The Grade One Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown this Saturday is wide open.
With Sprinter Sacre and Sire De Grugy absent there’s room for something to step up to the plate and enter the Champion Chase picture.
Balder Succes is the ante-post favourite and meets God’s Own on 7lbs better terms after finishing second to him at Exeter. But I’m not so sure he’ll reverse the form with Tom George’s runner.
God’s Own also beat Balder Succes at Punchestown last May and looks the real improver in the 2m division and that might just be the difference on the day.
Dodging Bullets wasn’t far off in the Shloer Chase while Oscar Whisky drops back to 2m – but I’m not sure that will suit him.
A lot of fences come at you rapidly at Sandown and I don’t think that will play to Oscar Whisky’s strengths. If he’s still in touching distance at the Pond fence he’ll come home best of them all but his jumping needs to hold up to keep in touch.
Willie (Mullins) has three entered at this stage but we’ll have to see who will travel. It may come a bit too soon for Ballycasey, Felix Yonger would need to improve but Twinlight jumps to his right so Sandown should suit. He was very impressive in the Fortria Chase at Navan.
God’s Own win at the Punchestown Festival (above) didn’t come until May last season so he’s entitled to run in the Henry VIII Novices Chase on the same card. If he swerves the big one he should win that.
If not, Sandown is a pretty unique place and Paul Nicholls’ Irish Saint has course and distance form after bolting up there a couple of weeks ago. That’d make him the one for me.
Gordon Elliott’s Clarcam is entered up too. Though he might not get the same four-year-old allowances in the UK that he got in Ireland I’ll be watching his run to see if it boosts Vautour’s form who beat him at Navan a couple of weeks ago.
The Becher Chase is the feature race at Aintree and it’s another wide-open contest – for different reasons.
These fences are a real leveller but there’s a couple against the field that it’s worth keeping onside. Irish challenger Balbriggan bolted up in the Troytown Chase at Navan and if he’s in that sort of form again he’ll go close.
I thought Just A Par was going to be a Graded horse but hasn’t quite fulfilled his potential. This contest should suit his style of racing though.
He’s a good jumper and likes to travel and when they slow down in the middle of the race that would allow him to get back on the bridle and enjoy himself.
Green Flag’s price may reflect his run behind Hennessy winner Many Clouds at Carlisle – but he was 18 lengths back. Chance Du Roy hasn’t run since finishing sixth in the Aintree Grand National last year but Philip Hobbs’ horses are flying.
If you pinned me on the winner though I’d side with Mendip Express. He’s a dour stayer and will put pressure on a lot of the others’ jumping and stamina and warmed up for this with a win over hurdles at Warwick.
Hit the road Djak
Djakadam jumped and travelled well but lacked the real, battle-hardened, race-fit, match fitness needed to win a race like the Hennessy Gold Cup.
But that was always the danger. If you try to get a race into them you’re exposing yourself to the handicapper.
The ground was quite tacky at Newbury and it dug into the reserves of stamina for the horses that didn’t have a run this season. I don’t think it was coincidence that the first three home all had a previous run – especially on that type of ground.
At the cross fence I thought we might win but then that deep fitness the others had kicked in – and we couldn’t match it. One run would probably have put us there. That was the difference.
Djakadam might run at Christmas but he has to go win a race and improve into the horse we think he might be. I still think he’ll stay 3m 2f. Time will tell
The winner Many Clouds is improving and could improve again into a Grade One horse. He’s made the first step in the right direction in a race that the Cheltenham Gold Cup winner has run in for the past two seasons.
Un de Sceaux & Fairyhouse review
I saw Un de Sceaux gallop on Tuesday morning and he looks really well. It was a disappointing, novicey fall at Thurles last Thursday but up to that he was spectacular. He’ll learn from it.
I’m not sure yet where he’ll go but I’d imagine we’ll see him over Christmas. He hasn’t won his Beginners Chase yet so that’s the first priority.
Kalkir put up a decent performance at Fairyhouse last Sunday – the Irish juvenile form was there to be exploited as nothing really stood out. Whether he deserves to be favourite for the Triumph Hurdle on the strength of that is hard to tell. There’ll be plenty of trials to come. He travelled well, jumped super and I’d have no stamina concerns about him.
Improved a good bit from his run in Cork and jumped great bar the last. He looks very exciting and had a Flat racing of 111 and has really taken to hurdling. We could see him again at Christmas and this wins adds to Willie’s headache for the Supreme Novices Hurdle.
It was a great result for the Hughes family to win the Hatton’s Grace Hurdle. It’s been a tough time for them and it was great to see them landing this Grade One. Zaidpour just stepped into the hurdle and crashed to the ground. I had no chance. That’s jump racing.
His only disappointing run was in the Supreme Novices hurdle last season – and any horse should be forgiven one bad run. Last spring he won at Fairyhouse then finished second to Faugheen at Punchestow so there was some smart form in the book. While The Tullow Tank didn’t perform, Apache Stronghold did, so it was a good benchmark. There’ll be more to come from him.
I felt him lose his action behind and initially thought he’d broken a hind leg. You can’t tell what the problem is when you’re on their their back – just that something has gone wrong.
It’s like driving a car and all of a sudden something changes. You know there’s something wrong. have to stop and get out and look at what it is. It was an awful shame he had to be put down because he was very promising.