Invictus? Massini’s Maguire? Riverside Theatre? Rubi Light? Zaidpour? Giles Cross? All winners at the weekend but will we see any of them gracing the winners enclosure at Cheltenham or Aintree?
It was an enthralling and important weekend of racing that now sits firmly in the form book, with a number of runners (the winners and the stragglers) having their sights steadfastly set on the impending Cheltenham Festival as well as the marathon slog that is known to all as the Aintree Grand National.
There were plenty of potential eye-catchers for me on both Saturday and Sunday and here are the 3 main horses that went in my notebook –
BAILE ANRAI (I Williams) – Saturday – 1.50 Ascot – Faller in the Grade 2 Reynoldstown Chase – 3 miles
The fall at the 3rd last apart I thought this was a particularly eye-catching performance from the 8yo. He was far from out of contention when just reaching for the 3rd from home and in the main he had jumped solidly, even making up considerable ground at some of his fences. He is a large, well-built gelding and he looks made for the chasing game so it is slightly surprising to see 2 falls on his chasing CV already. Interestingly both these falls have come in Grade 2 company so it could be he simply finds jumping at this level consistently for a full race just at the top end of his powers. Saying that he didn’t look out of place in this field and I’m sure he is more than capable of picking up lesser races lower down the chasing tree. He made his seasonal debut in the Persian War Hurdle at Chepstow were he was arguably one of the only runners in the field to mildly threaten impressive winner Fingal Bay. He was only 6 lengths in arrears that day and it was a yawning 37 lengths back to the rest of the pack; again suggesting that although maybe not a Grade 1/2 animal he is better than your run of the mill contender. It’s interesting to note that on his debut point-to-point start he finished 6th (beaten 11 lengths) to Quito De La Roque. I don’t expect this lad to be a major player at the top levels but I do think there are races in him; one to keep an eye going forward.
DUNRAVEN STORM (P Hobbs) – Saturday – 3.35 Ascot – 4th in the Class 2 Handicap Hurdle – 2m3f
The 7yo was having his 2nd start back after a small injury sustained in last seasons Supreme Novices’ Hurdle and similar to his comeback run at Taunton he stayed on well at the end without really looking like troubling the horses in front of him. I had him marked down as a novice chaser for the season but one assumes that they are holding back until next season before unleashing him over the larger obstacles (makes sense considering he missed first half of season). This 2m3f trip may well have just been on the sharp side for him, he is by Presenting and has plenty of stamina in his pedigree, so the fact he was able to keep in contention (to a certain degree) tells me he has lost none of his ability. He won over trips of around 2 miles as a novice but that was against inferior opposition and I’m convinced his future is over trips of 2m5f and further; if he sticks to these longer trips then he is very much a horse of interest. He could well have a handicap hurdle in him off his mark of 140 but I see his long term future as that of a staying chaser.
ALFIE SHERRIN (J J O’Neil) – Saturday – 3.55 Haydock – 5th in the Class 2 Pertemps Handicap Hurdle – 3m
Was the 9yo ever really put into the race? Not really. Is he on a handy hurdle/chase mark? Yes. Are connections possibly planning a spring target for him? I think so. What that target is though is anybody’s guess! The ground was unlikely to have suited him at Haydock on Saturday (heavy) and he wasn’t given a hard race but he did catch the eye when staying on into 5th place. He is still very lightly raced (6 hurdle starts & 6 chase starts) and both his Hurdle mark (136) and Chase mark (130) look well within his compass. It has been reported in the past that he is difficult to train so its not hard to imagine that he will only be pushed when the time is right. That time is likely to be when the ground is riding good to soft or better and it may be prudent to keep an eye on where he is placed from now onwards…..
What are your thoughts on the weekends racing?
Who were the serious Cheltenham and Aintree contenders on show over the weekend?
Drop me a comment below and let me know who you will be keeping an eye on for future engagements; whether that be for one of the spring festivals or just in general.