It was a confusing weekend for punters.
A few of what would be considered Cheltenham hopefuls got turned over and suddenly everyone’s looking for an easy answer.
Boston Bob, Silviniaco Conti and Holywell were all making their seasonal debuts and as far as I’m concerned race fitness caught them out.
I’d put a line through all these first runs.I don’t want to detract from Road to Riches (below) win at Down Royal. He jumped great and looked like he could be even better going left-handed. It was a really telling performance.
But he was 100 per cent race fit. And fitness played a massive part in the race and tactically it was a well-executed plan by Noel Meade and jockey Paul Carberry – they galloped away and found us out.
Road to Riches had won the Galway Plate in the Summer and just got beaten by Sizing Europe at Gowran Park last month. Noel Meade had time to bring him to the boil again and tune him into shape. It showed.
I was happy with Boston Bob. He travelled and jumped really well but wasn’t wound up enough for a Group One test at this stage of the season.
I’m confident he’ll improve and win his fair share of big races.
Jonjo O’Neill’s leading Cheltenham Gold Cup contender Holywell also got turned over on Sunday at Carlisle.
Both AP MCoy and Jonjo said they were happy with him and the same as me with Boston Bob – you have to take them at their word.
The one thing I would say is that Holywell was beaten in a Listed contest at Carlisle while Boston Bob was starting his season in a Grade One contest.
I would say Boston Bob’s performance is more justifiable because he was in a better class of race.
I’m not sure the ground at Wetherby suited the Paul Nicholls-trained Silviniaco Conti.
The time of the race was very quick so that would have suited a fast-enough horse like Menorah rather than ‘Conti’ who is more of a stayer.
Philip Hobbs’ stable is flying and that’s was the second weekend on the trot (Wishfull Thinking at Aintree’s Old Roan Chase) that his horses have put up strong performances whereas Paul’s (Nicholls) and Willie’s (Mullins) look like they’ll come on for a run.
The most impressive performance – visually at least – seemed to be Nicky Henderson’s (above) Sign of a Victory at Ascot.
I’d have slight reservations about Get Me Out of Here being on his tail going to the second last particularly as there’s talk now of Sign of a Victory being a Champion Hurdle contender.
But he has a hell of a long way to go to do that. I could see him winning a couple of more handicaps but he has to improve an awful lot to be up with the best at the feature race on the the opening day of Cheltenham 2015.
Winning gold at the Commonwealth games is a hell of a long way from winning gold at the Olympics.
Horse to follow:
Gordon Elliott’s Don Cossack impressed me at Down Royal when beating Wonderful Charm in the Grade 2 Chase. He was always highly thought of and could just be getting back to the form that made him such a talking horse. He mightn’t be a Gold Cup horse but could certainly develop into a Ryanair Chase contender if he continues to progress.
Trainer to follow:
Henry de Bromhead’s horses are worth watching over the next few weeks. They seem in really good order at the minute.