Weekend racing review for 23 January 2010

Filed on 29 Jan 2010 @ 12:08

This review is part of the 2009/10 National Hunt Season Service from Graham Richards. Order your day by day guides to Cheltenham and Aintree and receive the first Cheltenham preview now - order your copy online today.

Novice Hurdles | Arkle Trophy/RSA Chase | Champion Chase & Ryanair Chase | Champion Hurdle & World Hurdle | Gold Cup

In the open at Ascot, Call Me A Legend won well for Alan King. Subsequent results over the past couple of days confirm the stable is back firing again. Advisor won the Juvenile Hurdle well enough. He jumps well and finished the race with his ears pricked. The times suggest the ground was good to soft and he is clearly effective when the word “soft? is in the description.

Barwell Bridge ran a blinder considering he spent most of the race pulling for his head. Having looked cooked between the last two he got a second wind and ran on well. One would imagine a faster pace on good ground would be preferable.

Sweetheart won the mare’s race well enough, with Easter Legend and in particular Silver Kate, looking like winners in waiting.

Twist Magic raced prominently throughout and readily raced clear of his field early in the straight. This is the third race in a row he has run both consistently to a high rating. His provisional FSF figure for this race is lower than at Sandown Park, though that is down to an average speed figure. He will go to Cheltenham on a high and cannot be easily dismissed. However, I am yet to be convinced he will last up the hill.

Petit Robin should go straight to Aintree as a fresh horse. He will run over two and a half miles there and the pace of the race and flat track will be right up his street. Oh Crick showed the expected promise in his performance and he will come on a bundle for the run. Well Chief ran miserably and needs freshening up.

Mamlook won a competitive handicap with a degree of ease and looks sure to be hit by the handicapper. He loves it here but has a poor record at Cheltenham (three unplaced runs). One to bear in mind for Aintree. Qozak, Micheal Flips and Stravinsky Dance all disappointed; the winner apart, we should not get too carried away with the form.

Pause And Clause looks one for consideration in the future. The Sawyer gamely held off the equally resilient Miss Mitch with Mama Ratagan again showing enough to suggest he can win soon, almost certainly a shorter distance.

The times at Haydock Park suggested the ground was heavy. Peddlers Cross continued his progress in spectacular fashion. Masking all and quickening away when challenged in the home straight. Whilst the second needs further and third horse Radium ran below form one cannot help but be impressed. He jumps and travels will in his races and appears equally at home on good to soft through to heavy and his provisional FSF puts him amongst the best novices. Scriptwriter showed enough to suggest he can be competitive back in handicaps.

Diamond Harry put himself in the RSA picture with a competent display in the Novices Chase. Jumping well throughout he momentarily looked in trouble leaving the back straight. However, he was back on the bridle approaching the fourth last. The complexion of the race changed when Bensalem, going well at the time, departed the race hampering Knockara Beau. Diamond Harry jumped the last two competently and came home unchallenged. He looks as though he will be as good over fences as he was over hurdles, which makes him a leading candidate at Cheltenham. The one concern I have, is when upped in grade, he has looked vulnerable up the hill at Prestbury Park. Knockara Beau hit the fourth last, was hampered at the third last and made another mistake at the second last. He kept battling to the end and was far from disgraced. He may go for the RSA Chase but looks rather high, on past evidence, for the Jewson Handicap. Bensalem looked sure to be involved when taking of a stride too soon. He reportedly banged a knee so future plans are on hold.

Medermit took the Champion Hurdle trial displaying a fine turn of foot in the process. Receiving 4lb from Punjabi, he once again showed he is more than good enough to be in the thick of things at Cheltenham. Looking ahead, something to consider is the fact Medermit is not as big as some of his counterparts in this division. I wonder if that is why he appears vulnerable in large fields. Whilst initially disappointed with Punjabi, I feel we should not entirely dismiss him from Champion Hurdle calculations. He made a couple of mistakes and was possibly caught out for speed off what was a far from truly run race. He reportedly goes for the Kingwell Hurdle, a race he is more than capable of winning at his best. Geraghty quickly accepted the situation leading me to think the horse needed the race and I expect improvement from this effort. Afsoun and Cape Tribulation ran well enough without suggesting a win is round the corner.

Old Vic deserves great credit for the way he held off Palypso De Creek in the closing stages of the Peter Marsh Chase. He failed to land a blow in the King George but is clearly competitive in this lower grade. Palypso De Creek ran well on ground that was to testing for him and he should be winning something decent in the near future. According To Pete needs some help from the handicapper, or a slightly lower grade. Mon Mome stayed on well, as one would expect. This should help put him straight for his next assignment, prior to the Grand National. Cloudy Lane was never in the race and should be given another chance to redeem himself. Prince De Beauchene made a bad mistake towards the end of the back straight, but kept on well until the final quarter of a mile. He will improve for the experience.

The times at Leopardstown suggested ground was one the good side of soft. The improving Roberta Goldback took the valuable Novice Chase in good style. Not far off the best staying novices in Ireland, I am not sure he has the breeding for three-miles, which may rule out a trip to Cheltenham. Apt Approach is improving as he gains experience. He should come on again for this effort; although by the same sire as Roberta Goldback, he has more stamina on his dam’s side.

China Rock continues to interest me for the Jewson Handicap. In the finale Hidden Universe showed enough to suggest he can be considered for the Champion Bumper along with stablechum Elegant Concorde.

The time based ground at Leopardstown on Sunday, was again good to soft. Rite Of Passage made a sparking debut in the opener. He jumped well throughout, looking like a horse that has taken well to the game. Despite being forced wide turning for home, he soon ranged up alongside Grey Soldier and went away quickly after the last. The runner-up is well regarded and was quickly put in his place. Having showed speed here and on the flat, I see no point in stepping up in distance at Cheltenham, unless the ground rides on the fast side. Listening to Noel Meade after the race, I formed he was more worried by Dunguib, than the two-mile trip of the Supreme Novices. Recent market activity suggest the Neptune Investment may be the race of choice.

An Cathaoir Mor waited in the wings before David Casey produced him to take centre stage on the run-in in the Irish Arkle. He went past the tiring Sports Line to win in good style. Given he enjoys heavy ground, I am not sure we will see him at Cheltenham, while the runner-up appeared to have his limitations, at this level, exposed.

If we accept the premise that the times suggest the ground was good to soft, I am not sure if I buy into the excuses for Celestial Halo. He looks a horse short of gears at this trip; whilst he will enjoy returning to Prestbury Park, I am not sure he has the speed to win another championship race over two-miles. Solwhit put up a good performance, jumping well apart from the second last where he reached for the hurdle. He took a while to get on top of Sublimity; given that error and the fact he swung widest of all into the straight, suggest it was a top-class effort. Whilst accepting he may prefer a longer distance on good ground, the authorities at Cheltenham rarely let the first day start on anything other than good to soft. In addition, the run from the home turn to the winning line will bring his stamina into play. Sublimity ran well but tired on the run-in, while Donnas Palm showed improved form to get back up for second.

The disappointment of the day was Quel Esprit. However, I think he ran like a horse in need of the race and Ruby Walsh was not overly hard on him. He jumps for fun and only just failed to concede 3lb to Coole River who is well regarded by connections. Initial post-race comments from Willie Mullins suggest he is still going for the Neptune Investment Hurdle, which I find highly significant.

Filed on 29 Jan 2010 @ 12:08