Cheltenham Trials weekend generally provides us with plenty to mull over. The 2015 meeting was no different and it didn’t fail to deliver.
Who stayed. Who didn’t. Which bubbles are still intact. Which have burst. Who handled the Cheltenham undulations. Who handled the jump in grade. Who was there as a fitness stepping stone...
Some stepped up to the challenge and made us sit up and take notice whilst others wilted under the watchful eye of thousands of ante-post hopes.
Here’s what we learned from this informative weekend of National Hunt action…
What we learned from the weekend: 24th & 25th January…
1. Dynaste’s Gold Cup credentials are FUBAR…
OK that’s maybe being a bit harsh, they maybe aren’t FUBAR (F***ed Up Beyond All Recognition!) but his third placed finish in the BetBright Cup Chase seems to have pushed connections firmly towards defending his Ryanair Chase crown.
Did this really prove he didn’t stay though? I’m not so sure. He didn’t look to be jumping as fluently as he can although that probably wasn’t the difference between him winning or losing. I personally think that Tom Scu should have went and tried to win his race when they started the turn for home. That’s when the horse was travelling at his best and going with the most enthusiasm. Unfortunately he got into a bit of a barging match with Smad Place, at a time when thoughts should have been about gunning for Many Clouds rather than shutting the door on a rival in behind. Tom Scu also took a very small pull and waited his time at that juncture and that simply allowed Many Clouds to keep getting into his rhythm and also stunted Dynaste’s forward motion a touch. If Tom Scu had allowed his mount to keep going forward at that point we all would have been in no doubt if the horse stayed or not, as such we are still none the clearer. Which is the most frustrating thing. You would rather have seen him go to the front to win and then empty rather than sitting and waiting to burst past using his ‘speed’. He was most likely riding to instruction (and I’m in no way having a pop at Scu junior) but in my opinion they played right into the hands of Many Clouds and at this level you really don’t want to be handing even the smallest advantage to your opponents.
It may of course also be the case that Many Clouds is simply a better horse. He’s three from three this season. He landed the Hennessy Gold Cup in determined fashion and he now has the Grade 2 BetBright Cup on his CV. Many Clouds was also racing under prime conditions – Good to Soft or softer form now reads 11212121211 and his October to February form now reads 21121112112 – and it may have been that he would have beaten Dynaste however the Pipe horse was ridden. It may actually transpire this was a perfect trial for Dynaste and the Gold Cup and getting to within a length and a half of Many Clouds, who was racing on prime conditions, is worth more than anyone is giving him credit for.
Chances are, however, we won’t get to find out. He will go the Ryanair route. Boring.
Take a shot David, go for the Gold Cup!
2. The Classic Novices’ Hurdle was chocked full of future chasers…
With a view to future chase prospects this race was surely the hottest run so far this season. Although I’m sure there are plenty hurdle contests still to be won by this bunch it is next season and beyond that really excites with the majority of the nine strong field that lined up in this.
If we remove Present View from the equation (as we already know about his jumping prowess) then what we had here was an exciting bunch of embryonic chasers, all housed with trainers who know what it takes to nurture them for a career over the larger obstacles.
All look to have the size, shape and scope to jump a fence and all are progeny of sires who have made an impact with chasers.
The winner, Ordo Ab Chao, got his season back on track after disappointing at Sandown last time out and his pedigree looks primed for fences, being that he is by Heron Island out of a Supreme Leader mare.
The trainer of second placed Value At Risk, Dan Skelton, has already stated that “plan A with this one is chasing” and he looks every inch a staying chaser to my eyes. His pedigree is hard to crab being that he is a Kayf Tara offspring out of an Orchestra mare, Orchestra being the sire of jumping stars such as Dorans Pride, Rince Ri, Pat’s Jester and Fiddling The Facts.
Paul Nicholls is responsible for third place Vago Collonges, who is out of a Dom Alco mare and from the same sire, Voix Du Nord, as Grade 1 winning chasers Taquin Du Seuil and Vibrato Valtat.
Fourth placed Robinsfirth is an offspring of the mighty Flemensfirth, sire of recent jumping greats such as Imperial Commander, Tidal Bay and Flemenstar. He could be the real chasing star from this pack and the one I’m most looking forward to going over fences.
Paddy Brennan, the rider of fifth placed Some Buckle, has been quoted as saying “He is a lovely horse, very exciting. We will keep it small and whatever he does this season is a bonus as he will make a hell of a chaser”, I would fully agree with those comments. He could be a serious player for his trainer Tom George next term.
Thistlecrack in seventh is another by Kayf Tara and I could well see him improving significantly when sent over fences.
Stilletto, who finished eight here, is already a point to point winner and his trainer Philip Hobbs has already earmarked him as a chaser for the future. He looks a fairly big, raw unit and if they can teach him to settle he will be an above average chaser to keep on your side.
Native River was the only non-completion in this, he fell two out, and he would be the only one I wouldn’t be convinced would make into a better chaser. He looked a bit lighter framed than the others but he was also the youngest in the pack so he could yet strengthen up and there is jumping stock in his pedigree.
All in all this race was tantamount to future chaser porn!! It was that good!!
I would expect to look back at this race in the next couple of seasons and see a raft of classy chasers to have emerged from the smoking embers. Embers kept alight by a mass of future chasing potential.
Stick this lot in your notebook for they are sure to make a splash over fences next term…
And straying away from the Cheltenham Trials meeting…
3. Caracci Apache may just be sneaking under the radar on his way to a tilt at the Cheltenham Festival…
Yes he landed the Grade Two River Don Novices’ Hurdle at Doncaster in exciting fashion but he doesn’t seem to be a name at the forefront of most punters minds.
He looks to be heading for the Albert Bartlett Hurdle in March and that looks a wise move.
That race is a strong Dosage Trends race and this 5yo has a bang on ideal Dosage profile for the race…
CARACCI APACHE – 2-1-12-5-4 (24) | DQ | 0.60 | -0.33
He has stamina in abundance, which was in clear evidence on Saturday at Doncaster, and the way he kept responding to his riders urging’s was extremely likable. The two directly in behind him, Blaklion and Zeroeshadesofgrey, are both serious animals and this should turn out to be a strong piece of form.
A quick glance at my trends for the Albert Bartlett suggests he would also be a strong fit on that angle as well, as it stands anyway.
The one obvious query on the day would be the probable better ground but High Chaparral offspring (he is by the Derby winner) do act on decent ground and I wouldn’t see that being much of an issue.
He’s a resolute galloper who clearly relishes a stamina test and those are pretty much your primary traits that are needed for a test like the Albert Bartlett. He’s a player.
Caracci Apache looks like one who will relish the stamina test of the Albert Bartlett.
Happy Punting – Ben (NTF)
p.s. I’ll be firing out a free Cheltenham Festival guide to the NTF free list shortly so if you are not currently on there simply slide over to this page and drop your name in the form (you’ll be able to download a number of free guide upon registration).