This afternoon was largely disappointing from my point of view with most of the runners from our list to follow putting in below par displays. Killaghey Castle and Briareus are exempt from that criticism though as they fought out the finish of an excellent novice chase at Newbury. Briareus, 6th in the Champion Hurdle was much the better of the two over timber but given the larger obstacles Killaghey Castle, ridden by Leighton Aspell got the better of the argument. He looks a bright prospect. There was plenty to like about the runner up as well and hopefully there will be races to be won with both of them as the season unfolds.
There has been a spate of serious injuries to horses over the last week or so. The latest was a fatal accident to Missed That. The 7 year old had won the bumper at the Cheltenham Festival in 2005. He went straight over fences last season and while not always fluent he won 2 Grade 1s at Leopardstown and a Grade 2 at Punchestown. There was almost certainly more to come and he is a tragic loss.
Looking back to last weekend you had to be impressed with Kauto Star’s win at Haydock. The opposition in the King George will be stiffer and Racing Demon may prove to be his biggest threat but Kempton should suit the Nicholls runner. When it comes to the Gold Cup in March we will have to see if the extra 2 furlongs catch Kauto Star out as they have others before him.
The Betfair Chase is the first leg of a treble that would land Kauto Star’s connections a cool £million if he goes on to complete the hat trick. There is plenty of racing to come before we will know the answer to that one though. The Betfair Chase had its inaugural running last season but is registered as the Lancashire Chase which does have a history. A race of that name used to be run at the old Manchester track that ceased to exist in the mid sixties. In those days the race was run on Easter Monday and was one of the most important steeplechases on the calendar. In the 50s it was won by a couple of Grand National winners, ESB and Sundew.
Writing about defunct tracks got me onto another train of thought. I first began to take an interest in Racing in the late 50s and early 60s as I grew up in the Isle of Wight. On the Island “the Festival” came to mean the pop variety rather than the jumping one.
The Isle of Wight Festival?
At the height of the flower-power era, hundreds of thousands of music fans came from all over the world to chill out in the fields of the Isle of Wight.
They packed onto the Isle of Wight ferry from the mainland for up to five days (although some stayed considerably longer) of live rock, communal living, free love and mind-bending substances.
Besides all the peace, love and latrines, there was the music – non-stop performances from some of the greatest pop musicians of any era.
I was never really into the dodgy substances and much of the free love sadly seemed to pass me by. I remember the latrines though!
There used to be horse racing on the Island however. In the 19th century there was racing just over the downs from my hometown of Ventnor at the other end of Rew Lane, but more recently there was a course at Ashey near Ryde. The last meeting there was held in June 1930 (after that the grandstand burnt down!) There was a “Ventnor Handicap Hurdle” at that meeting with prize money of £63. The last race of the day was a hurdle race won by a horse called Copacabana (and that was before Barry Manilow had been invented!)
After that brief meander down memory lane let’s get bang up to date and have a look at what are some quality races tomorrow.
The first race at Newbury is a novice hurdle at 12.30. We have a runner from our list to follow in Silverburn from Paul Nicholl’s yard. Silverburn won the 2nd of his 2 bumpers at Wincanton last season ansd was runner up to Wichita Lineman on his hurdling debut at Aintree. Silverburn is a full brother to stablemate Denman and generally has a very strong national hunt pedigree. The thing that would concern me in this race is that the trip might be a bit on the short side for him. He is up against some ex flat horses including the Andrew Balding trained Albinus who showed a bit of a wayward side at times on the level but had plenty of ability. I fancy Silverburn to come on for his earlier run and win this.
Paul Nicholls has something of a “talking horse” in the 1.05. There have been glowing reports of the ex French Opera Mundi and if he is good as people say he will be hard to beat. As a 4 year old he gets a handy weight allowance. The stable won this race last season with Taranis.
Our list representative in the 1.35 is the grey Locksmith. He has been looking a touch difficult to place but has been dropped 5 lbs in the handicap which should make him more competitive. Keep an eye also on Saintsaire who used to be trained by Nicky Henderson but is now with Paul Nicholls. Saintsaire has been something of an under achiever but has ability and the change of scenery might just do the trick for him.
Dom D’Orgeval is our list runner in the 2.05. He was most progressive last term winning 3 handicaps being placed in better company. He deserves to take his place in this field but would need to step up again to take a hand in the finish. Plenty of rain would help his cause. I wouldn’t be too surprised to see him embark on a novice chasing career before the season is out. Strictly speaking our old friend Inglis Drever should prevail here.
