Welcome to 2013! The great beauty of having an interest in Horse Racing is that we always have a big race or meeting in the near future to look forward to. The count down has truly started and it is only 68 days until the start of the Cheltenham 2013 festival.
Hopefully,come Cheltenham 2013 the ground will be good, weather warm and dry and a few winners priced in double digits would be great! Least we forget the short term with the Welsh National taking place this Saturday 5th January.
It has been a very busy time over the Christmas racing period with so many meetings taking place and so many graded races ran. I have really enjoyed the racing and hope you enjoyed it too? Let me know what your favourite moments were by adding some comments on my blog.
Below,I have completed part two of my eye catchers report and I am sure almost all horses listed are future winners. I would like to wish you a very Happy New Year and may it bring you good times galore!
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Eye Catchers that ran over the last couple of weeks Part 2
Tiday Bay – Trianer Paul Nicholls – Jockey Ruby Walsh
What a training performance by Paul Nicholls to get Tidal Bay back to his best. Paul mentioned in his Betfair blog that “We have mixed up and changed his routine, so that he doesn’t work up the hill for example, sorted out his breathing and addressed some bleeding issues – we basically gave him a full MOT.” Well, it is a shame that Paul did not have the chance to sort out Tidal Bay’s problems a few years ago with all respect to previous trainer Howard Johnston! Even Timeform agree that Paul has turned this horse around be removing their infamous squiggle from Tidal Bays name. Timeform put a squiggle beside any horse that in their opinion is quirky, not giving its true running or just not plain trust worthy to go and win the race. Tidal bay has turned 12 years old but if the ground turns up soft at Cheltenham 2013 who is to say he cannot win his potential targets of more likely the World Hurdle or less likely the Cheltenham Gold Cup. Any other win this season will be an added bonus as he has more than paid his way this season.
First Lieutenant – Trianer Mouse Morris – Jockey Brian Cooper
First Lieutenant has become the forgotten horse of the four horses to finish so close together in the Lexus Chase. He finished 2nd on the day and put up another improved performance following a creditable 3rd place finish in the Hennessy Gold Cup Chase at Newbury behind Bobs Worth and Tidal Bay. In the Hennessy Gold Cup he was in receipt of 7 lbs and beaten 5 lengths by Tidal bay. In the Lexus both First Lieutenant and Tidal bay carried equal weights and only a head separated them at the finishing line! The British Handicapping Association (BHA) agree that First Lieutenant put in an improved performance in the Lexus Chase and have raised his rating to 170. His is within a pound or two of all the main Cheltenham Gold Cup contenders’ incl. Bobs Worth rating of 171. Mouse Morris mentioned after this race that he is sticking to his successful policy of not running First Lieutenant between now and the festival. This ensures that come March First Lieutenant will arrive at Prestbury Park a fresh horse ready to run for his life. The 14/1 on offer to win the Gold Cup is more than fair especially if the ground turns up good on Gold Cup day.
Sir Des Champs – Trainer Davy Russell – Jockey Davy Russell
Sir Des Champs ran the best Gold Cup trial in the Lexus Chase in my opinion. It’s hard to believe that he finished so close to the winner Tidal Bay considering the round of jumping he put in here. Sir Des Champs make a couple of momentum stopping howlers at the fences along the far side away from the stands during the Lexus and Davy Russell was pushing him a little to keep tabs on the field at that stage. He got in close to the 2nd last fence as well and could easily be seen to lose touch with the leaders. It shows what a stamina laden engine he has to be running on so powerfully at the end of this race. The extra couple of furlongs longer in the Cheltenham Gold Cup aided by the steeper uphill finish will be right up Sir Des Champs stamina laded alley. He as a 100% success record at the track with two wins from two appearances and can handle good ground. If he can sort out his jumping errors he is the one they all have to beat. Unfortunately, the bookies seem to agree and best price of 6/1 is no more than fair for Sir Des Champs to make it three from three come Gold Cup day.
Flemenstar – Trainer Peter Casey – Jockey Andrew Lynch
Lexus Day was the first time I had an opportunity to see Flemenstar in the flesh. He is a fine big powerful behind chaser but was way too buzzed up in the pre-parade ring. Trainer Peter Casey mentioned post race that he could hardly get the saddle on him he was so wound up! It was no surprise to see Flemenstar tire nearing the line in his race. The major surprise to me was that after pulling so hard during the race alongside being on his toes during all the pre race preparations he was able to look all over the most likely winner jumping the last fence. He is an awesome jumper of a fence and was the fastest horse in this race by some way. He left them for dead rounding the last bend. If Peter Casey can get him to relax more the next day over 3 miles in the Irish Hennessy Gold Cup he will take all the beating. As much as Sir Des Champs looks the main Irish Cheltenham Gold Cup contender, Flemenstar is the faster horse and by far the better jumper and jumping well is what wins races! The 14/1 on offer from Bet Victor (non runner free bet) is tempting, however, I am prepared to wait and see what happens on Irish Hennessy Gold Cup day for now.
Jezki – Trianer Jessica Harrington – Jockey Robbie Power
The most eye taking performance by a novice hurdler during the Christmas racing was Dodging Bullets in the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton followed closely by Jezki’s effortless win at Leopardstown. Jessica Harrington keeps saying that Jezki will be much better on good ground so we can expect even more on a faster surface. Jezki showed a tremendous turn of foot here to put the race to bed before the final hurdle. His last two runs have been on heavy ground but he is a very slick jumper and settles well. He travels well in his races and has the tactical speed to get himself out of trouble during a race. Jezki looks sure to go close in the Supreme novices hurdle and the bookies are offering a fair price of 5/1.
