A superb 3 days of racing from Prestbury Park over the weekend and needless to say the notebook was in constant overdrive.
The highlight of the weekends action was undoubtedly the Paddy Power Gold Cup. AL FEROF put in an outstanding performance in the 2m4f contest and marked himself down as a major player for the season ahead. GRANDS CRUS and HUNT BALL both failed to finish in the race and have to be marked down as major disappointments, the Pipe horse more so. Will any of that 3 now make an impact in the Gold Cup come March? HUNT BALL is going to have to markedly improve on that run if he is to anywhere near figure as a player, there is a big sense that the bubble has well and truly popped. GRANDS CRUS has never really been on my radar as a Gold Cup player, even less so after this run. The worrying thing was how tamely he folded when the gun was put to his head. Back to the drawing board for him I would say. AL FEROF looks all class but I wouldn’t be convinced he has the tools to make into a Gold Cup player. The Ryanair looks the obvious route and he should more than have the class to get seriously involved in that contest; it will be interesting to see how they campaign him going on from here.
I could have gone a number of ways with my ‘1 to follow from the weekend’ runner but I have decided to go down the stayers route and have plumped for one of the placed runners in the highly competitive 3m3f Henrietta Knight Handicap Chase…
NTF 1 to follow from the weekend
VIKING BLOND (N Twiston-Davies) – Saturday 1.55 Cheltenham – 3rd in the 3m3f Grade 3 Handicap Chase
The Twiston-Davies runner came here off the back of a confidence booster at the track over timber last month and ran an extremely eye-catching race from the front. He was still in there with every chance jumping the last and only really gave way on landing as they settled down for the push up the hill to the line. To the horse’s credit he kept battling al the way to the line and only went down by 2 1/2 lengths.
This 7yo was set some incredibly tough (if not impossible) tasks on his first season chasing last term –
Chase start 4: Welsh National – pulled-up 6/1 favourite
Chase start 5: Listed Limited Handicap at Ascot – well beaten 5th
Chase start 6: Aintree National! – first fence faller
Chase start 7: Bet365 Gold Cup – pulled up when never getting in contention
For a horse in his first season over fences that was a bloody tough set of races after his initial 3 runs in Novice company.
On the plus side, however, it did see his handicap mark slip from 139 down to its current level of 132. I would be convinced that is a mark he can do some damage from, especially with that tough first season under his belt now. Judged on Saturday’s run it happily looks like last season has not left its mark.
He is a fairly small framed horse so he probably doesn’t appreciate being crowded for the lead and it is prudent to note that he was never really over-challenged for the lead on Saturday. I wouldn’t be overly confident of his chances in races where there are a multitude of front-runners to contend with.
The ground almost certainly aided his cause on Saturday and a quick look at his form tells us that we only really want to be with him when there is at least the minimum amount of cut in the ground –
Form on Good to Soft or worse – 312122014P5P23
Form on Good or better – 469P63703F0
He really wants to get his toes into the ground and is much better when there is plenty juice underfoot.
I’m also not convinced that Cheltenham is the ideal track for him despite the fact he has run some big races there –
Cheltenham form – 62307423
8 runs at the track and 0 wins is starting to suggest that whilst he handles the track he maybe isn’t completely at home there.
Chepstow looks more his cup of tea (form of 211P at the track) and it may well be that another tilt at the Welsh National is in the pipeline. This time from a more favourable mark and with a bit more experience under his belt.
Saturday’s effort was a return to form (right in line with his best RPR figures) and the signs are he is coming to the boil and getting ready to strike.
VIKING BLOND ideal conditions – Good to Soft or worse ground | Not too much competition for the lead | 3m+ handicap chases (hurdle races not ruled out if conditions correct)
Who were the runners that caught your attention and went in your own notebook as ones to follow from the weekend?
Did you see any clear-cut Cheltenham Festival contenders amongst the weekends runners?
Drop me a comment below and share your runners to follow from the weekend with the NTF readers.
Ben – (NTF)