Clarence House Chase
Un De Sceaux‘s class showed in the end, although some might crab the style given how far ahead of the runner-up, Speredek, he was in lengths in comparison to official ratings. He’s likely to be bang in top form come the festival and his attempt to defend his Ryanair crown.
Brain Power didn’t jump a single fence with confidence or acceptable technique. He looked to be hating the ground and that might have had some effect on his fencing but my guess is that he has quickly fallen out of love with chasing.
They might give him another crack at it after his wind op, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see Nicky do a Buveur D’Air with him. He wouldn’t be good enough to win a Champion Hurdle but something like the Imperial Cup would be ideal for him. I’d then save him for Punchestown where he might win something like the Punchestown Champion Hurdle if the Cheltenham principals are a bit battle weary or if Nicky leaves Buveur D’Air at home.
To get to where he did today before falling, given the poor round of jumping, proves he has an engine.
This race was a handicap until 2008 and perhaps it’s time to consider reverting to that structure. Had it been a handicap today, Un De Sceaux would have been conceding 23lbs to Speredek and the result might well have been different. Eight of the last 11 runnings have been won by the favourite; five of those were odds on.
Bet365 Handicap Chase
Having watched Acting Lass (a gelding, by the way) last twice, I was unsure what to make of him and unwilling to take a chance on him here. He has shown several signs of not being straightforward and I couldn’t decide whether it was greenness or temperament or even a physical problem (he comes on and off the bridle, jumps left and wanders quite markedly).
Early in today’s race I though him more likely to be pulled up than win. He jumped badly left and did not look at all confident at his fences. But if there’s one man you want on top of a horse like that it’s the superb Noel Fehily. Once he got Acting Lass settled and jumping better he moved to the front a long way from home and the horse seemed a different animal. Approaching two out he began to idle and wander and after jumping that he dropped the bit completely and was idling so badly I thought he was going to pull himself up. His leap at the last showed he had a fair bit left and he picked up again.
No question he has a decent engine, but I would still be a wee bit wary that temperament could cost him a race.
Ascot Spring Garden Show Holloway’s Handicap Hurdle
Jenkins has been gambled on more than once in decent handicaps and Henderson has never made a secret of the fact that he thought the horse very capable. Last time out he stuck blinkers on him and had his jock send him to the front early; he won easily despite running around a bit after the last. The question today was how he’d react in blinkers for the second time.
Despite never really settling (he must have burned a fair amount of energy), causing him to travel almost too well, he had enough in reserve to put the race firmly to bed. He can surely go on from here and The Betfair Hurdle, often run at the kind of pace that would help him settle just off the leaders, could be ideal.
Rossington Main Novices Hurdle
This looked a decent field, but First Flow saw them off convincingly, winning ten lengths. Tizzard will regret reversing his decision and running Lostintranslation in deep ground. He finished stone last and I’m increasingly losing faith in this trainer’s judgement.
McCain’s Waterlord was disappointing in third. Chasing will be his game.
Back to the winner: connections are determined to keep him to soft ground and trainer Kim Bailey suggested this might be him finished for the season. A wet Cheltenham could change their minds and if it was deep there, First Flow would have a fine chance in the Albert Bartlett.
Peter Marsh Chase
Tizzard got one back in reverting to fences with The Dutchman who had run well here over hurdles last time behind Sam Spinner. One of three lightly-weighted horses in this (10.6), it must have helped not to be humping much more than that given the relentless pace in such bad ground (more than half the field pulled up). It was too hot for Hainan but I wouldn’t write him off as he ran on again having been prominent for a fair part of the race.
Yala Enki ran well but he’s a horse I cannot take to for some reason. He’ll pop up at some point and has had some stiff tasks, but all in all, I think connections will be disappointed after his early promise.
Forest Des Aigles’ improvement came to an end although he travelled well for a long way and will be worth another chance back over shorter.
Champion Hurdle Trial
The New One won for the 4th time in succession. This is one of the most remarkable horses I’ve ever seen. He is essentially a stayer who has been campaigned over the wrong trip most of his career because of his trainer’s resentment at the horse being hampered by Our Conor in the 2014 Champion Hurdle. The New One never runs a poor race and has won over a million pounds. His Champion Hurdle ‘disappointments’ have been down to him being naturally outpaced (as almost all stayers will be) when they quicken coming down the hill.
When he finally gets his big prize in the Stayers Hurdle in March, I hope Nigel Twiston-Davies puts his hands up and admits his errors with this wonderful racehorse who might well have won a couple of World Hurdles already.