That was a bit of a quieter weekend now firmly encased in the form books. A bit of a ‘calm-before-the-Xmas-storm’ sort of couple of days.
Nevertheless there is always something to learn from a weekend of National Hunt action and here are this weeks three ‘What we learned from the weekend’ thoughts and pointers…
What we learned from the weekend: 20th & 21st December…
1. Is UN DE SCEAUX a worthy 7/2 shot for the Arkle in March?
He’s a talented beast, I’m not denying that. He’s a horse I actually quite like. He made up for his spill on chasing debut in November with a straightforward victory at Fairyhouse at the weekend, in the only manner he knows how – “hi my unworthy opponents, here is my arse, be prepared to see it disappear into the distance for the next two miles, I’ll wait at the finishing line for you and give you a sarcastic clap as you crawl home at wide intervals behind me”.
There was nothing surprising about the manner of his victory but it’s actually his chasing debut performance I want to concentrate on here.
With that in mind, and for the third year in a row, it’s time to wheel out this old NTF chestnut…
Do we want to be backing a first time faller/un-seater for festival success?
Yes, that one. Long term followers of NTF will be plenty familiar with this line of thinking.
If we take a look back at the chase debuts of the Arkle top 3 finishers over the past 13 seasons one thing is glaringly obvious; it is a huge advantage to stay on your feet on chasing debut if you are to have any pretensions of having a say in the finish of the premier two mile grade one novice chase.
In fact the bare figures tell you its a massive advantage to not only stay on your feet but to have actually WON on your chasing debut.
Take a look at the last 13 Arkle top 3 finishers and how they fared on their respective Chasing debuts…
Western Warhorse – 1st on Chasing Debut
Champagne Fever – 1st
Trifolium – 1st
Simonsig – 1st
Bailey Green – 3rd
His Excellency – 1st
Sprinter Sacre – 1st
Cue Card – 1st
Menorah – UR (beaten 29 lengths in Arkle)
Captain Chris – 2nd
Finians Ranbow – 1st
Realt Dubh – 1st
Sizing Europe – 1st
Somersby – 1st
Osana – 1st
Forpadytheplasterer – 1st
Kalahari King – 1st
Planet Of Sound – 4th
Tidal Bay – 1st
Kruguyrova – 1st
Noland – 1st
My Way De Solzen – 1st (PU on only chase start in France as a 4yo before moving to A King)
Fair Along – 1st
Jack The Giant – 1st
Voy Por Ustedes – 1st
Monets Garden – 1st
Foreman – 2nd
Contraband – 2nd
Ashley Brook – 1st
River City – 1st
Well Chief – 1st
Kicking King – 5th
Le Duc – 1st
Azertyuiop – 1st
Impek – 1st
Isio – 1st
Moscow Flyer – FELL
Seebald – 1st
Armaturk – 1st
So from the last 39 Arkle Chase top 3 finishers…..
31 WON on their Chase debut
34 finished in the top 2 on their Chase debut
Only TWO failed to complete the course on their chase debut….and one of those was the mighty MOSCOW FLYER! (the other was the not so mighty, but still well above average, Menorah)
If we look a bit deeper and concentrate only on the Arkle winners and their form figures over fences in the season leading up to their Arkle triumph then we get the following…
Western Warhorse – 1
Simonsig – 11
Sprinter Sacre – 111
Captain Chris – 2221
Sizing Europe – 1111
Forpadydeplasterer – 1222
Tiday Bay – 1112
My Way De Solzen – 1211
Voy Por Ustedes – 1111
Contraband – 2213
Well Chief – 1
Azertyuiop – 111
Moscow Flyer – F111F
Only 1 of 13 failed to complete on ALL starts before their Arkle triumph (Moscow Flyer, who actually had TWO falls from his five starts!!)
11 of the 13 were yet to finish out with the top two on all chase starts before the Arkle, only Contraband stops that from being 12 from 13 as he finished…wait for it…3rd on one of his runs!
The figures really don’t look all that promising for Un De Sceaux to go on and achieve Arkle Chase success at the 2015 Cheltenham Festival in March.
