Despite the Hennessy Gold Cup hogging most of the headlines this weekend (with a splash of Big Bucks and Overturn thrown in for good measure!) there were other races taking place, with plenty of runners catching my beady eye.
Here are 3 that I consider worthy of following in the coming months –
SYDNEY PAGET (D McCain) – 1.55 Bangor – Saturday – 1st in the 2m4f Novice Hurdle
This 4yo followed up his easy Carlisle bumper win with a taking victory here on his hurdling debut. He looks an easy travelling sort but it was the way he knuckled down when the runner-up started to come back at him in the final furlong that mostly made an impression on me. Admittedly this could be a long term ‘to follow’ horse as I would expect him to make into a markedly better chaser than a hurdler (a sentiment echoed by Donald McCain), however, he looks the sort to come on for his first outing over timber and he could well pick up a couple more hurdle victories this season. He is by Flemensfirth so future hurdle success is not out of the question but again this would be another pointer towards a promising chasing career, probably next term after this educational season over the smaller obstacles.
CALL THE POLICE (W Mullins) – 2.30 Gowran – Saturday – 1st in the 2m4f Beginners Chase
A thoroughly pleasing and accomplished chasing debut from the Willie Mullins inmate and he quickly put the race to bed once jockey Paul Townend asked him to go on and win it. He is an 8yo so I would expect them to push on with this lightly raced Accordion gelding, with Mullins already signaling a Grade 2 at Limerick as his next port of call. He hardly put a foot wrong in this contest and the return to a softer surface could be the key to this one. He went to Cheltenham as a relatively hot favourite for the Coral Cup but ran no sort of race and then ended the season at Punchestown in another valuable handicap hurdle where this time he finished pulled-up. Both of those runs were on good ground and were by far the worst performances of his career. Assuming he gets his preferred soft/heavy ground over the winter (its a fair bet he will!!) then he can add a couple more Novice Chases to his CV before the ground begins to dry out in the spring.
AIKMAN (J Ewart) – 12.00 Newcastle – Saturday – 3rd in the 3m Limited Handicap Novices’ Chase
For all this was a disappointing run the conditions were never likely to suit him here. In fact his 3 chase starts to date have all been tricky assignments in one way or another. His Chase debut at Carlisle over 2 miles was patently on the sharp side for him, his next start at the same track in a graduation chase saw him meet the 149 rated SARANDO who already had a novice chase season under his belt (including a 1/4 length defeat in a Grade 2 novice chase) and then on Saturday he was forced to give weight away on a track that would hardly have suited him. James Ewart has pinpointed right-handed – flat tracks (Kempton, Huntingdon…) as being ideal so it was no surprise to see Aikman struggling here when push came to shove. I imagine plenty of people will be writing the 7yo off after his less than exhilarating chase runs but he still remains of plenty interest to me for when he gets his ideal conditions, for all he may not quite make into the potent weapon he was once considered.
Did any runners catch your eye over the weekend?
Drop me a comment below with your own eye-catchers.
Talking Irish Horses – By Ray Rose and Timmy Donovan
As promised once I had picked my way through my copy of new racing publication ‘Talking Irish Horses‘ I would share my thoughts with NTF readers.
The first thing that struck me about this book was the amount of work that had gone into it. The authors had visited 15 of the top Irish National Hunt Trainers over the summer and eked out bundles of info about an array of jumping talent that resided within each and every stable.
The info provided inside the publication means it’s one of those books that you can dive in and out of at leisure, something I particularly enjoy, and you can refer back to it throughout the season either before or after a horse has run to dissect the trainers opinion on any given horse.
There is a particularly fascinating article with the Irish handicapper, Noel O’Brien, as well interviews with jockey Andrew McNamara and trainer John ‘Shark’ Hanlon, hopefully this is an area of the book they will explore further in future editions of the book as this adds good depth to the publication.
The authors also explore the world of syndicates and again this is an interesting section of the book and makes for good reading.
Although the main bulk of the book does concentrate on the stable visits there is plenty of other chapters and articles of interest and overall this makes for an informative read and one that will hopefully point towards at least a couple of nice priced winners over the Irish Sea.
A very solid attempt for the first edition of ‘Talking Irish Horses‘ and one they can built on for future editions of the book – an NTF rating of 8 out of 10.