I’ve already got a big decision to make over Christmas – but compared to the riding bans handed out to my weigh-room colleagues, I’m not complaining.
Whatever way you slice it the suspensions that Richard Johnson (12 days for taking the wrong course at Exeter), Davy Russell and Philip Enright (five days each for Philip giving Davy his whip at Clonmel) got last week were disproportionate to the offences.
Those lads are going to miss a fair chunk of the Christmas festivals – one of the busiest times in the jumps racing calendar – on both sides of the Irish Sea. The punishment far outweighs the crime.
With riding fees, the percentage loss of winners’ purses, I’d say the Irish lads have been ‘fined’ the guts of €5k each. Richard Johnson has probably been fined £15k under the same criteria given his strike rate at the moment. And if Menorah was to win the King George VI Chase ….
It looks like Faugheen will be on the bus to Kempton for the Christmas Hurdle on December 26 to join Champagne Fever’s King George VI Chase assault.
But Vautour has also been pencilled in for the Racing Post Novice Chase at Leopardstown on the same day. A lot can happen between now and then – but it’s a dilemma.
Clearly, I can’t be in two places at once so we’re going to have to make a call closer the time. Mrs Susannah Ricchi owns them all so it’s a decision that doesn’t have to be made until the last minute.
Back on track
I don’t think the drop back to 2m will bother Faugheen (above). He’s improved fitness wise for his win at Ascot but this will be another big step up in class for him.
We’ll learn a fair bit at Kempton about what we’ve got but I’d be hopeful he can deal with it. The course doesn’t worry me – it’s a flat track – but you still have to stay.
The hurdle track is on the outside of the chase track so I don’t think he’ll find it too sharp.
I got touched off in the race before when Binocular beat me on Rock on Ruby but then Paul Nicholls’ runner won the re-match in the Champion Hurdle. As for tactics – I’ll worry about that on Christmas night. I’m presuming Irving will line up and was a good winner of the Fighting Fifth.
A lot of the Paddy Power Gold Cup field line up again for Saturday’s big race.
You could have thrown a blanket over about eight of them going to the last fence that day before Caid du Berlais stormed up the hill. This race is run on the New course at Cheltenham and his stamina should come into play even more which could help to offset the 5lb hike he got for winning here last month. Even with that victory – he’s still 1lb lower than when he ran in the Galway Plate.
Ataglance has good course form and connections must think he’s still on a winnable mark. Hasn’t run since September and he mightn’t run if the grounds turns soft. Paul Nicholls’ Sound Investment doesn’t come here as the second string to the favourite given the form the stable is in.
No Buts beat Sound Investment eight lengths at Newbury and that was a good performance. I was on The Paparrazi Kid in that race and the winner jumped and stayed well and might be competitive again despite a 10lb rise.
Edgardo Sol ran well in the Paddy Power Gold Cup and despite top weight could finish much closer this time while Ericht has to improve.
Easter Meteor has disappointed on a few occasions now. You’d be a brave man now to trust him to put in a shift. Darna and Barrakilla have both been supported but need to step up. Venetia Williams’ Niceonefrankie won at Ascot last time out and is sure to jump and stay. Whether he’s still ahead of the handicapper is another thing.
Clarcam looked good at Navan last Saturday. I wasn’t too impressed at the time as I was boxing away in third on Un Beau Roman who couldn’t land a blow. But Gordon Elliott’s winner made Vatour’s beginners chase win look even better as he beat him comfortably.
The pair could clash again at Leopardstown on December 26 and that will be some race.
I can see the words ‘Irish banker’ starting to appear if either of them win that contest.
Gordon Elliott thinks he has the firepower to match Willie’s (Mullins). Given his big-race double with Don Cossack and Mala Beach on Sunday at Punchestown – he mightn’t be wrong.
Boston Bob never recovered from the mistake when Bailey Green fell. He seemed to lose his confidence and I was always struggling after that. He was knocked out of rhythm and never really got going again although I wouldn’t take anything away from the winner who could be a big player in the Ryanair Chase at Cheltenham next March.
But you can’t get a bang and lose seven or eight lengths in Grade One races and expect to win.
Boston Bob and the third-placed Lord Windermere should clash again in the Lexus Chase at Leopardstown on December 28th and hopefully Boston Bob can get back on track.
There was only one faller from 41 runners – a couple unseated – in either the Becher Chase or the Grand Sefton and that’s going to be a factor next year when the Aintree Grand National rolls around.
The only horse I took from either race as a possible future Grand National winner was Rolling Aces. He passed plenty despite carrying top-weight and has been placed three times now at the Liverpool track. He’d be a contender if connections decide to go down that road with him.
I thought Sam Waley-Cohen was brilliant on Oscar Time but he’ll be 14 (Oscar Time, not Sam) next April and that would be some ask to win a Grand National at that age.