A little bit of the ‘calm before the storm’ at the weekend with the Cheltenham Festival on the horizon although that didn’t stop us being treated to some barnstorming finishes up and down the country.
It’s not only Cheltenham that is occupying trainers thoughts at the minute though as the Aintree Grand National was clearly on a few yards minds this weekend, with the likes of last years winner Ballabriggs and one of this years favourites Junior strutting their stuff.
Personally I’m not convinced either of these two look like 2012 Aintree Grand National winners myself. What do you guys think? Do Ballabriggs or Junior look like potential Grand National winners to you?
As usual I had a close eye on all the weekends racing and here are the three main horses that went in my notebook –
SAMSTOWN (L Russell) – Saturday – 1.55 Kelso– 3rd in the 2m 1/2f Class 4 Novices’ Hurdle
For the second race in succession the Lucinda Russell trained 5yo makes it onto the ‘3 to follow from the weekend’ list. This galloping track suited him much better than the sharp Musselburgh track he faced on his hurdling debut and as a consequence his jumping was slicker and much less scrappy. I’m confident this drop down in trip from 2m4f did not suit him and it looked as so the rest of the field were always going just a yard too fast for him. Saying that it was probably a smart move by connections to stick him over this trip at this early stage of his career as he will have learned plenty at the faster pace whilst all the time honing his jumping skills. Once they jumped the last flight and set off up the long Kelso run-in Peter Buchanan was able to start clicking through the gears and the Kingsala gelding really started to motor home; his stamina obviously starting to come to the fore. This will have been valuable experience for the horse and a return to this track over 2m4f or further looks like an ideal target. Similarly any other galloping track over mid to long distances should see him break his duck.
AL CO (P Bowen) – Saturday – 2.20 Doncaster – 4th in the 3m Class 2 Handicap Hurdle
If we bear in mind that the Dom Alco gelding is one that needs his first run back – form of runs after a 60 days break or more now reads P-6-9-4-3 – then this run actually showed plenty of promise (this was his first run for the best part of 10 months). The steady pace which this race was run at would not have helped him any and when the taps were fully turned on in the home-straight the writing did look on the wall for him. To his credit he did keep on plugging away and he did start to stay on again when he found his second wind. This was his first run for the Peter Bowen stable and it could be that the Welsh trainer has a few spring/early summer targets in mind; the yard do slump a bit during winter before coming out of hiding when the better weather starts to appear. A closer inspection of the horse shows us that he is on a potentially very lenient chase mark (119) which is a full 18lbs lower than his hurdle mark. If we consider this mark was gained in 3 beginners chases over what could easily be described as ‘inappropriate’ distances (21f – 17f – 16f) then it is clear that Bowen may have inherited a very well handicapped chaser indeed. If we also consider the fact that the 3 horses that won the beginners chases he contested were Burton Port, Riverside Theatre and Leo’s Lucky Star (as in AL CO had little chance in these races) AND he was running in these races as an inexperienced 4yo then the 119 chase mark he currently sits on could be a potential goldmine for Bowen. If he goes back chasing once the Bowen runners start firing then he looks a horse to follow.
THE WAY WE WERE (E J O’Grady) – Sunday – 3.00 Leopardstown – 2nd in the 2m Handicap Hurdle (0-140)
There was plenty to like about this 6yo’s performance. He was always in the firing-line in this contest and for a horse having only his 3rd hurdle start (4th career start in total) he jumped superbly well. He looked to have held off all challengers once jumping the last only to be pipped at the post but even in defeat he still showed us he has the aptitude for a battle. His previous start was a maiden victory over course and distance where he also showed us his slick jumping skills and his willingness to battle. He looks the sort to appreciate good to soft or better underfoot conditions and there could easily be a couple of races in him before the season is out. Whether they stick to hurdling in the long-term or indeed fire him over fences he looks a horse to follow.
What are your thoughts on the weekends racing?
Who stood out from the pack for you?
Drop me a comment below and let me know who you will be keeping an eye on for future engagements.
NTF 2012 Cheltenham Festival Guide
Less than 10 days to go until the tapes go up for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle and as promised I will be opening up a number on slots on the NTF National Hunt service in the next couple of days. To stay informed simply fill in your details in the form at the top right of the site.
I’ve had a few emails from non-subscribers asking if I approach Cheltenham week differently to the rest of the season. The simple answer to that is No, I don’t. I approach Cheltenham in the same in-depth and thorough manner that I approach ALL my races. The aim of my service is to provide detailed analysis and alternative thinking for my subscribers whilst at the same time providing profitable selections that will yield a profit come the seasons end. We are well on track with this and Cheltenham is just another step on the road in the process.
This is important to know for those of you that are joining just for Cheltenham week.
The same detailed analysis will go into the Cheltenham races as has done for the many guides subscribers have received already this season. If more effort went into the Cheltenham guides than the other guides then I would have been doing something wrong for the previous 4/5 months of the service; all races on my service get an equal amount of attention 🙂
ps. have you seen the free Cheltenham Festival preview videos I was kindly asked to guest on?
Here is the link if you are yet to view them – JPFestival TV
If you don’t want to leave my site though (and I don’t blame you!) there take a look at the Arkle preview below –