The eighth edition of Racing Review, and this week Jamie Taylor takes a look back at the Hennessy Gold Cup meeting from Newbury, the Drinmore Novices’ Chase over in Ireland and other bits and pieces throughout the week of interest.
MANY CLOUDS TAKES OUT HENNESSY PRIZE
In my preview piece earlier last week I’d basically dismissed the chances of Many Clouds given his record in excess of two and a half miles being pretty poor, but he proved stamina doubters wrong with an accomplished display in bottomless ground in a race which proved a gruelling test for those competing in.
A race which has been won by two future Gold Cup winners in the last 7 years in the shape of Bobs Worth and Denman, Many Clouds won this race off a mark of 151 so will need to improve almost a stone during the campaign to win a Gold Cup you’d imagine, given both Denman and Bobs Worth won the Hennessy from marks in the 160’s.
My selection Rocky Creek was never at the races, and clearly looked to be hating the ground which was a strange one for me as I expected him to handle it fine. There will be other days with him but this was certainly a very poor showing from him.
Houblon Des Obeaux ran a mighty race off top-weight, and showed his faithful he can mix it at this level on left-handed tracks as well as going right-handed. I’d long harboured a view that he was a much better horse going the other way round but this effort seems to suggest it doesn’t really matter which way he goes – he is a high-class individual, although just short of top-class.
Smad Place ran with promise in fifth and should improve off this effort, as should Unioniste who was running on again late in the day, and at the age of six still has options.
LIDO WINS DRINMORE NOVICES CHASE
It was a vintage renewal of the Drinmore Novices’ Chase at Fairyhouse on Sunday, and won in superb style by Valseur Lido who announced himself as a top class chaser to follow. He impressed with his jumping at Punchestown on his fencing debut, and looked every inch as good here up in grade. The manner in which he pulled 8 lengths clear of a brilliant field reads exceptionally well, and this is the highest rating I’ve given a novice chaser so far this season.
Apache Stronghold ran a brilliant race to finish second but was no match for the winner. It didn’t seem to pan out for him during the race, and his tendency to jump to his left wouldn’t have helped matters either but he was simply out pointed by the winner who looks RSA Chase or JLT Novices’ Chase bound.
Apache Stronghold will now head to Leopardstown over the Christmas period, and back on a left-handed track should give a better account of himself, he remains a top notcher.
Real Steel again proved he is above average but started jumping violently to his left midway through the contest. It may be that something was not quite right with him causing him to do that, or he needs to go back left-handed but he too can win good races for Mouse Morris.
IRVING WINS FIGHTING FIFTH
Prior to his defeat in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle last season Irving had looked a potential star in the making, but wasn’t right on the day as I’ve alluded to in previous articles and that attributed to his defeat.
He would almost certainly have won the Elite Hurdle on his return had he not crashed out at the last three weeks ago, and he showed no ill-effects of that fall with a gritty battling display to get the better of a high-class filly in Aurore D’Estruval.
Travelling well during the race, he was ridden to get on terms with the John Quinn filly up the home-straight and was made to pull out all the stops to repel the northern raider in what turned out to be quite a test for the Paul Nicholls runner. Whilst the filly is clearly above average and will be hard to beat in most Mares races this season, it is hard to imagine this being the sort of form that can win you a Champion Hurdle, so in that respect Irving is going to need to improve quite a bit on this to figure.
CAROLES WINS LISTED HURDLE WITH ENTERPRISING RIDE
Carole’s Spirit won the listed mares hurdle at Kempton on Monday, with an enterprising ride from Daryl Jacob. With the field having walked through the tapes for the first 15 seconds of the race, Jacob sent his mount into a 15 length lead without little resistance from his rivals. Setting a sensible pace throughout the contest he continued to pour it on as they turned for home, and despite momentarily looking like being swamped three from home, drew clear in the home straight to a comfortable eight-length success. Effective when fresh she could now head to Ascot in January for the race she finished runner-up in last season.
CARRAIG HANDS THEATRE A BEATING
At Newbury on Thursday the Alan King trained Carraig Mor handed Southfield Theatre his first defeat over fences. An intriguing contest beforehand, the combination of some sloppy leaps from Southfield Theatre and him having to give away 7lb to a very smart rival in time should show this wasn’t a bad performance by any stretch of the imagination.
Carraig Mor looked like playing a hand on his chasing debut before hitting the fourth last pretty hard, but still ran a race full of promise in a race that recorded a good figure. He used the benefit of that experience to his advantage here getting weight from a clearly smart rival and the combination of weight received and soft ground clearly aided his cause. A trip to Kempton over Christmas could be a next port of call for this lovely chasing type
Fans of Southfield Theatre can take plenty of positives from this effort. Whilst his jumping wasn’t as good as you’d like he put in another clear round and in giving away weight has run up to around his Rising Stars’ Novices Chase level in defeat. He will clearly benefit from better ground and still remains a sharp prospect for all the big staying chases this season.
NO MORE OF THAT SAYS MEDINAS
The Bet365 Long Distance Hurdle was one of the highlights at Newbury on Saturday, and it was the race that handed the first defeat under rules to last years’ World Hurdle winner More Of That who was a very disappointing third under Tony McCoy. Sent off the 4/7F, he was ridden towards the fore but was never really travelling as well as you’d have liked and the writing was on the wall as they came into the home straight – finishing a very tired third. It is likely he will have needed this outing more than connections had anticipated, but his World Hurdle victory came in a race that wasn’t run at a true pace on decent ground so equally this could be the reason for his poor showing.
