The November meeting at Cheltenham is the start of the National Hunt season for me and I was delighted to be able to visit Fergal O’Brien’s stable en route to Prestbury Park on Friday. Little did I know that Perfect Candidate would record another Cheltenham success just over 24 hours later and it’d be unfair not to mention The Yes No Wait Sorries pair of Poetic Rhythm and Grageelah Girl who both put up fine performances in defeat. O’Brien continues in outstanding form and his horses should not be underestimated, even at the very highest level.
There were plenty of noteworthy performances over the three days but it was Finian’s Oscar, carrying the colours of the late Ann and Alan Potts, who left a lasting impression on me and I remain of the belief that he is an absolute superstar. However, I’d be totally against him running in the Arkle (his trainer Colin Tizzard mentioned this as a possibility post race) over 2m judged on his first two starts over fences. Although he was a Grade 1 winner over the minimum distance last season when winning the Tolworth Hurdle, he strikes me as a future Gold Cup horse and I feel that the JLT Novices’ Chase is the ideal target for him at this stage of his career. If his handler still believes that he is a 2m chaser leading up to the Festival then I’d like to see him run in the Game Spirit at Newbury, a race that I’m confident will prove to Tizzard et al that he is most suited to races over intermediate distances at present.
Others to note from the weekend
Red Indian looked very well handicapped judged on his second place finish (when giving weight away) behind Golden Birthday. He was held up which wasn’t ideal in the testing conditions but he shaped with plenty of promise when staying on late in the day. He still showed some signs of inexperience under pressure and I believe that he will continue to progress, particularly when stepping up in trip to 3m. The Philip Hobbs-trained Pineapple Rush finished behind the aforementioned Grageelah Girl and impressive winner Posh Trish in the Listed Mares Bumper and the newcomer impressed me with the manner in which she finished off her race in desperate underfoot conditions. She’s from a lovely jumping family and although that will clearly be her game sooner rather than later, she looks a sure fire winner of a bumper in the coming weeks. The final horse that is worth mentioning is Tully East who was well-fancied in the feature Bet Victor Gold Cup. A winner of the Novice Handicap Chase at last season’s Cheltenham Festival, he looked a threat on Saturday before he was unable to pick up on the ground and he strikes me as as a horse that is still progressing. A trip back to Cheltenham for the Festival Plate looks fairly likely to be on his radar now.
The news surrounding Altior has claimed plenty of attention in recent days and although it is obviously disappointing that we are unlikely to see Nicky Henderson’s stable star until the second half of the season, I was most upset with the treatment of the outstanding journalist Lydia Hislop. It appears that some of her Press Room colleagues took it upon themselves to report her to Henderson for what I believe was her doing her job to the best of her ability. The whole Altior story will likely gain further momentum over the next few months, but I’d personally rather ‘Altior-gate’ to be brushed under the carpet and watch Hislop create more wonderful moments with the microphone. Her post-race interview following Sprinter Sacre’s second Champion Chase success was tear-jerking.
Lastly, news broke on Tuesday that trainers will have to declare wind operations early in the new year. Although I believe that it is a step in the right direction, I’d certainly advise that you tread carefully. It could easily be a bookies dream if punters start to use the wind operation as an new betting angle as I’m almost certain that the percentage of horses winning first time after a wind operation is pretty low. Only time will tell!
That’s it for now guys, but I’ll be back shortly with the next update blog.