Weekend Review & Ante-Post Bet
The Dublin Racing Festival kicked off with a gutsy effort from Latest Exhibition, overcoming a bad jumping error at a crucial time to win snugly. This was a performance that screamed Albert Bartlett and he must be Ireland’s leading contender on the back of this. Were he trained by a household name trainer he’d be jolly, but there’s no flies on Paul Nolan. Elixir D’ainy was buzzy and refused to be held up – I’d like to see him drop in trip and be ridden more aggressively, as when chasing home Envoi Allen at Naas.
Fair credit to Rich Ricci (not a phrase I can remember using before!) he let his star chasers Chacun Pour Soi and Min fight on their merits in the Dublin Chase, the former stretching out his field before the winner, ‘CPS’ showed a devastating foot to settle the matter two out. He is an authentic two miler and is still unexposed, I would not be surprised to see him dot up in the Champion Chase in the style of a Sprinter Sacre or a Master Minded. Min did his Ryanair claims no harm with a gutsy effort in defeat, but his exuberant jumping just might catch him out in March.
Notebook’s win in the Irish Arkle confirmed his battling qualities, both he and the 2nd Cash Back emerged with enormous credit and will go to Cheltenham with big hopes, I still feel Esprit Du Large is the forgotten horse though. Honeysuckle’s win in the Irish Champion might have confirmed her toughness, but Petit Mouchoir’s proximity means this form is no stronger than anything else we have seen this season – the Champion Hurdle picture remains as clear as mud.
Perhaps the performance of the day came from Appreciate It who sluiced up in a traditionally strong bumper. Well backed beforehand he is improving hand over first at present and has now proven himself on a more lively surface – deserving favourite for the Champion Bumper now. The handicaps will produce plenty of festival contenders, I thought Thatsy ran a fair race in the hurdle, caught behind horses before being switched extremely wide and losing all chance. A hike in trip will suit this horse and I suspect the best may be yet to come.
In leafy Esher an easy win for Itchy Feet doesn’t tell the full story of the Scilly Isles Novice Chase, a blistering pace playing into the hands of the winner who must be a leading contender for the Marsh Novice Chase at Cheltenham given his fine effort in last year’s Supreme Novice Hurdle. Laurina doesn’t seem to have taken to jumping at speed – perhaps she could end up back over hurdle at Cheltenham, but I can’t back mares out of form. Deise Aba has improved with every start and took the big handicap chase with a good bit to spare; he could easily return here for the Whitbread in a couple of months, he looks sure to appreciate marathon trips.
North of the border at Musselburgh there wasn’t the class on show there sometimes can be, but Greaneteen posted a second successive easy win in the 2 mile handicap chase on Saturday. He’s an unexposed horse who is clearly thriving and he would surely be interesting if lining up in the Grand Annual.
Sunday’s first Grade 1 in Ireland saw well-backed odds on favourite Aspire Tower fall at the last when appearing to still hold the upper hand in the juvenile hurdle. He dictated a strong gallop here and appeared to spring back to his feet after falling none the worse. I don’t think he did anything here to derail his Triumph Hurdle bid having jumped beautifully until falling and is still my idea of the likeliest winner.
The Supreme trial half an hour later saw talking horse Asterion Forlonge run out an impressive winner, understandably throwing himself into prominence in the Supreme betting. This was impressive, but he helped dictate a modest gallop and the race may have lacked quality, in some sense a bit like the win of Shishkin, the horse who sports the same colours – their respective targets will doubtless be speculated about at length.
Faugheen’s win was again greeted with raptures in the winners enclosure and should he win at the festival emotional scenes will await, but while this was a fine performance it perhaps suggested his jumping is just a bit too low and slingy for the rigours of Prestbury Park. I think the runner up there, Easy Game, could easily reverse the placings in 6 weeks.
The rain had arrived in time to allow Delta Work to take his chance in the Irish Gold Cup. As when winning over c&d in the Lexus, he showed several gears and found much more than his rivals for a maximum drive. The subsequent injury to Jack Kennedy is a negative for his chance in the Gold Cup, but I felt at the time he was the best horse in last year’s RSA and having patently improved since he looks the likeliest winner in March despite Kennedy’s absence from the plate.
Easy Game was never right last spring having been brought back from a break after a lucrative autumn. He was sent off a well backed 7/1 for the Ballymore so is obviously held in some regard by the all-powerful Mullins team and has proved why this season, backing up a promising hurdle intro with two great efforts over fences. He was a few strides away from turning over Faugheen on Sunday and wasn’t abused by his jockey. His gutsy attitude and hold-up preference bode well for Cheltenham and 12/1 looks a big price in a race light on obvious chances and proven class.
Mario De Pail (S.Thomas) Almost overcame a slowly run race and a 7lb winner’s penalty to score at Chepstow on Wednesday, a slicker jump at the last would almost certainly have settled the issue in his favour. I’m sure Sam Thomas can’t wait to send this horse chasing next season, but in the meantime he can find another race, he clearly handles loose ground particularly well and could benefit from a step up in trip, perhaps the EBF final will come under consideration, he is qualified.
West To The Bridge (D.Skelton) Set vicious fractions up in trip at Sandown on Saturday, stringing his rivals out from the front. It was a bold tactic given the stamina test was a huge step into the unknown. Though readily swamped in the home straight he bravely plugged on right to the line and now looks well suited by the aggressive tactics used the last twice. I hope he is given a little break to restore himself after such an effort.