After ‘The DOJ’ (Drop Out Joe) did the business at Chepstow last weekend and was then subsequently walloped with a 10lb raise (Ouch! bit drastic!) my initial ‘Three well-handicapped National Hunt…‘ post is now a man light (DOJ could still potentially win from that mark but he certainly isn’t anywhere near as well-handicapped as he was!!).
With that in mind I think it’s only fair that I bolster the ‘well-handicapped team’ with another trio from my exhaustive personal list.
(if you missed the original post you can grab that HERE)
MONKEY KINGDOM (R Curtis) 7yo
Current Handicap Mark – OR 132
This King’s theatre gelding has always been thought of as a chaser but things didn’t quite go to plan for him last season.
He started the season by bumping into RSA Chase runner-up Southfield Theatre at Chepstow, finishing a solid second over 19.5f at Chepstow. He then turned up at Ascot in a novices’ handicap chase, running from a mark of OR 137, and was tracking alone sweetly enough before slithering on landing and un-shipping Tom Scudamore at mid-way.
There was plenty of promise on both those runs but things then started to unravel slightly and he finished well beaten in a five-runner race at Haydock, well beaten in a four-runner race at Bangor and then pulled-up in a first time hood at the Cheltenham Festival in the novices’ handicap chase on day one.
He did, however, manage to show his true colours on his final start at Warwick in May when he was dropped in grade and made all under Leighton Aspell, jumping exceptionally well to win by a very easy ten-lengths.
At the end of those six runs he was left on OR 132 (3lbs below his hurdle mark) and that certainly looks like a mark he can capitalise on.
The key to him would appear to be getting an uncontested lead on the front end. When he has that he is almost unbeatable, as his form broken down by running style highlights…
Races where he front-ran – 111191
Races where he was close to pace – 2230U37
Races where he was held-up – P
That’s pretty damming evidence and if he is set to line-up against other front-runners you would be slightly concerned.
For the record that 9 in his front-running form line came in a Grade One at the Aintree Festival, a race he was almost certainly out-classed.
And that brings in another condition to consider; class of race.
Lets take a look at the splits…
Form at Listed level+ – 907P
Form at Class 2 level or below – 23U2113111
That very much suggests he is a Class 2 and below performer and struggles when stepped into higher classes. He may, in time prove to be up to a Grade Three handicap although for now I wouldn’t be convinced.
It’s also well worth noting his excellent record when fresh…
Form off a break of 90+ days – 12211
Form off a break of 28 – 89 days – 171P
Form off a break of 27 days or less – 3U039
He can clearly do it off a long break and, to a certain extent, a medium break, however, those shorter breaks have proved tricky in the past; he really wants time between his races.
He also seems to enjoy (although not need) cut in the ground (1711331 on Soft & Heavy || 20192UP on Good to Soft or better) and I suspect 2m4f+ will turn out to be his preferred trip.
He is certainly plenty better than his current mark of OR 132 and I would expect him to prove that when conditions are in his favour.
MONKEY KINGDOM Ideal Conditions – Able to lead | 2m4f+ handicap chases | Class 2 level and below | A break of at least 28 days
FESTIVE AFFAIR (JJ O’Neill) 7yo
Current Handicap Mark – OR 127
“Hold on Ben, wasn’t he on the list last season?”
He was, yes.
“And he didn’t do the business then? Correct?”
But for very good reasons.
They were still p!ssing about with him over the wrong trip!!
His first three runs were all over two miles and it is abundantly clear he is NOT A TWO-MILER!
Those three runs resulted in…
A PU at Cheltenham
A completely stuffed 42L 7th at Sandown
A rapidly weakening 23L 9th at the Cheltenham Festival
He was finally unleashed over a bit more of a suitable trip at Aintree in April when he was sent over the 21 furlongs of the Topham Chase.
Was this a big old plot job in the making? Let’s be honest it’s a JP McManus owned/Jonjo O’Neill trained beast and his campaign, to me anyway, smacked of a standard McManus plot.
He went off at 25-1 in the Topham, he had been available at 40-1. My money was down at 40-1 (first time I had backed him all season). He was jumping like an old hand over the big fences, cruising along in second positively loving himself…then bang! He lands too steeply at the fifth from home and it’s game over!
However, that told me I was on the right lines with him. They have a horse that is fantastically, nay amazingly, well-handicapped and he’s been handicapped by running over the wrong trip. Classic stuff.
It’s clear this horse has talent. It’s clear he has an engine. It’s clear he can jump. This season I want to see it unleashed!
I still remain convinced there is a hell of a lot more to come from this lad…
FESTIVE AFFAIR Ideal Conditions – 2m5f+ Handicap Chases | Cut in the ground probably a bonus | Galloping tracks suit him well
ALGERNON PAZHAM (N Twiston-Davies) 6yo
Current Handicap Mark – OR 135
They didn’t hang about too much with this youngster last year, giving him three novice chase starts in January, February and March before firing him into a valuable open handicap at Haydock and then the end of season Bet365 Gold Cup at Sandown.
It was after the run at Haydock (where he finished 3rd) that I took the following notes…
“A consistent type (only out of the top 3 on 1 of his 11 starts) and he shaped as one that still has plenty more to give from his current mark of OR 135. He made a blunder two out and although that didn’t stop him winning it probably did rob him of second. He could pick up a decent handicap next term (2015/16 season).”
He then went on to finish a decent 7th in the Bet365 Gold Cup but that was his first attempt at a marathon trip and he probably hadn’t quite developed his stamina reserves to their fullest at that point of his career. He did also make a mess of five from home and that won’t have done anything for his stamina reserves either.
The handicapper actually saw it fit to drop him back to OR 135 after that outing, which is definitely a handy mark to be starting his second season over fences on.
He actually looked like one who could be done with another summer on his back to fully fill his chasing frame and providing he has indeed ‘bulked up’ he should be in a prime position to put last years experience to good use.
He will also need to cut out those silly mistakes at the business end of his races but he was essentially learning the hard way against experienced campaigners and again the experience will have done him good.
On the conditions front he does seem fairly adaptable although he may just prefer cut underfoot…
Form on Good – 337
Form on Good to Soft – 21
Form on Soft & Heavy – 22112R3
That’s far from conclusive although certainly something worth keeping in mind.
Crack claimers Ryan Hatch & Jamie Bargary rode him on his final four starts last term and their claim in the saddle, if keeping the ride, will be an added bonus for a horse who already looks on a decent mark.
ALGERNON PAZHAM Ideal Conditions – 3m+ Handicap Chases | Cut in the ground probably a bonus | Bargary or Hatch in the saddle an added bonus
I’m extremely hopeful that these three can pick up handicap pots at some stage during the 2015/16 campaign and prove to be some way better than their current marks in the process.
p.s. Doors to the full NTF service are now OPEN!