although the prospect of quicker ground and better quality of opposition could be his undoing later in the season.
Saturday at Aintree hosted their Becher Chase meeting, and there was another top performance from Sam Winner who has really turned over a new leaf this season backing up a recent victory at Cheltenham’s Open Meeting here. He gave away weight to a couple of smart rivals in Medermit and Ma Filleule (latter travelled much the best but found little when asked to close).
A small yet select field at Cork on Sunday for the Grade 3 Stayers Novices’ Hurdle and it was won in rather taking style by Black Hercules, who fought off a very good four-year-old in the shape of Alpha Des Obeaux into second. He was one of the leading bumper horses last season and seems to be progressing towards the fore of the novice hurdle talent about this season, and he remains on track for one of his big engagements at the Cheltenham Festival in March – which in my view is most likely to be the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle at this stage.
Another impressive performer at Cork on Saturday was Vroum Vroum Mag who continued her unbeaten run over fences in this country with another routine success. Sat towards the head of affairs throughout she was allowed to dictate the gallop before clearing away with consummate ease – she can step up in grade in due course.