Firstly, I’d like to wish you all a very Happy New Year.
To say that the racing over Christmas left more questions than answers is probably the understatement of the year – albeit we are only four days into 2018 so there is plenty of time for that to change! A real sad postscript from the Leopardstown Festival was that we lost Nichols Canyon and Zabana, both high-class horses in their own right and they’ll be sorely missed. The former was a real favourite of mine and I was pleased as punch to see him win the 2017 Stayers Hurdle, so to see him fatally injured was a real bitter pill to swallow.
With regards to notable performances, there were plenty and I don’t intend to list my highlights when you will all have your own. For me Poetic Rhythm winning the Challow Novices’ Hurdle at Newbury really was the standout (image above supplied by Michael Harris). I absolutely love his attitude to racing. He had to show real grit and determination to get the better of Mulcahys Hill, who himself ran a great race in defeat, but it was the Fergal O’Brien-trained gelding that got on top when it matter and in doing so he enhanced his claims for the Albert Bartlett at the Cheltenham Festival. Talking of O’Brien, this was his first Grade 1 – it certainly won’t be the last – and I was over the moon for him. He runs an upwardly mobile operation, he celebrates every winner like it’s his last and in my opinion, he is one of the best ambassadors of the sport that we have. Always walking around with a smile on his face, O’Brien is already supported by some of the leading owners in National Hunt racing and I fully expect his string to continue to go from strength to strength.
In terms of below par performances, Faugheen pulling up has to be right at the top of the list and the former Champion Hurdler has it all to prove now. For what it’s worth, I do think that we will see him back on the track this season, but to say that I’d be very cautious about him moving forwards is an understatement – yes that’s two and counting! Others to note are Sizing John who after running a shocker in the Christmas Chase (formerly known as the Lexus) will now have to join his stablemate Our Duke on the comeback trail if he is to win a second Cheltenham Gold Cup. The Future Champions Novices’ Hurdle – often a good pointer to the Grade 1 novice hurdles in the Spring – was quite simply a complete mess. Whiskey Sour picked up the pieces after Mengli Khan ran out before Real Steel and Sharjah fell at the last. The latter was travelling ominously well before coming to grief and he looks to be a leading player wherever he turns up next, but in terms of this race as a piece of form moving forwards to the Spring festivals, it’s hard to take much from it.
Another horse that hit the deck over Christmas was Monalee, which was frustrating after he’d made such an impressive chasing debut. However, I remain extremely confident that he is a very smart staying chaser and odds of 7/1 about him for the RSA are still fair given that it doesn’t look a particularly strong race at this stage.
The winners continued to roll in over the festive period for both the Jumps Guide Annual and the Extra Horses To Follow and although Diese Des Bieffe could only finish second to another of our horses to follow in the form of If The Cap Fits, I still believe that is a very smart horse in his own right. Following his run over Christmas, I do think that a step up in trip will be on the cards and therefore the Lanzarote Handicap Hurdle could now be on his agenda.
Lastly, many thanks for all of your support with the Jumps Guide Annual and the Extra Horses To Follow recently – I’m delighted to say that they’ve both been a real success and we will continue to attempt to supply you with plenty of winners! The Spring Horses To Follow PDF (sent to subscribers in March) is sure to provide plenty of insight to the top-class racing at Cheltenham, Aintree and Punchestown and you can order your copy by clicking here.
That’s it for now guys, but I’ll be back shortly with the next update blog.