Obviously racing is not always as cut and dry as this (if only!!) but failing to complete on chasing debut is far from ideal and if there is one chink in Un De Sceaux’s armour it is his exuberance, an exuberance that cost him on chase debut and may well cost him again in the future.
Is a clear round on debut a major key to Arkle success?
The figures point firmly towards YES.
Is completing on ALL chase starts in your Novice season leading up to the Arkle a key component to Festival glory?
The stats point in no uncertain terms to YES. (Unless of course your name is Moscow Flyer, then you can do what the hell you want!!!)
Jumping is,after all, the name of the game…….
That fall on chasing debut was far from the ideal start for UDS on the road to Arkle glory…
2. Sam Twiston-Davies is still waiting for that elusive first hurdling victory at Ascot…
…and there were a couple of sore defeats in that sphere last weekend!
EMERGING TALENT – Fell at the second last when still in with a shout
ZARKANDAR – 4/6 fav for the Long Walk Hurdle and touched 1.01 in-running
PINE CREEK – Beaten a neck in the Ladbroke and STD given a 4 day ban for the ride
Those three rides looked like golden opportunities for him to break his Ascot duck. But it didn’t happen.
His figures over the Ascot hurdles now read…
0/32 | 0% S/R | -£32.00 BFLSP – Win & Place 11/32 | 34% S/R
A set of coincidental figures or something more?
There is no doubt those losses are now starting to add up and I’m leaning towards the thinking that he either hasn’t quite mastered the Ascot hurdles track or the lay-out of the track just doesn’t suit his style of riding.
Plenty of jockeys have blind spots at certain tracks. They are, after all, only human. Right now the Ascot Hurdles track is STD’s blind spot.
Beware of taking short prices about STD hurdlers at Ascot…
3. THE YOUNG MASTER continues to impress and improve…
They may take his Badgers Ales Trophy but they will never take his Silver Cup Handicap Chase!!
The record books say he is three from four over fences but I prefer to see him as a clear cut four from four, improving with each effort and knocking on the door of graded level with all four hooves.
Neil Mulholland’s 5yo once again stood out in the staying chase division as an exciting youngster when taking the valuable Silver Cup Chase at Ascot on Saturday. Despite throwing in a few ‘lefty’ jumps he still won in decisive fashion and gained much deserved compensation for the Wincanton farce that occurred last month.
What really stood out to me was the fact that he will probably be considerably better going the other way round. As already mentioned he did throw in a few ‘lefty’ jumps on Saturday, as he also did in ‘victory’ at Wincanton, but he still had more than enough up his sleeve to repel this decent looking field.
As a novice connections do have the option of going down the RSA route at the Cheltenham Festival in March but his latest victory yet again has me pondering the question ‘is he a potential Gold Cup candidate‘?
It is still an almighty leap between what he has done so far and the Gold Cup but he is taking all the right steps and at this rate of improvement he wouldn’t look out of place in chasing’s blue riband event.
His pedigree far from shouts ‘THREE MILE STAYING CHASER’ as he is from the first crop of Godolphin’s Echo Of Light! However, he is positively laughing at the genetic traits he has been provided with and is ploughing his own path to stardom. That suggests to me he is a bit of a freak. That’s exciting. Very exciting! It’s very much a guessing game as to where his limits may be. Based on what we have witnessed so far those limits are still some way off.
The sky could be the limit for this exciting 5yo…
As always I would love to hear your opinions on the weekends racing.
I would also like to take this opportunity to wish all NTF readers a very Merry Christmas. I hope you have a great day but also remember to leave plenty in the tank for a racing fans real Christmas Day – The feast that is National Hunt racing on Boxing Day! Bring it on!
I’ll leave you with a bit of an alternative Xmas song for you to enjoy. Something a bit different from the usual tosh we get force fed at this time of the year!!
*Warning – Explicit lyrical content!
Cheers and Happy Christmas Punting – Ben (NTF)
Stats sourced from the excellent Proform Database