Puffin Billy – Trainer Oliver Sherwood – Jockey Barry Geraghty
Puffin Billy won the Grade 2 Novices Hurdle at Ascot on the 21st December like a good horse. The pace was a little too slow for his liking on the heavy ground and he ran quite free but still had plenty in the tank come the end of the race. He is unbeaten in four from four starts and there is more improvement to come. I think that he should be stepped up in trip next and that the Neptune Novices hurdle over 2m5f at Cheltenham should be his target rather than the shorter 2 mile supreme Novices hurdle. He is a full brother to Zuzka who is trained by Willie Mullins and looks suited best by a longer trip than two miles. I am pretty sure that Puffin Billy has loads of stamina and can make his presence felt in the Neptune Novices Hurdle for which he is currently a 10/1 shot.
River Maigue – Trainer Nicky Henderson – Jockey Barry Geraghty
River Maigue won as he liked at Kempton on the 26th December in a novices hurdle. He had valuable hurdling experience over the runner up New Years Eve as well as probably handling the heavy ground better than the runner up New Years Eve. Both horses are worth keeping on side over the coming Months. I can see River Maigue being upped in trip as he is a former Point to Point winner over three miles when previously trained by Michael Hourigan in Ireland. River Maigue has form on yielding and good ground. River Maigue finished in second place in a slow run tactical race at Cheltenham in November when second to Dodging Bullets. That form reads very well now. Looking at the Cheltenham Festival betting River Maigue is only priced up for the Supreme Novices Hurdle presently so I am presuming that the supreme hurdle over two miles has been mentioned by connections as his target. Whether he has the speed to win a good ground festival race over two miles I am not sure so the 14/1 available is not tempting for me at this point.
Cape Tribulation – Trainer Malcolm Jefferson – Jockey Jack Doyle
Malcolm Jefferson’s charge put up a fantastic round of jumping on unsuitable heavy ground to trounce the opposition in the grade 3 Handicap Chase worth almost 23k to the winner at Wetherby on December 26th. Cape Tribulation travelled well and ran away from Mr Moonshine after jumping the second last fence. Cape Tribulation had never won on heavy ground before this performance and is obviously handling ground variances better as he ages. He won on good and good to soft ground at both the Cheltenham and Aintree festivals in 2012 respectively. The handicapper has upped his chasing rating nine pounds from 142 to 151 after this win. This is still a lenient mark when compared to his hurdling rating of 158 considering how well he jumped the fences at Wetherby. The next target as mentioned by Malcolm for Cape Tribulation is the Skybet Chase at Doncaster near the end of January. He should go very well there no matter what ground conditions prevail.
Darlan – Trainer Nicky Henderson – Jockey Tony McCoy
The turn of foot displayed by Darlan to win the Christmas hurdle at Kempton was very impressive to watch. He left Raya Star rated 159 for dead and won very easily. The British handicapper has given Darlan a revised rating of 166 following this performance. Firstly, I am a big fan of this horse. When you consider how bad a fall he had in the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury as a five year old, he did tremendously well to bounce back and run second at the Cheltenham festival before wining well at the Aintree Festival. Secondly, I take a view that this form will prove vulnerable come Champion Hurdle day. This race was run at a crawl in the heavy ground and was setup for a speed horse to win like Darlan. The slow pace more than likely contributed to the poor showing from the fighting fifth winner Countrywide Flame. Nicky Henderson trainer of the winner Darlan mentioned that Darlan did not need to be “that fit today as it turned into a five-furlong race”. The champion hurdle will be a completely different run race with loads of pace but if Darlan travels well to the last hurdle he could use his speed to win the race if lasting home? At the moment he is a big swerve for me best priced at 4/1 to win the 2013 Champion Hurdle.
Reve De Sivola – Trainer Nick Williams – Jockey Richard Johnson
The Long Walk Hurdle winner Reve De Sivola looks back to his best. He was never a natural over fences though he did run well to finish 3rd at Cheltenham in the 2011 Festival Handicap Chase over three miles despite his poor jumping. He is much more comfortable back over hurdles and improved from his previous run when runner up to the mighty Big Bucks at Newbury. He ran up with the pace during the Long Walk and burned off Smad Place easily after rounding the final bend. Reve de Sivola was a very good novice hurdler and finished only one and a half lengths behind Peddlers Cross in the 2010 Neptune Novices Hurdle. The handicapper was suitably impressed by Reve De Sivola performace to up his rating from 149 to 166. A huge 17 lbs hike! He is best priced at 12/1 by Ladbrokes for a World Hurdle bid (no Big Bucks) and that looks a value bet to me.
Cause of Causes – Trainer Gordon Elliot – Jockey Davy Condon
Gordon Elliot will be Champion Irish Trainer without doubt over the coming years. He is still in his mid thirties and has already won the Aintree Grand National, Ebor Handicap, Drinmore Novices Chase and a few Cheltenham Festival races. He is a hugely talented trainer and will be to the fore at the coming Cheltenham Festival with a strong team of horses at his new Capranny stables in County Meath. Gigginstown House Stud owned by Michael O’Leary is a big supporter of Gordon.
Cause of Causes is likely to run a massive race at the festival if lining up. He has just turned five years old but has run an unlucky second in the Galway Hurdle Handicap, ran third in the racing post hurdle better known as the Greatwood hurdle at Cheltenham and then powered home at Ascot to win the Ladbroke Handicap Hurdle. The experience of running in such big field handicaps will be a huge asset come the next Cheltenham Festival. The handicapper has raised Cause of Causes rating to a new high of 149 which is reasonable. He is an improving horse with bags of experience over hurdles.
Until next Week,