The big race of the day is the Hennessy at 2.40, one of the most prestigious chases of the season it celebrates its 50th birthday tomorrow. My theory about this race is that you need a second season chaser, without too much weight who stays really well.
There are 4 runners from our list to follow but they all carry more than 11 stone. That is not ideal although Trabolgan humped 11 stone 10 to victory last season. Turpin Green carries 11 stone 10 but he did beat subsequent Paddy Power Gold Cup winner Exotic Dancer out of sight on his last outing. He is a horse with plenty of ability but has a lot of weight. Sate of Play is well fancied by many. He did well for Evan Williams last season winning 3 times over fences. He jumps and stays and should appreciate the track. He has a big chance.
There was a loud whisper for Idle Talk at Cheltenham on Paddy Power day and he finished an excellent second to My Will following a long drawn-out battle. I can see him running well again, but I just wonder if he might have done better if coming straight here. That race a fortnight ago may have left its mark.
The last of our quartet is Montgermont. He is owned by his former trainer Lavinia Taylor and is now trained by Charlie Egerton. His jumping has sometimes been a bit suspect but he is another with scope for improvement.
Cornish Rebel was 3rd in the race last year and runs well in these big staying handicaps. Ruby Walsh rides Cornish Rebel but I think the stable’s other runner Napolitain looks worthy of a second look at well. He is at the right end of the handicap, has a claimer reduces the weight further and had consistent form as a novice last season.
If pushed form a selection I would go for State of Play and Idle Power.
The Newbury card finishes with a 10 runner hurdle where we have a couple of runners from our list. Midas Way has had a recent run on the flat so should be fit. He won his only start over hurdles last season and based on his flat form does not look unreasonably treated here. Our other runner is Afsoun who changed hands for 270,000 gns in May. He had some fair form last season and goes well fresh. I expect him to go over fences eventually. He gets the nod here with Midas Way next best. If you want an each way outsider you could try Anemix.
I have scribbled the name of Trison’s Star in my trusty notebook. He runs in the Newcastle 12.20. The trip should suit but I would rather the mud was flying for this horse and I think I will keep a watching brief on this occasion.
Nicky Richards has a strong team this season and runs an interesting new signing in the 12.55 at Newcastle. Cheating Chance has a good pedigree and won an Irish point to point.
Aces Four won here last time out and the step up to 3 miles in the 1.25 should be in his favour. Heavy rain is forecast which could be a problem as good ground is important to him.
The Rehearsal Chase at 3.00 looks one to savour. The top two in the weights, Neptune Collonges and Fundamentalist represent our list to follow. If the promised rain does materialise this will suit Neptune Collonges. He stays really well and should have come on for his second to Our Vic in the Charlie Hall at Wetherby. Liam Heard takes 3 lbs off. Fundamentalist has lost his way somewhat for one reason or another but he looked a serious horse in the making when beating Inglis Drever at the 2004 Cheltenham Festival. There was a glimmer of a return to form when he was a close second to Cornish Sett at Cheltenham a couple of weeks ago. He would be very interesting if he can recapture his old form. Of the rest I would be very keen on the chances of a couple of list horses from last season, Bob Bob Bobbin and King Killone.
King Killone is a real old fashioned chasing type who has a good novice campaign last season. He has already won this term beating Silver Knight and subsequent winner Jungle Jinks at Wetherby a fortnight ago. Bob Bob Bobbin is another thorough stayer who got the better of Distant Thunder to score at Bangor on his reappearance. Seems to act on any ground. King Killone and Bob Bob Bobbin should go well.
The big hurdle race of the day is the Fighting Fifth at 3.30. Although Desert Quest will take all the beating, especially if the rain stays away I am hopeful for our two list runners, Noble Request and Straw Bear. Noble Request ran a bit flat last time so I am going with Straw Bear for my selection. His second to Iktitaf at Punchestown is starting to look very smart form indeed.
At Towcester Good Citizen could be value in the 12.45. He is a big imposing sort who could leave his hurdles form behind now he is tried over fences. Blue Splash was second at Chepstow in the week and looks the one to beat in the 2.15. Finally I have received a tip for Mole’s Chamber in the bumper at 3.25.
I will be back tomorrow evening for a look at Sunday’s racing
Continue reading “Diary: November 25 2006”