The recent cold-snap has managed to get its frosty hands on a couple of our National Hunt fixtures but in the main we have been pretty darn lucky with all things weather related. I for one won’t moan about the odd fixture or two being lost to the elements; if we cast our minds back to last season then the current situation is almost luxury!
Despite the loss of Wetherby and Kelso this weekend there was still plenty of action for us National Hunt enthusiasts to pore over and here are 3 horses that went in my notebook from this Saturday –
FRASCATI PARK (Nigel Twiston Davies) – Saturday – 1.25 Warwick – 1st in the 3m Novices’ Chase
The 8yo was stepped up to 3m+ for only the 2nd time in his career and in doing so recorded the most impressive performance of his career to date (backed up by recording his highest ever RPR figure). The most pleasing aspect of this performance for me was when Sam Twiston-Davies stepped on the gas going down the back-straight for the 2nd time. The horse responded instantly and then continued to dig deep to fend off the rest of the field up the home-straight. The horses in opposition were far from a poor bunch but they all struggled to get a grip on the front-running son of Bach (thats front-running son of Bach NOT front-running son of a bitch!!). This win now opens up a plethora of options for this ultra-consistent type (only out of the top 3 on 3 of his 18 career starts) and any worries about going left-handed were surely dispelled after this performance. The only slight query about the gelding is his ability to operate in Graded company (8 runs – 0 wins) but if other races just below the top level can be found where he can dominate his field (all 8 career wins have come from the front) then I would certainly be keen to have an interest.
AACHEN (Venetia Williams) – Saturday – 2.30 Warwick – 5th in the 3m1f Handicap Hurdle
Venetia William’s hurdler has been running admirably enough whilst all the time dropping down the weights; just the sort of horse I like! The 8yo is yet to win since his novice days (won his first 3 races in fine style) but it could be argued he has rarely faced his optimum conditions since then. Despite the ground riding good to soft on Saturday his ideal conditions look to be soft or heavy (all 3 NH wins came on soft or heavy + 3 of his 4 flat victories) and on the only 2 occasions since then he has run on similar going he was pulled-up after slipping when he was interfered with and then ran a big race to finish 3rd in a valuable contest at Cheltenham. There is also a possibility he prefers a smaller field than he faced on Saturday. His record in fields of 11 or less reads 1-1-1-3 as opposed to his record in fields of 12+ which reads P-9-0-3-0-6-5. He travelled well on Saturday before fading a touch in the home straight and although his winning form has been over much shorter his pedigree does suggest that he is worth persevering with over these longer trips. His current mark of 128 looks very workable to me and once they can get him on soft or worse going he can get himself back in that winners enclosure.
AMERICAN TRILOGY (Paul Nicholls) – Saturday – 2.50 Kempton – 5th in the 2m5f Lanzarote Handicap Hurdle
It’s safe to say the 8yo was far from happy over the larger obstacles and throughout his career he has never been the most straightforward of animals, however, it was pleasing to see that his relatively unhappy expedition over fences has not completely soured his already fragile mindset. He travelled sweetly into the race from out the back on Saturday and for a breif moment looked like he may actually take a hand in the finish. His challenge was short lived but there was enough in this performance to make me think he is far from done with the game just yet. The key to this Sendewar gelding could in-fact be large field handicap hurdles. His form in 16+ runner hurdle races reads 1-1-3 and it could be these are where he feels most at home; with little time to think about what he is doing and the hustle and bustle forcing him to get on with the task in hand. It could also be argued that he is happier with a bit of sun on his back. His hurdle record outwith the cold winter months reads 1-1-2-3 as opposed to his record in the winter months of November – February which reads 3-4-F-5-9. He is currently only 2lbs higher than when a runaway winner of the 2009 County Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival and with every chance of another small drop after his weekend run he certainly sits as a horse of interest, especially in any large field handicap hurdle contests.
What horses went in your notebook after this weekends action?
Drop me a comment below and let me know who you will be keeping an eye on for future engagements.