The tenth edition of Racing Review and in this edition Jamie Taylor takes a look back at last week’s action, including the International Hurdle at Cheltenham on Saturday amongst others.
THE NEW ONE RETAINS INTERNATIONAL STATUS
A winner of the race 12 months ago, The New One didn’t really have to come out of second gear to brush aside some fair rivals with another imperious effort we’ve come to associate him with.
Giving away 8lb to Vaniteux himself a decent horse in his own right was no mean feat, but the manner in which he strode away from that rival up the run-in warmed the cockles, adding further strength to his Champion Hurdle credentials which prior to this were already rock solid.
RUBY KEEPS ON ROCKING IN RELKEEL
The Harry Fry-trained nine-year-old took advantage of what looked like a good opportunity on paper and deservedly landed a first success over hurdles since February last year.
It would be unwise however to judge him on that, as most of you will remember he was a fantastic runner-up to The New One in the Aintree Hurdle in the spring, and still looks to retain all that old sparkle which won him a Champion Hurdle in 2012, despite his advancing years.
Rock On Ruby could now be aimed towards the World Hurdle at Cheltenham in March, although his rider Noel Fehily reported that the two and a half miles on Saturday was about his trip, so he could instead head straight to Aintree once again.
PALACE CONTINUES ASCEND TO TOP
Back to Cheltenham on Friday of last week, and Kings Palace added another impressive victory to his resume with an all-the-way success to land the Novices’ Chase on the card.
8lb worse off with Sausalito Sunrise on their Paddy Power meeting, he won with a greater degree of authority this time, jumping immaculately throughout. He is certainly shaping up into a top-class chaser, but it remains to be seen given his racing style and what happened at Cheltenham last March if he can be taken on and continue the gallop off a truer pace – although the breathing op could well have helped with this.
PEACE AND CO SURGES TO TRIUMPH FAVOURITISIM
One of the latest French recruits to add to the wealth of talent at Seven Barrows, Peace And Co had already beaten a couple of subsequent winners on his sole start over hurdles in France, and created a superb impression here with a wide-margin victory on fairly bad ground.
He was a touch keen in the early stages which made Daryl Jacob give him his head at the half-way stage, the pair strode on powerfully from this point and the race was practically over by the time they jumped the second-last. This is a high class juvenile, who deserves his place at the head of the Triumph Hurdle market.
BLAKLION OUTSTAYS RIVALS
The Nigel Twiston-Davies trained Blaklion got back to winning ways under a good ride from deputy Ryan Hatch who took the ride at the last moment, after Jamie Moore suffered an injury on the day of the race.
Beaten in a tactical affair over shorter the last day, he was ridden to make this more of a stamina test over this longer trip and pulled right away for a comfortable success. He looks an ideal type for the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle at this stage, and it is more than likely that is the route he is going to take.
NO MORE HEROES LANDS NAVAN NOVICE
A race which had been won by Willie Mullins for the last three seasons, it was time for Gordon Elliott to add his name onto the board as No More Heroes put forward an excellent stamina-laden performance to outstay Shaneshill and land the prize.
The winner had previously stamped himself down as a horse with some potential, and has looked a throughout stayer who is likely to be suited to the stronger gallops on offer in the championship races.
Shaneshill didn’t jump fluently over four out and three out, but his class got him to the front as they jumped the second last. He was ultimately outstayed by a seriously good horse on the day, and it could be that he’ll be seen to better effect dropped back in trip.
MELODIC SCRAPES HOME ON FENCING DEBUT
A very useful hurdler in his day and still currently rated 155 by the official body, Melodic Rendezvous made his chasing debut at Bangor on Friday, and despite being long odds-on to win he was made to pull out all the stops by his game rival Boondooma. He has the physique for chasing but like over hurdles his jumping leaved something to be desired and it could be that he’ll improve when going up in trip. That said he needs to do just that to trouble some of the leading lights over fences this season and he remains one to be wary of.
HARGAM EDGES OUT KAREZAK
The Nicky Henderson trained grey Hargam went one better than his near miss behind Golden Doyen over course and distance last month, and confirmed himself towards the fore of this year’s juvenile talent we’ve seen thus far.
Backed like defeat was out of the question beforehand, he was made to pull out all the stops as Karezak just wouldn’t go down willingly in second but eventually got on top of that rival to land the spoils. He has obviously improved since his comeback run and it’ll be interesting to see where he goes next.
OTHER POINTS OF INTEREST
At Uttoxeter on Tuesday Neil King unleashed Milansbar who was returning from a near two-year absence from the track to win with a large degree of authority. He’s clearly had his problems but is savagely well handicapped at present and should be very hard to beat under a penalty next time up.
Three Kingdoms continued his education over fences with another ready success on ground softer than ideal. His jumping was very neat throughout although not totally error free, and only had to be shaken up to score. He looks like he’ll be able to make his mark once upped in grade and a flat track could bring out even more improvement in him in due course.
On Thursday at Warwick the Alan King juvenile Chatez stretched his unbeaten run to two over hurdles with another fluent display. Sat towards the fore off a fairly slow gallop he was well positioned as the race quickened and only had to be pushed out to score. He is better than this and could make his grade when upped in class, although connections have reportedly not been keen on Cheltenham in March and could instead go to Aintree a month later.
Another well handicapped individual appeared during the week, this time at Warwick where It’s A Steal brushed aside his opposition with a high degree of authority to suggest he has plenty of improvement to come. He is due to run at Ludlow this afternoon and a repeat of this effort makes him incredibly hard to beat, off just a 7lb higher mark.
Top Gamble continues to show his great vein of form since switching to Richard Lee from Pond House, and jumped superbly to make it 2-2 over fences for his new yard. He suggested here he is ready to take a step up in grade and there looks like more to come from this exciting individual.
Niceonefrankie won the Caspian & Caviar Gold Cup at Cheltenham on Saturday afternoon, with a beautiful attacking ride from Aidan Coleman making every inch of it. The race fell apart in-behind the freewheeling duo but there was plenty to like about the way the pair kept rolling out in front, and it will now be interesting to see where they go next.
Despite the low sun meaning that four fences in the home straight were dolled off for the December Novices’ Chase (Grade 2) at Doncaster on Saturday, Virak continued his improved form this campaign with another satisfactory victory although it is hard to establish exactly what he has achieved here. He seemed to stay the longer trip well enough and will now need to pitch in against a better quality of opposition next time, to see what sort of rank he will take over fences.
The opener at Doncaster on Saturday fell to Zeroeshadesofgrey who made light-work of a double penalty to score by a wide-margin of 33 lengths at the line. He is improving with every outing for Neil King and although ultimately he is a chasing prospect in time, could line up in something like the Albert Bartlett at Cheltenham later in the season, where he wouldn’t be out of place on what we’ve seen so far.
The closing bumper on Navan’s Sunday card could prove an informative heat as Bordini put forward a superbly impressive effort in victory, one in which has put him to the forefront in the Champion Bumper field in accordance to ratings I hold so far this season. He is clearly well above average and looks set to play a hand in all the right races this campaign.