Cole Harden made every yard of the running to win the West Yorkshire Hurdle at Wetherby, and set out to do the same again here. The ground here though was much more of a test and that proved his undoing, along with giving away 8lb to Medinas but this was a solid effort in defeat.
Medinas was second to Cole Harden at Wetherby but had an 8lb pull for that beating, and turned that around here with a lovely stalking ride by Richard Johnson, who really is riding at the peak of his powers at present. Winner of the Coral Cup at Cheltenham in 2013, things didn’t quite go to plan last season for him but he seems to have returned in great shape and a tilt at the Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot must now enter equations.
L’AMI SERGES TO SUCCESS IN FIELDEN
L’Ami Serge gave Nicky Henderson a welcome listed success when landing the Gerry Fielden Hurdle at Newbury on Thursday. With the yard not firing on all cylinders at present due to one reason or another, this was an accomplished display from their new French recruit who had failed to get off the mark over in France before moving across the channel. Runner-up to the Nick Williams trained Le Rocher last October, he appears to have come on plenty for the switch to Nicky Henderson after another summer on his back and won this with a real degree of authority.
There is no doubt he is a well handicapped individual based on this performance and still has the option to go back down the novice route. It’ll be interesting to see where this exciting four-year-old goes next.
UN ACE CONTINUES TO IMPROVE
Despite falling on his chasing debut the Kim Bailey trained Un Ace has continued to improve with each outing over fences, winning his last two in comfortable style. Sent off odds-on for the four runner contest at Doncaster on Friday, he had his rivals in trouble a fair way out on ground that would have been plenty soft enough for this fluid mover. Whilst he has to improve to figure in the better quality of races he is slowly working his way up the ladder, and wouldn’t be disadvantaged by a drop back to two-miles one wouldn’t have thought.
OTHER POINTS OF INTEREST
West Wizard was expected to atone for defeat in this race last season before being side-lined with injury, and was sent off a very short 2-9F to do so. After travelling well into the contest he once again found alarmingly little when put under pressure, and now has questions to answer. He clearly shows ability at home but has yet to transfer that onto the racecourse and this was another disappointing effort all things considered. The winner Arzal can make his presence felt in better company after this likeable effort.
Jollyallan continued his unbeaten run over hurdles with a routine success at Newbury on Thursday. Whilst he didn’t always jump that fluently he was ridden forward by Tony McCoy and won very easily in the end. Whilst the owner has an absolute abundance of animals at his disposal, it would be possible this gelded son of Rocamadour could be aimed towards something like the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury, before taking in something like the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham in March if all goes to plan.
Ned Stark showed he is still a well handicapped individual with a solid handicap chase success at Newbury on Thursday. He hasn’t had much racing so far but clearly relished the step-up to this extended 2 miles 6 furlongs, and should be even better when upped to three miles in due course. He’ll face a rise for this effort but looks a mid-140’s performer at the very least based on this effort and he should continue to pay his way for Alan King.
Yanworth put up a rather superb performance shouldering a penalty to win the closing bumper on Thursday’s Newbury card. Travelling with zest throughout the race, he cruised into contention to lead two out and won this doing hand-stands. This performance would put him towards the fore of what we’ve seen in the bumper sphere so far this season and the gelded son of Norse Dancer could have a massive shout in the Champion Bumper in March if kept down this route.
Zeroeshadesofgrey continued his excellent form over hurdles with another authoritative display under Trevor Whelan. He has shown his versatility in regards ground and clearly has plenty of stamina as well as an engine and looks an above average type you’d expect at these sorts of tracks. He is an improving sort who can have a say in a better race in due course.
At Thurles on Thursday, the Willie Mullins trained Un De Sceaux put in a breath-taking display of attacking fencing before a novicey mistake saw Ruby Walsh exit 3 from home. The manner in which he travelled and jumped was a real thrill to see and looks to have taken to the chasing game without any real problems – although he’ll need to work on his landing as that was non-existent when the pair departed at the third last.
Max Dynamite and Clondaw Court made it another couple of winners for the Closutton team on the day, and both horses showed they are certainly above average types. The former isn’t the biggest but was quick and nimble at his hurdles on his debut and he chased down the long-time leader in a likeable manner to suggest there are more races to be won with him this season.
Coneygree made a successful return to the racecourse after the fiasco at Plumpton 11 days ago delayed his intended first outing for almost 2 years. Sent to the front early on by Nico De Boinville, he jumped really well throughout the race and kept all his rivals at bay to record an impressive first success over fences. Saphir Du Rheu was bowling along in second when getting in too close to the seventh, sending Sam Twiston-Davies into the turf – there will be other days for him.
Monetaire confirmed the promise shown at Cheltenham on his debut for David Pipe, and got the job done in pleasing style over another well handicapped individual, the pair well clear of the third. He looks the type to continue progressing under the care of the Pond House master, and he is one to keep on side this winter.
Adriana Des Mottes made it a winning chasing debut when narrowly edging out Rule The World in receipt of 20lbs at Fairyhouse on Saturday, and it would be the Mouse Morris runner I’d take from this contest. I figure he has run to about 150 here on his chasing debut, and looks an exciting prospect going forward with this experience under his belt.